Russo's characters in these four expansive stories bear little similarity to the blue-collar citizens we're familiar with from many of his novels. In "Horseman", a professor confronts a young plagiarist as well as her own weaknesses as the Thanksgiving holiday looms closer and closer: "And after that, who knew?" In "Intervention", a realtor facing an ominous medical prognosis finds himself in his father's shadow while he presses forward - or not. In "Voice", a semiretired academic is conned by his increasingly estranged brother into coming along on a group tour of the Venice Biennale, fleeing a mortifying incident with a traumatized student back in Massachusetts but encountering further complications in the maze of Venice. And in "Milton and Marcus", a lapsed novelist struggles with his wife's illness and tries to rekindle his screenwriting career, only to be stymied by the pratfalls of that trade when he's called to an aging iconic star's mountaintop retreat in Wyoming.
"In this collection of short stories and novellas by the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, a team of talented narrators - Amanda Carlin, Arthur Morey, Fred Sanders, and Mark Bramhall - takes to the task of portraying Russo's troubled male protagonists.... Morey shines brightest with dramatic emphasis and pauses as a fragile relationship between brothers plays to a bitter end. Also, in a story that could be autobiographical, Russo is ably aided by Bramhall in his exploration of the wacky world of Hollywood moviemaking and how entering the orbit of stars can produce a poignant portrait of middle-aged men who are still struggling to find their place in the world." (
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