SHORT STORIES

Good Trouble: Stories

Pantheon. Jun. 2018. 176p. ISBN 9781524747350. $22; ebk. ISBN 9781524747367. F
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In his typically sharp, smart language, the author of the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning Netherland shows us characters undone by contemporary life, not grandly but in the small, essential ways that define our culture. When poet Mark McCain receives a request from another, younger poet to sign a "poetition"—a petition cum poem asking President Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, he's outraged at the misunderstanding of what poetry really is and, in the story's brief, reflective passages, explains its meaning before vowing "Never give in"—to philistinism of every stripe. A professor who cannot find a way to persuade an oblivious former student to cease his yearly visits finds the problem finally solving itself, even as he and his wife entertain each other with titles for memoirs of the fancy life they haven't led. Deserted by an in-second-childhood husband who says she's not passionate and a tetchy son who's banned her from his own family for being too distant—she was trying not to intrude on a conjugal fight—fiftyish Breda makes tentative steps toward liberating herself.
VERDICT Absorbing reading sophisticates will love. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/17.]

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