Robert Cohen, Author . Scribner $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7432-2962-3

Cohen explores the unexpected twists and turns of love and lust in his first short story collection, an introspective and illuminating series in which he sidesteps the usual clichés of his subject with a wide array of intriguing and unusual situations. The hilarious title story is a perfect example, as a college teacher lectures to his class about his own brief but disastrous affair with a graduate assistant. "Influence" offers an equally literary take on the tumultuous side of romance, when a writer's decision to invite his mentor into town for a reading ends up backfiring, fracturing his marriage. On the more poignant side, "A Flight of Sparks" describes the journey that ensues when a man recovering from cancer sends a friend to Mexico to track down the man's old flame. "The Boys at Night" tracks the growing tension in a family after the newest member turns out to have Down's syndrome, while "Between Hammers" delves into the decline of a couple's sex life when they try to conceive a child. Most of the stories revolve around cleverly formulated premises, but Cohen also demonstrates a deft sense of control over narrative voice, and his dry, sardonic sense of humor serves him well throughout. The award-winning author of three novels, including the bestseller Inspired Sleep, he proves himself to be adept in the world of short fiction as well. (Feb.)

Forecast:The success of Inspired Sleep and publication of these stories in such blue-chip venues as Harper's and the Paris Review will help set this apart from other collections.

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-1-4000-3184-9
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