cover image Trajectory


Richard Russo. Knopf, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-101-94772-2

The four stories in Russo’s (Everybody’s Fool) new collection are all winners, and one is a standout. His familiar blue-collar denizens of dying mill towns are not present here; these characters are professionals, middle-aged or beyond, successful in their careers but feeling weathered by life’s vicissitudes. The trajectory they travel involves coming to terms with life-changing situations and gamely going on. As always, snappy banter defines personality; Russo’s ear for dialogue is superb. In “Horseman,” a female professor’s confrontation with a student plagiarist forces her to acknowledge the coldness in her nature that has kept her from producing significant work and establishing a deep emotional relationship with her husband and son. In “Voice,” a student with acute Asperger’s syndrome is the object of an obsession that embroils a professor in a scandal. The experience leads to a clarifying breakthrough with his domineering older brother. Another strained family relationship is explored in “Intervention” when a Maine realtor gains clarity about his father’s behavior as he comes to terms with a dire medical diagnosis. The final story, “Milton and Marcus,” is the most satisfying: a novelist whose work has lost vitality has a chance to write a movie from one of his forgotten scripts, but to do so he must ignore his own ethical standards. Russo develops these stories with smooth assurance, allowing readers to discover layers of meaning in his perfectly calibrated narration. 75,000-copy announced first printing. (May)