cover image Cooler Heads

Cooler Heads

Julian Tepper. Rare Bird, $26 (264p) ISBN 978-1-64428-374-5

Modern love is not for the faint of heart in Tepper’s devastating latest (after Between the Records). From the first page, readers are plunged into the intense and extramarital relationship between 30-something Brooklynites Paul and Celia, a writer and artist, respectively. Celia is in an open marriage with woodworker Graham and refuses Paul’s entreaties to leave her husband. After she learns she’s pregnant with Paul’s child, she changes her mind. Nine months later, Paul and Celia are living together with their infant son, Waylon. They are in love, but tiny cracks in their relationship eventually grow into fissures as Celia becomes friendly with a seductive critic, while Paul finds it increasingly difficult to fend off the advances of a more successful writer. Then, while in Poland, Celia is tempted by a famous artist’s attractive young assistant. It doesn’t help their relationship that Celia’s career as a portrait painter is on the rise and Paul’s newsletter-writing gig has taken a downturn. Offering a pitiless dissection of a modern relationship, Tepper shows himself an expert at orchestrating scenes of domestic carnage. This plays out like a hipster Brooklyn version of Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road. (Jan.)