Chabon’s stories inevitably remind readers of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He creates a light and witty surface, characterized by delicately handled motifs and an often epigrammatic style, but that surface reveals a touching depth as he shows characters trying to create and preserve friendship amid modern moral and social complexities.
The first six stories include a variety of situations. In “S Angel,” a young man attends his cousin’s wedding looking for his own predestined love but instead encounters a world where his dream of romance seems hopelessly anachronistic. In “Ocean Avenue,” a couple who have gone through a bitter divorce accidentally meet and find their relationship has not ended. “A Model World” shows friendship undergoing an intricate test when a pair of graduate students have dinner at a professor’s house and face having to confess the worst thing they have ever done. One friend is having an affair with the professor’s wife, and the other plans to plagiarize his dissertation. “Blumenthal on the Air” explores the problems of a man who has married an Iranian refugee to help her become an American citizen and finds himself in love with her. “Smoke” shows a professional baseball player confronting the possible end of his career, and “Millionaires” examines the strains on friendship in a lovers’ triangle.
The last five stories show phases of Nathan Shapiro’s life from the time he is ten, when his parents divorce, until he is sixteen, when they have remarried, extending his family to stepparents and half-siblings. This set of funny and tender stories shows a family adjusting well to changing relationships. Chabon has created a well-crafted and moving collection.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. LXXXVII, January 15, 1991, p. 979.
Chicago Tribune. April 14, 1991, XIV, p. 7.
Library Journal. CXVI, February 15, 1991, p. 219.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 9, 1991, p. 3.
The New York Times Book Review. XCVI, May 26, 1991, p. 7.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVIII, February 1, 1991, p. 67.
Time. CXXXVII, April 8, 1991, p. 77.
The Times Literary Supplement. April 26, 1991, p. 20.
The Wall Street Journal. April 29, 1991, p. A12.
The Washington Post Book World. XXI, April 7, 1991, p. 5.