Frank, best known for his evening radio dramas broadcast over NPR, presents seven short stories and a play—the radio origins of which lend a compelling voice to his portraits of modern urban loneliness, fear, and alienation. In ``Tell Me What to Do,'' a New York executive has a fleeting affair with a woman in his office, is later abandoned by his wife, then finds himself alone and unloved before he quite knows what hit him. The protagonist of ``Fat Man'' sidles through monotonous days and fantasy-filled nights, having somehow failed to make the transition from cynical college student to productive adult. In the title story, a young man's fate is unveiled while he's on vacation on St. Thomas, where he becomes infatuated with a local prostitute but falls unwittingly into bed with a homosexual seducer. Though hardly optimistic by any reckoning, Frank's tales nevertheless mesmerize the reader as they open doors to intensely private moments of self-contemplation, unacknowledged despair, and desperate, surreal fantasy. Wandering among strip joints, liquor stores, and anonymous hotels, watching TV, joining religious cults, and sometimes playing a little guitar, his characters play at picturing themselves as heroes in a novel or wondering about their shrinks' private lives while the seconds of their existence tick slowly away. ``A change has come over the world,'' states a character in ``The Decline of Spengler: A Radio Play,'' the most abstract and, in the end, the least affecting of the pieces presented here. ``Dark thoughts are born. Dark deeds ripen in the midst of their vapors. The eye of God no longer shines on us.'' Fortunately, as Frank proves here, we humans can console ourselves in these dark times with the magic of a story spellbindingly told.
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