Lombreglia's second collection, half from The New Yorker and The Atlantic, is no less witty and accomplished than his first, Men Under Water (1990). His offbeat humor survives the polished surfaces of these nine superb tales, with their Zeitgeisty gestures. Pop music is an index to character in the delightful ``One- Woman Blues Revival,'' in which a young female deejay, estranged from her Elvis-fanatic husband, finds a hero in a Polish ÇmigrÇ mechanic, who plays a mean blues riff. Music also figures in ``This is a Natural Product of the Earth,'' the story of an East Coast amateur musician who follows his girlfriend to California, where he reunites with an old lover, herself lost amidst the Sixties burnouts in Berkeley. Two stories set on college campuses actually breathe life into a somewhat wheezy genre: ``Can You Dance to It?'' is a clever piece about a bunch of professors who force a local bartender to marry their colleague, an Argentinean philosopher whom he's gotten pregnant and who's threatened with deportation. And ``Every Good Boy Deserves Favor'' follows a former music prodigy's later academic career. Meanwhile, Catholicism and ethnicity provide context to a number of pieces: in ``A Half Hour with God's Heroes,'' a divorced woman who works as a chef turns to superstition to help her sell her house so that she can leave behind her bungled life in Boston—her larcenous husband and her junkie son. ``Piltdown Man, Later Proved to Be a Hoax'' is a boy's tale worthy of Salinger, in which the famous fraud becomes a symbol of life's disappointments. The title piece is an unconventional romance between an aging Italian hipster and a tough-talking beauty from the North End of Boston. Finally, two linked stories about a group of thirtysomething video producers wonderfully explore contemporary relations. Lombreglia brings a unique sensibility to familiar material- -smart and stylish and, surprisingly, profound.
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