Trevor's (Girls I Know, 2013) second book of stories is nimble and smart—bookish in a mostly good way.
These characters, often academics, tend to be feeling hapless in middle age, and they crave life changes that their habits and mildness and shore-hugging aren't likely to allow—until Trevor puts them into collisions with big disruptive forces: a boyfriend who seems sprung from mythology ("Endymion"), an iconoclastic writer of experimental fiction ("The Novelist and the Short Story Writer"), the threat of exposure as an embezzler ("The Program in Profound Thought"). The satiric elements in these stories, especially toward their beginnings, can be a bit easy and overbroad, but by taking his characters' emotional plights with utmost seriousness even as he lampoons their circumstances, Trevor manages again and again to steer the stories into deeper, weirder, more fascinating waters. In "The Detroit Frankfurt School Discussion Group," for example, Colin, a recently divorced sad-sack adjunct instructor in English, having failed to reorder his life through golf, Thai cooking, learning Russian, strong drink, internet dating, and so on, is kidnapped off the street and driven to an abandoned, rat-ridden book depository in the wrecked inner city, where his charge is to explain by candlelight how German critical theory can help fix Detroit. Trevor ingeniously stretches the thin filament of this conceit, and by the end it's become a surprising and even poignant small-scale novel of ideas featuring two formidable characters: the resurgent Colin and his charismatic abductor, a drug dealer–turned-philosopher named Ty.
Well-made, erudite, often witty short stories from an accomplished veteran of the form.