A wonderful collection of nine stories combining wry humor, engaging characters, and shrewd psychological insight.
It’s hard to pick a favorite here, but one of the best (and funniest) stories is “Love and Heuristics,” in which a man named Jonah, both hapless and clueless, can’t figure out why he can’t keep a girlfriend—especially since he’s thrifty enough to buy Valentine’s candy a day late at 50 percent off (which he gives to his current girlfriend on Feb. 15) and won’t give flowers because “they just die.” In other words, he doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body—and things get even worse when he starts to rely on advice about women from the office Lothario. The story that gives the book its title introduces us to Ethan, who finds himself drawn to Maggie, the girl next door and his daughter’s swimming teacher. Unfortunately, everything starts to go wrong in Ethan’s life: the position he wanted has been filled by the 27-year-old son of the company’s CEO, and Ethan’s nephew, Scudder, a graffiti artist (“Yo, it’s not vandalism. It’s freedom of expression"), comes to live with them, with comic—and almost dire—consequences. “Girlfriend” focuses on the culture of the recently divorced. While Hannah “seethes” at men in general, she does show some nominal interest in Nicholas when she meets him picking up his children at school: “he was not bad looking, in the simplistic way that any man could be acceptable if you were angling for competence.” But it turns out Nicholas is far more interested in Joyce, Hannah’s mother. And in yet another thwarted love relationship, in “Venus in Fur,” the woebegone George confirms what he always suspected—that his love for Helen can never compete with Helen’s for Millie, her Pomeranian.
Witty, discerning, and laugh-out-loud funny.