Though he won the National Book Award for his 1974 classic, Dog Soldiers, Robert Stone has hardly rested on past accomplishments. His latest standout is a collection of stories peopled with bleak but fascinating characters. Creating Michelangelo Antonioni-like human wastelands are a Stone hallmark, a cinematic comparison the author would scarcely shrink from. “To tell you the truth, I think some of these stories might be effective films if done a certain way,” he says. Whether his players pine for lost love or grow introspective examining the unexpected nastiness of great success, Stone's writing marries longing and frustration better than any of our modern stylists. Reading these meaty stories, it’s hard to believe the author hasn’t been intimately familiar with the devious characters at their heart, a fact he doesn’t deny. “These days, I am content to view most miscreants and madcaps from a sympathetic distance,” he says. “I think I visit hard times on my characters in order not to share them. At the serious risk of getting above myself, I’m going to quote Virgil...I think it’s in the Aeneid somewhere...‘All of these things I saw and some of them I was.’ ”
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Fun with Problems
Mariner Books / September / 9780547394534 / $13.95 paperback
This book was featured in the Kirkus Best of 2010