Synopses & Reviews
On the heels of his highly praised novel A Palestine Affair, Jonathan Wilson returns to his first love——the short story——to give us these sharp, bittersweet, often uproariously funny tales of middle-aged American men in hot water with women, with their sweet and savvy kids, with their own consciences. The slacker husband of the title story spends his day running household errands, chatting up the local soccer moms, and drinking most of the wine he was instructed to buy for his wife’s women’s-group meeting that evening; another husband calls an old girlfriend while waiting in the cardiologist’s office for news about his heart; a good Jewish son is torn between the caustic wit of his powerful, very Jewish mother and the fertility urges of his very not-Jewish girlfriend; a divorced dad nearly loses his teenage boy on a Jamaican adventure.
Each of these cases is touched by Wilson’s sympathy and affection for male foibles. Taken together, they give us a nuanced picture of the American husband and father: well-meaning but caught out, horny but physically gone to pot, adrift on dreams and fancies and the desire for a little bit of a break. These are men who, finally, can’t quite suppress their feelings about love, family, and the fundamentals——humdrum, rich, and increasingly precious, these days——of middle-class life.
"Medical crises bring modest epiphanies in a collection of 11 lightly comic, contemplative stories by the author of A Palestine Affair. In 'Mini-Joe,' a man who believes he has a serious heart ailment calls an old ex-girlfriend; a humorously poignant conversation ensues before he learns it was a false alarm and vows to become a better man. In 'Dead Ringers,' a man with prostate problems and a crotchety mother finally goes to tend the grave of a brother who died in infancy. The title story is the most fully articulated rendering of the motif, as an MRI prompts a man to conduct a thorough re-examination of his life. Unavoidably, the conceit wears thin, as the stories range from thoughtful and moving to fragmented and ironic. But Wilson also plumbs the middle-aged Jewish male psyche through different routes: 'Tosh' puts the spotlight on a Mallorca drug dealer and womanizer who is set up for a bust by one of his dates; 'Fat Twins' observes a father's attempt to connect with his teenage son on a trip to Jamaica. 'Fundamentals,' a highlight of the collection, tells of its female American narrator's seduction by a British Jew and her subsequent discovery of his true identity. Wilson is a deft, subtle writer who often neatly turns the tables on his protagonists to reveal the surprising inside the mundane." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Jonathan Wilson is the author of the novels A Palestine Affair, a 2004 finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and The Hiding Room, and of Schoom, a collection of stories. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Best American Short Stories, and Ploughshares, among other publications, and he has received a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches English at Tufts University and lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with his wife and two sons.
A Palestine Affair is available in paperback from Anchor Books.