by Richard Russo
Alfred A. Knopf

Trajectory is a collection of four stories by meandering comic master Richard Russo. Half of the works (“Voice” and “Milton and Marcus”) read like novellas, and personal ones at that. Set in Venice (which Russo first visited in 2007’s Bridge of Sighs), “Voice” is a tale of sustained fraternal rivalry, and is notable for some genuinely great swearing. “Milton and Marcus” fictionalises Russo’s friendship with Paul Newman, who starred in three Russo adaptations and, like his fictional alter ego, called the author Hotshot. The story is a piercing portrait of the artist as a Hollywood screenwriting man. “Intervention” also travels in recognisable Russo terrain: father issues, death and sharp one-liners: “They were human and there was no app for that.” Russo draws on another former career as an academic in “Horseman”. The plot opens with a smug student caught plagiarising by a lecturer, Janet Moore. It ends with a meditation on writing, as Moore rereads work by her own mentor, Marcus Bellamy: “In his [essay] would be the man they’d all known, his human presence tangible in every word.” One could say the same about Russo’s own fictions, long or short.