A collection of short stories about various characters working for an English language newspaper run out of Rome. We start with the poverty-stricken old man, Lloyd Burko, a correspondent in Paris, trying to piece together one last story, his wife living across the hall with another man, he eats chickpeas from a can, eventually moves in with his son. We end with the wealthy and weak willed publisher, Oliver Ott, whose dog is killed in the office the day he announces he is shutting the paper down, then moves back to Atlanta, staring out the window over steamy Atlanta, wishing each day to be over.
Two strong characters were Hardy Benjamin, the scrappy financial writer who allows herself to take care of an Irish boyfriend who takes advantage of her but she refuses to view love as a financial transaction. And Herman Cohen, the corrections editor who takes great pleasure in humiliating anyone with a typo in their story, whose friend Jimmy comes to visit and bursts Herman’s bubble about how talented Jimmy is (he can barely scrape together a paragraph).
Not many happy marriages. Intersections of lives of people who work together. Snippets of good writing interspersed. But not a fan of the “where are they now” recap for each character at the end.
Arthur Gopal the obituary writer interviews Erzberger who mentions:
My past – it doesn’t feel real in the slightest. The person who inhabited it is not me. It’s as if the present me is constantly dissolving. There’s that line of Heraclitus: ‘No man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.’ That’s quite right. We enjoy this illusion of continuity, and we call it memory. Which explains why our worst fear isn’t the end of life but the end of memories.
Kathleen, editor in chief, before confronting her husband Nigel about his affair:
“But still, the point of any relationship is obtaining something from another person. Why do you kiss someone? To give pleasure or to take it?”
Reco’d by Milnor