"He became more tender, even maternal, as emotionally distant men often do when they grow old, even without heartbreak in their lives."

This collection of nine short stories is basically what its subtitle promises. Both love and obsession, in one form or another, are the lynchpins of each tale. While the main character within each story varies somewhat from yarn to yarn, there is an overall patina of a prototypically successful middle-aged Jewish man being microscopically examined for telltale signs of angst, ennui, male menopause, or perhaps the true meaning of life. In subject matter as well as style, echoes of Philip Roth hover between the lines figuratively prodding the prose to stand up to a level of advanced scrutiny. More often than not, it does.

The plot of each story provides a situational canvas on which is painted different self-examinations previously referenced. For example, a mother recuperating from a hip operation and her son become fanatical Jeopardy! watchers. A father and son experience a devastating car ride. Parents grieve the loss of their son in horrifically different ways. A man makes a career of exceptional eulogies. Multiple men with the same name come to realize who is the most different among them. An obsession with shopping dominates a life. A man mistaken for Burt Reynolds transcends the original. And in the title story, one man literally gives away his organs until he has no more to give.

Levine is an exceptional writer adept at capturing personal turmoil and public zeitgeist in equal measure. While creating scenes of searing pathos, he is able to inject enough reflective humor to avoid anything approaching sentimentality. Although a sagacious scalpel could benefit one or two of the stories here, their overall impact is formidable. The best of his writing puts one in mind of John Cheever and Raymond Carver.

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