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October 29 , 2009

Natural Shocks

A Novel


A high-flying journalist comes to ground in this brilliant and bittersweet novel about coming to terms with the traumas of life

Fred Wursup has an enviable existence. Paid to travel around the world “harvesting the annual crop of stars and villains,” he has a beautiful geophysicist girlfriend and a friendly relationship with his ex-wife, Susannah, whose living room he can see into from the roof of his Lexington Avenue apartment. His latest book, a collective portrait of brilliant but flawed leaders called Down the American Drain, had the good fortune to be published at the height of the Watergate scandal, sending it to the top of the bestseller lists.

A new assignment, however, threatens to bring an end to Wursup’s recent string of successes. Asked to write an article on dying—still “undiscovered country,” according to his editor—he becomes unsettled by the seemingly random course of his life, the nature of his work, and the mortality that surrounds him. A troubled playwright he once profiled commits suicide. His elderly father, a retired meter reader who writes poetry about the last years of famous old men, seems to be on the verge of something drastic. Cicia, a young woman dying of cancer at St. Vincent’s Hospital, is gorgeous, vibrant, and doomed, and Wursup just might be falling in love with her.

A charming and richly intelligent story about the disasters, major and minor, that are bound to happen to us all, Natural Shocks showcases the fine craftsmanship and depth of feeling that have established Richard Stern as one of America’s most admired authors.
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