Tesich, Steve - Karoo
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There are far more tragicomic possibilities in the lives of gracelessly aging men than one might suspect, and the list of writers who have taken advantage of them is small but fertile--Mordecai Richler, John Updike, Philip Roth, and Saul Bellow among them. The late Steve Tesich, best known for his original screenplay for Breaking Away, joins this august group with the tale of Saul Karoo, a wealthy, alcoholic Hollywood script doctor plagued by exactly the kind of banal problems that he has ruthlessly edited out of the scripts of others--most notably a fear of intimacy. He meets regularly with his estranged wife Dianah to discuss the academic question of their ever-impending divorce and celebrate the anniversary of their separation. "Tender, deeply felt, full of love, that's the kind of divorce we had in mind... The more we talked about divorce, the more married we seemed." His adopted teenage son, Billy, keeps pushing for more dedicated father-son contact, to Karoo's great discomfort: "I loved Billy, but I was absolutely incapable of loving him in private where it was just the two of us. That was another disease I had... Evasion of privacy. Evasion at all costs of privacy of any kind. With anyone."
A doctor tells Karoo that he's shrinking vertically and swelling horizontally as if to push the world even further away. But when he signs on to re-cut the last film of dying directorial great Arthur Houseman, he discovers Leila, Billy's natural mother, playing a bit part in the film, and from that moment he's transformed. In a bizarre twist, the unbelievable melodrama that follows from his attempt to engineer happiness from this coincidence is the stuff of a blockbuster script--offered to him, naturally, for the writing. Karoo is bitter and cynical to the core, but the somewhat heavy-handed ending embraces the possibility of redemption even as it delivers the final insult to its unhappy hero.