The dozen short stories in John Updike's new collection revisit many of the locales of his fiction: the small Pennsylvania town of Olinger, the lonely farm to which the hero moves as an adolescent, the exurban New England of adult camaraderie and sexual mischief, the New York City of artistic ambition and taunting glamour. Love, including an old woman's for her cats and a boy's for his embattled father, exerts its spell in all twelve; the title derives from a story in which an American banjo virtuoso demonstrates his licks to an enthralled Soviet audience in the heart of the Cold War, while being hounded by the epistolary aftermath of a one-night stand in Washington, D.C.
To these tales Mr. Updike has added a novella-length sequel to his quartet of novels about Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. Several old strands come at last together, and the dead man's survivors fitfully entertain his memory while pursuing their own happiness over the edge of the millennium. The place is, as before, the area of Brewer, Pennsylvania; the time, the last months of 1999.