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Speaking Volumes was a weekly conversation hosted by Josh Raulerson on books and reading with interesting people from all walks of life here in Pittsburgh.Speaking Volumes as a regular feature ended in December, 2013 but occasional specials may pop up.

The Density of Short Fiction with Mason Radkoff

Courtesy Braddock Avenue Books

Author and Pittsburgh native Mason Radkoff  talks down and out characters, fatherhood, day-to-day reality in writing, and the comeback of the short story.

Richard Russo, “The Risk Pool

A wonderfully fun and perceptive novel in the traditions of Thornton Wilder and Anne Tyler, "The Risk Pool" is set in Mohawk, New York, where Ned Hall is doing his best to grow up, even though neither of his estranged parents can properly be called adult.

His father, Sam, cultivates bad habits so assiduously that he is stuck at the bottom of his auto insurance risk pool. His mother, Jenny, is slowly going crazy from resentment at a husband who refuses either to stay or to stay away. As Ned veers between allegiances to these grossly inadequate role models, Richard Russo gives us a book that overflows with outsized characters and outlandish predicaments and whose vision of family is at once irreverent and unexpectedly moving.

~Random House

Stewart O’Nan, “The Good Wife

On a clear winter night in upstate New York, two young men break in to a house. Within minutes, an old woman is dead and the house is in flames. Across the country, Patty Dickerson's phone rings. It's her husband. He wants her to know that he and his friend have gotten themselves into a little trouble. So Patty's old life ends and a strange new one begins. For the next twenty-eight years, she must live with the absence caused by her husband's incarceration, attempt to raise her son, and brave the scorn of her community. As unflinching as it is heartrending, "The Good Wife" confirms O'Nan's place as one of our country's most wide-ranging and empathetic masters.

~Macmillan Publishers

Alice Munro, “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

In the nine breathtaking stories that make up her celebrated tenth collection, Alice Munro achieves new heights, creating narratives that loop and swerve like memory, and conjuring up characters as thorny and contradictory as people we know ourselves.

A tough-minded housekeeper jettisons the habits of a lifetime because of a teenager’s practical joke. A college student visiting her brassy, unconventional aunt stumbles on an astonishing secret and its meaning in her own life. An incorrigible philanderer responds with unexpected grace to his wife’s nursing-home romance. "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage" is Munro at her best, tirelessly observant, serenely free of illusion, deeply and gloriously humane.

~Random House

Jeffery Condron, “A Fingerprint Repeated

Writers with talent fill our bookracks and lit journals and, with his new collection "A Fingerprint Repeated," Jeffery Condran assuredly demonstrates that he is one of them. Yet his stories exhibit the more rare traits of poise, patience, and what one might call wisdom. Condran populates his fiction with thoroughly imagined characters, all of whom bespeak the depth of his sensitivity and imagination. Their desires and anxieties emerge from deftly drawn backgrounds, and we readers feel as if we’ve been given the interior view of ourselves and those most like us. That eerie familiarity is Condran’s stock and trade, and we are simultaneously edified and horrified by it. In other words, the stories in "A Fingerprint Repeated" depict who we are at this moment, and the portraits aren’t always flattering.

~Alex DeBonis, Small Press Book Review

Josh Raulerson is the local host for Morning Edition weekdays from 5-9 a.m. on 90.5 WESA.