Most of these eight tales are jewels—compassionate, compelling and surprising. Benioff slyly carves up some old chestnuts: Who would guess that the crusty talent agent of the title story would turn out to be a sentimentalist compared to his supposed victim, rocker Molly Minx? Similarly, "The Barefoot Girl in Clover," about a jock reflecting on a crazy oneday romance in his past, appears headed down a predictable path but concludes with a powerful moment of truth.
There are disappointments. Benioff knows Hollywood (he wrote Troy), but "The Garden of No," about an actress's case of bruised vanity, serves up a cliché worthy of daytime TV: Everyone faces rejection sometimes.