Picks and Pans Review: When the Nines Roll Over and Other Stories

updated 09/13/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/13/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By David Benioff

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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.

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