Tag: Literature

Notable Books of the Year 1997 – New York Times List of

What were the noteworthy books of 25 years ago?

Notable Books of the Year 1997

ABBREVIATING ERNIE. By Peter Lefcourt. (Villard, $24.) A lively farce about a woman who is tried for killing her husband in an aggravating way; unlike real life, the affair has a moral center in two reporters who finally cry ”Enough!”

THE ACTUAL. By Saul Bellow. (Viking, $17.95.) In this novella, intelligence and stylistic beauty compensate for inconsistencies of plot in the story of a man’s pursuit of his ideal love.

THE AGUERO SISTERS. By Cristina Garcia. (Knopf, $24.) An exhilarating meditation on Cuba and Cubans in the early 1990’s told in the form of a family saga and with a wit that makes the characters easily accessible.

ALIAS GRACE. By Margaret Atwood. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $24.95.) Grisly but playfully devious, spiced with spooky plot twists, this high Gothic novel is based on an actual murder (did the scullery maid really do it?) in 1840’s Toronto.

ALL AROUND ATLANTIS: Stories. By Deborah Eisenberg. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) Many of these spirited, powerful stories concern children, affluent and neglected, whose precocious perceptions outrun their power to articulate them.

ALREADY DEAD: A California Gothic. By Denis Johnson. (HarperCollins, $25.) A novel of deep creepiness, with a cast of criminals and nut cases who, just like square folks, long for connection to something, somebody, outside themselves.

ALTERED STATES. By Anita Brookner. (Random House, $23.) Condemned to the mines of despair, the prisoner of Brookner’s latest novel — a man this time — seeks surcease from a ruinous obsessive love in a cold and misty solitude.

ANDORRA. By Peter Cameron. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) Comic verve is harnessed to a darker purpose in this novel about a wealthy American who seeks refuge from sorrow in an imaginary, and remarkably polite, Andorra.

ASYLUM. By Patrick McGrath. (Random House, $22.) An elegant and restrained but sufficiently gruesome Gothic, narrated by a complacent psychiatrist who assigns textbook pathologies to the dreadful things his patient does for love.

AT THE OWL WOMAN SALOON. By Tess Gallagher. (Scribner, $22.) The poet’s second prose collection describes characters exhibiting a bittersweet mixture of deflated New Age wisdom and tired wonder.

THE AX. By Donald E. Westlake. (Mysterious Press/Warner, $23.) The unspoken dread of the American middle class is the engine of this suspense master’s novel about a middle-aged middle manager who sees only one solution to being downsized: murder.

BEAR AND HIS DAUGHTER: Stories. By Robert Stone. (Houghton Mifflin, $24.) A first collection of stories by a novelist of distinction; never less than acute and intelligent, they concern men who are most alive when they are angry.

BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO: Stories. By Mary Gaitskill. (Simon & Schuster, $22.) The enviable wealth of emotion and perception in these stories’ characters makes them large enough for the author’s inspection of women’s sexual relations.

BELIEVERS: A Novella and Stories. By Charles Baxter. (Pantheon, $23.) Quirky, eloquent, religiously concerned stories that disclose unplumbed depths and unpredictable destinies in people of the most ordinary kind.

BENJAMIN’S CROSSING. By Jay Parini. (Holt, $23.) A biographical novel elegantly evokes the paradoxical character of the social critic Walter Benjamin, who was both beneficiary and victim of the theorist’s exile from reality.

BOB THE GAMBLER. By Frederick Barthelme. (Houghton Mifflin, $23.) A novel in which compulsive gambling delivers a kind of liberation when a man loses all and has to start over.

THE BOOK OF FAMOUS IOWANS. By Douglas Bauer. (Holt, $25.) A painful and, by design, redemptive novel whose hero explores the rage at his parents’ betrayal that has dominated his life.

A BOOK OF MEMORIES. By Peter Nadas. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.) Huge, multilayered and philosophically complex, this Hungarian novel transposes Proustian narratives of consciousness to the Socialist universe.

THE BOOKSHOP. By Penelope Fitzgerald. (Houghton Mifflin, paper, $10.) A psychological and moral map of awful English provincial life in 1959; the protagonist, a widow trying to run a bookshop, is undone by upper-class twits.

THE BOY WHO WENT AWAY. By Eli Gottlieb. (St. Martin’s, $21.95.) A touching coming-of-age novel whose adolescent narrator, a crackerjack at domestic intelligence work, compiles the facts about a family and its secret suffering.

BRIAR ROSE. By Robert Coover. (Grove, $18.) A very complex novelist’s intricate variations on ”The Sleeping Beauty,” treated with a kind of irreverent logic as sex and storytelling are seen as metaphors for each other.

BRIGHT ANGEL TIME. By Martha McPhee. (Random House, $23.) A thoughtful 8-year-old girl narrates this first novel, in which an abandoned mother undertakes a course of heavy self-realization at a mind-and-body spa in California.

BYRNE. By Anthony Burgess. (Carroll & Graf, $20.) Burgess’s last novel (he died in 1993) concerns a failed composer not so different from the author and characteristic themes like sex, religion and mortality. And it’s written (ready or not!) in verse, mostly a Byronic ottava rima.

CALIFORNIA’S OVER. By Louis B. Jones. (Pantheon, $24.) A satirical elegy for hippiedom and the narcissistic hypersincerity of the 1970’s, set in an innocent Marin County where mellowness grows as grows the grass.

A CHANGE OF CLIMATE. By Hilary Mantel. (Marian Wood/Owl/Holt, paper, $12.) A witty, disturbing, memorable novel that tracks the travails of an English missionary couple who have strayed farther from home than was wise; first published in England in 1994.

A CHANGE OF GRAVITY. By George V. Higgins. (John Macrae/Holt, $25.) Politics hasn’t changed much since the 1960’s but public morality has, and the disjunction is at the heart of this novel about the changing fortunes of a Massachusetts legislator.

CIRCUMNAVIGATION. By Steve Lattimore. (Houghton Mifflin, $20.) A first short-story collection, peopled with California misfits leading aimless lives, that is both funny and moving.

THE CLAIRVOYANT. By Marian Thurm. (Zoland, $23.95.) An amusing novel with an amusing proposition: its title character, a psychic loose cannon who can’t control what he sees, suffers from the resulting mystery deficit in his love life.

CLOUD CHAMBER. By Michael Dorris. (Scribner, $24.) A bold novel, tracing five generations of a fictional American family that grows more multicultural with time, suggesting that the ugliness of history can be transcended.

THE CLUB DUMAS. By Arturo Perez-Reverte. (Harcourt Brace, $23.) A thriller of marvelous intricacy by a Spanish writer whose hero, Lucas Corso, thrives by undertaking dirty jobs for cleanhanded, acquisitive bibliophiles.

COLD MOUNTAIN. By Charles Frazier. (Atlantic Monthly, $24.) An ambitious first novel, winner of this year’s National Book Award, that recasts much of the ”Odyssey” in the American South at the end of the Civil War.

THE COLLECTED POEMS OF AMY CLAMPITT. (Knopf, $30.) The extraordinary life’s work, published posthumously, of a poet who evoked places from Quaker Iowa to bohemian New York.

THE COLLECTED STORIES. By Paul Theroux. (Viking, $29.95.) A whopping volume that combines previous collections with uncollected work; stories in which Gothic things can happen to no-nonsense people and solitary narrators defend their anonymity against threats from without.

THE COMPLETE STORIES. By Bernard Malamud. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $35.) The whole megillah: 55 stories, from grim early tales of mercantile existence to complex bantering that ends in profound choices, all of them as Jewish as he knew how to make them.

CREEK WALK: And Other Stories. By Molly Giles. (Papier-Mache, $23.) A collection of short stories concerned with the struggle of women to be recognized and heard.

A CRIME IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. By Suzanne Berne. (Algonquin, $17.95.) A remarkable first novel that captures the history of child-parent relations in the last quarter-century, from the adults’ betrayal to the new generation’s revenge.

THE CRYSTAL FRONTIER: A Novel in Nine Stories. By Carlos Fuentes. Translated by Alfred Mac Adam. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) A series of related stories in which the Mexican man of letters ponders the vexed relations between his native country and the United States.

DELUGE. By Albertine Strong. (Harmony, $23.) Qustions of identity and the complexities of love are the themes in this first novel about a Chippewa family at the mercy of a trickster god.

THE DESTINY OF NATHALIE X AND OTHER STORIES. By William Boyd. (Knopf, $22.) Stories that occupy rich and diverse landscapes both mental and geographical, each with its own catalogue of human woes and weaknesses.

DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN. By Thomas Mallon. (Pantheon, $24.) Amorous configurations and public events are tightly linked in this novel, persuasively located in Dewey’s Michigan hometown as the election of 1948 draws near.

LE DIVORCE. By Diane Johnson. (William Abrahams/Dutton, $23.95.) A wise, humane comic novel in which a freewheeling Californienne collides with French social and cultural values.

THE DJINN IN THE NIGHTINGALE’S EYE: Five Fairy Stories. By A. S. Byatt. (Random House, $20.) Like the old fairy tales, these are full of quests and magic, but the times and characters are contemporary, and the conflicts eternal.

DO THE WINDOWS OPEN? By Julie Hecht. (Random House, $21.) A first collection of short stories by a brilliant comic writer whose single narrator links all the stories, sharing her daily harvest of terror, pessimism and misadventure.

DOWN BY THE RIVER. By Edna O’Brien. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) Based on an actual case, this novel describes how a teen-age girl, impregnated by her father, becomes a cause celebre when she seeks an abortion.

DREAMS OF MY RUSSIAN SUMMERS. By Andrei Makine. (Arcade, $23.95.) In this moving French novel by a Russian emigre, a Russian youth acquires from his French grandmother the makings of a sensibility by which he can judge, survive and in the end surmount Soviet life.

ECHO HOUSE. By Ward Just. (Peter Davison/Houghton Mifflin, $25.) A portrait of Washington so knowing and so cynical only a Washingtonian could truly love it, this novel chronicles the sleek operators who maneuver through three generations of intrigue in the nation’s capital.

EGGS FOR YOUNG AMERICA. By Katherine L. Hester. (Middlebury/ Bread Loaf/University Press of New England, $19.95.) Assured short stories by a provocative writer convinced that everybody has a story that must be told.

THE ERRANCY: Poems. By Jorie Graham. (Ecco, $22.) Swift and intermittently gorgeous, Graham’s poems address the mind’s working as it moves over fundamental questions, like whether there’s a God and what it’s like to be mortal.

THE ERROR OF OUR WAYS. By David Carkeet. (Holt, $25.) A dark domestic comedy that traces the perils of middle-aged manhood, told with attentiveness to the subtleties of communication.

EXILES: Three Short Novels. By Philip Caputo. (Knopf, $25.) In Connecticut, Micronesia and Vietnam, the misfit heroes of Caputo’s seventh book, outsiders all, pursue their character flaws into locally specific kinds of terrible trouble.

EXQUISITE CORPSE. By Robert Irwin. (Pantheon, $23.) A novel, set in Europe in the years surrounding World War II, about a Surrealist painter who discovers that everyday life contains terrors beyond any produced by art.

A FACE AT THE WINDOW. By Dennis McFarland. (Broadway, $25.) A beguiling narrative that revives the ghost story by merging it with American domestic anxieties.

THE FAREWELL SYMPHONY. By Edmund White. (Knopf, $25.) This engagingly bittersweet final installment of the autobiographical trilogy that began in 1982 with ”A Boy’s Own Story” focuses on the era of AIDS and the decimation of the society in which the hero has earned a place.

FELIX IN THE UNDERWORLD. By John Mortimer. (Viking, $22.95.) The hero of Mortimer’s 27th book is a sufficiently so-so English novelist whose fate requires him to figure out which is worse: a British prison or a book tour.

FLOWER NET. By Lisa See. (HarperCollins, $24.) Two investigators, one a Chinese woman, one a prosecutor from Los Angeles, struggle with transoceanic crime in this first novel.

FLYING HOME AND OTHER STORIES. By Ralph Ellison. Edited by John F. Callahan. (Random House, $23.) A slim but shining collection, some of its contents showing apprentice connections to ”Invisible Man,” all of it distinctively Ellison’s.

FOUR LETTERS OF LOVE. By Niall Williams. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) A first novel set in the author’s native Ireland, where the narrator, Nicholas, and a young woman, Isabel, find their lives both tormented and transfigured by love.

FUGITIVE PIECES. By Anne Michaels. (Knopf, $23.) A first novel by a Canadian poet, rich in complex motifs and patterns; its action takes place mostly in the journal of a Holocaust survivor and his obsessive inquiries into memory.

GIRLS. By Frederick Busch. (Harmony, $23.) Busch’s fierce, accurate novel about the search for a missing 14-year-old girl recaptures crime and detection from detention by pop fiction.

THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS. By Arundhati Roy. (Random House, $23.) This first novel, which won this year’s Booker Prize, meditates, in exuberant, almost acrobatic prose, on the decline and fall of a family in India.

THE GOOD BROTHER. By Chris Offutt. (Simon & Schuster, $23.) This poignant first novel, whose protagonist flees Kentucky for Montana to avoid a family feud, vividly evokes the moral complexity of the hill people, however alien their conclusions.

GREAT APES. By Will Self. (Grove, $24.) The seventh book of a death-defying British satirist proposes a world of civilized chimpanzees, in which a celebrated artist registers his alienation by suffering delusions of humanity.

GUIDED TOURS OF HELL: Novellas. By Francine Prose. (Metropolitan/Holt, $23.) Two irresistible tales about Americans abroad in pressurized environments that both speed and aggravate the purgation of their inner problems.

THE HISTORY OF THE SIEGE OF LISBON. By Jose Saramago. Translated by Giovanni Pontiero. (Harcourt Brace, $24.) A cryptic, ingenious novel about a humble clerk who decides to rewrite the history of Portugal.

THE HOTEL EDEN: Stories. By Ron Carlson. (Norton, $23.) A dozen offerings, some delightfully farfetched, from a lavishly imaginative writer who is a master of the happy ending.

THE HOUSE OF MOSES ALL-STARS. By Charley Rosen. (Seven Stories, $24.95.) In beards and yarmulkes, seven New York-area athletes barnstorm the country in 1936, encountering alien cultures in the author’s fourth basketball novel.

HUMAN CROQUET. By Kate Atkinson. (Picador USA, $24.) Full of ambiguities and neat surprises, this novel from Britain has a rabbit hole of a story and an omniscient narrator, 16-year-old Isobel Fairfax, with knowledge of both past and future.

THE ILLUSIONIST. By Dinitia Smith. (Scribner, $22.) This third novel by a reporter for The New York Times shrewdly examines love as an anodyne for rural isolation; three women fall for an androgyne whose real sex seems not to matter.

INGENIOUS PAIN. By Andrew Miller. (Harcourt Brace, $24.) A man who can feel no pain indulges his hardness of heart to become a great surgeon in this intense novel of ideas set in the 1700’s.

IN THE MEMORY OF THE FOREST. By Charles T. Powers. (Scribner, $23.) An acutely moral novel, set in Poland, that manages to extract hope from post-Communist chaos and from a village’s huge investment in disremembering the 80 percent of its prewar population who were Jews.

JACKIE BY JOSIE. By Caroline Preston. (Scribner, $22.) An amiable first novel whose protagonist takes a job researching the life of Jacqueline Kennedy; soon, sure enough, her life starts running in ominous parallels with Jackie’s.

JESUS SAVES. By Darcey Steinke. (Atlantic Monthly, $23.) In the alternating narratives of two teen-age girls, this novel gives a disturbing picture of a Southern suburb overlaid with a Gothic religious sensibility.

KOWLOON TONG. By Paul Theroux. (Houghton Mifflin, $23.) In the author’s latest novel, two utterly Brit Hong Kong Britons face their Chinese future with passive rage and resentment.

LARRY’S PARTY. By Carol Shields. (Viking, $23.95.) A generous novel that asks what it’s like being a man in 1997 and seeks its solution in Larry Weller, an uneasy self-examiner whose love is easily roused and just as easily lost track of.

LAST COMES THE EGG. By Bruce Duffy. (Simon & Schuster, $23.) Disturbing and original, this novel of suburban adolescents on the run in the 1960’s uncovers the scars beneath the optimism of postwar America.

LEAVE IT TO ME. By Bharati Mukherjee. (Knopf, $23.) An adoptee travels from Schenectady, N.Y., to San Francisco in a murderous quest to achieve identity.

LIFE BEFORE DEATH. By Abby Frucht. (Scribner, $22.) A lighthearted novel, the author’s fourth, about death by cancer; the 40-year-old heroine divides herself between life in the dwindling present and a happy imaginary future.

LIGHTNING SONG. By Lewis Nordan. (Algonquin, $18.95.) Told in a narrative voice appropriate to its 12-year-old hero — Southern, boyish and goofy — this coming-of-age novel describes the development of sexual awareness.

LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS. By Kirsten Bakis. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) A madman’s dream comes true in a dazzling first novel about a slightly futuristic Manhattan, invaded by an army of civilized, talking dogs.

LOST MAN’S RIVER. By Peter Matthiessen. (Random House, $26.95.) Matthiessen’s second novel in a proposed trilogy about the Everglades is narrated by a detective-researcher-protagonist who tries to freeze dim facts and slippery memories into a resolution of his father’s murder.

LOVE AND LONGING IN BOMBAY: Stories. By Vikram Chandra. (Little, Brown, $22.95.) Five narratives that conjure up an India of glittering sophisticates, gritty policemen, high finance, low crime, exclusive clubs and arty parties.

LOVE IN A BLUE TIME. By Hanif Kureishi. (Scribner, $22.) In this short-story collection, an author known for his exuberant young protagonists turns to middle-aged men and the harsher subjects of moral and marital malaise.

LOVE INVENTS US. By Amy Bloom. (Random House, $21.) Written in a lyrical prose that describes complicated emotional states with great sensitivity, this novel follows its emotionally impoverished heroine from adolescence to middle age.

LOVE WARPS THE MIND A LITTLE. By John Dufresne. (Norton, $23.) A deeply affecting novel that begins with an offhand love affair and focuses on painful truths: for instance, that everybody’s going to die, unpleasantly in most cases, but someone still has to walk the dog.

LUCKY YOU. By Carl Hiaasen. (Knopf, $24.) A $28-million prize in the Florida lottery brings together a pair of white supremacist creeps, a burned-out newspaper reporter and a woman done wrong.

THE MAD DOG: Stories. By Heinrich Boll. (St. Martin’s, $19.95.) Early stories, published in this country for the first time, by a powerful German realist, a former prisoner of war released in 1945, already determined to reform his country’s literary language as well as its conscience.

MAN CRAZY. By Joyce Carol Oates. (William Abrahams/Dutton, $23.95.) A woman is abused and dehumanized by a satanic motorcycle cult in this relentless coming-of-age-in-reverse novel.

MEDICINE MEN. By Alice Adams. (Knopf, $23.) The heroine of this novel endures a special form of hell, emblematic of male power and female dependency, when she wonders if her crushing headaches are an allergic reaction to her doctors.

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. By Arthur Golden. (Knopf, $25.) This first novel, a bold act of ventriloquism, takes as subject a Japanese woman born in the 1920’s; her recollections are enriched with all sorts of colorful period detail.

MEN GIVING MONEY, WOMEN YELLING: Intersecting Stories. By Alice Mattison. (Morrow, $22.) Short fictions crammed with frantic characters who pop in and out, notably a high school teacher who is not only sexy herself but the cause that sexiness is found in others.

THE MIRROR. By Lynn Freed. (Crown, $21.) A stylized, finely tuned South African historical novel whose heroine seeks an impossible kind of love that will let her be both dominated and free.

MY LIFE, STARRING DARA FALCON. By Ann Beattie. (Knopf, $24.) A woman of almost preternatural naivete is endlessly put upon by a would-be actress in this novel, whose author’s art it is to make her heroine’s passivity plausible.

THE NATURE OF BLOOD. By Caryl Phillips. (Knopf, $23.) An ambitious historical novel that uses the story of a Jewish woman in Nazi Germany to explore the historical roots of intolerance.

NEWS OF THE SPIRIT. By Lee Smith. (Putnam, $23.95.) The author’s third collection of short stories that depict a South full of eccentric relatives and offbeat rituals.

1988. By Andrew McGahan. (St. Martin’s, $22.95.) A refreshingly benign novel from Australia; its heroes, two young men plunging into the wilderness, meet nothing they can’t handle and return to civilization without grave incident.

THE ODYSSEY. Translated by Robert Fagles. (Viking, $35.) The distinguished translator of the ”Iliad” nobly and energetically renders Ithaca’s cleverest son and his hard times on the road.

ONE OF US. By David Freeman. (Carroll & Graf, $23.) An engaging historical novel, set in a grand colonial Egypt, where an ambassador’s effort to Anglicize the young King Farouk evokes a personal and political bedroom revenge.

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC: New & Collected Stories. By Muriel Spark. (New Directions, $24.95.) Short fiction by the author of ”The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and ”Memento Mori.”

OTHERWISE: New and Selected Poems. By Jane Kenyon. (Graywolf, $23.95.) Work from the poet’s four previous collections and 20 new poems, focused unswervingly on everyday life (though for her the quotidian is never the merely ordinary).

PANDAEMONIUM. By Leslie Epstein. (St. Martin’s, $24.95.) Something awfully like hell breaks loose in this wild Hollywood novel set early in World War II and populated by dreamy European exiles and unsleeping movieland types.

PERFIDIA. By Judith Rossner. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $23.95.) A scorching portrait of attachment and loss, this novel details the shocking consequences when a mother transfers her attention from her daughter to a new baby.

PFITZ. By Andrew Crumey. (Picador USA, $20.) The mental powers of an 18th-century princedom are mobilized to create an imaginary city in this cerebral but warm and likable novel.

PIG. By Andrew Cowan. (Harcourt Brace, $21.) A first novel whose 15-year-old narrator takes charge of the abandoned cottage (and pig) of his grandparents in an effort to leave some mark of his presence on a gray, post-industrial Britain.

PILGRIMS. By Elizabeth Gilbert. (Houghton Mifflin, $22.) Chaucer is invoked in this lively short-story collection, but its characters have little patience for long-windedness or spirituality; they are mostly down and out, and often very odd.

PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS. By Allan Gurganus. (Knopf, $25.) Three young artists set out to conquer New York, only to run up against the perils of careerism and AIDS.

PUBLISH AND PERISH: Three Tales of Tenure and Terror. By James Hynes. (Picador USA, $24.) The playfulness of post-modernism keeps house with cliffhanging narrative in these academic farces of scholarly ambition and human sacrifice.

PURPLE AMERICA. By Rick Moody. (Little, Brown, $23.95.) A breathtaking novel in which the members of a family (a debilitated mother, a stepfather in the nuclear power industry) support the expansion of notions about aging and pollution into general intimations of mortality.

THE READER. By Bernhard Schlink. (Pantheon, $21.) A schoolboy and a former Auschwitz employee fall in love in this German novel that examines the guilt gap between the innocent generation and the chronologically impeachable.

READING IN THE DARK. By Seamus Deane. (Knopf, $23.) A first novel by an Irish poet whose narrator looks back on a childhood in hellish Derry, extracting significance from the props and the scenery till his family secrets yield to inquiry.

REALITY AND DREAMS. By Muriel Spark. (Houghton Mifflin, $22.) A movie director who perhaps thinks to usurp the creative function of God falls into the hands of an all-knowing narrator — Muriel Spark — who visits trouble upon him.

ROUND ROCK. By Michelle Huneven. (Knopf, $24.) A lively, likable first novel about two recovering alcoholic men and a woman with whom they are both involved; it manages to suggest, without preaching, that facing truths and getting on with life is more or less how to live.

THE SEA OF TREES. By Yannick Murphy. (Houghton Mifflin, $22.) Set in Indochina in the 1940’s, this first novel describes a girl’s coming of age in a Japanese internment camp and in post-World War II Saigon.

SELECTED POEMS, 1960-1990. By Maxine Kumin. (Norton, $27.50.) Thirty years of honest work by a versatile poet who adheres to no particular school and whose poems are about something; often they tell family stories and seek to preserve family history.

SIX EARLY STORIES. By Thomas Mann. Edited by Burton Pike. Translated by Peter Constantine. (Sun and Moon, $22.95.) A half-dozen storiesfrom Mann’s early career, previously uncollected in English translation, exhibit the author’s characteristic irony and portents of his genius.

SNAKE. By Kate Jennings. (Ecco, $21.) An austere novel about a mismatched couple whose downhill-all-the-way marriage is played out on the vacant expanses of the author’s native Australia.

THE STORY OF THE NIGHT. By Colm Toibin. (Holt, $23.) Sex and death under Argentina’s recent dictatorship dominate the consciousness of this novel’s gay narrator, who creates an aching awareness of both through pregnant silences.

STRAIGHT MAN. By Richard Russo. (Random House, $25.) This satirical novel, starring a wisenheimer English professor stuck at a jerkwater college in Pennsylvania, crackles with an impudent, screwball energy.

SUN UNDER WOOD: New Poems. By Robert Hass. (Ecco, $22.) In his fourth book of poems, Hass, the former poet laureate of the United States, exhibits a newfound desire for artistic self-sabotage.

TEXACO. By Patrick Chamoiseau. (Pantheon, $27.) A large-scale novel of love, sex, work, murder, politics and (above all) authenticity in Martinique among slaves and their descendants.

THE THREE-ARCHED BRIDGE. By Ismail Kadare. (Arcade, $21.95.) A vivid, macabre and wise novel, set in the 14th century, when the author’s Albanian homeland was suffering disruptions that suggest the Balkans of today.

TIMEQUAKE. By Kurt Vonnegut. (Putnam, $23.95.) A sort of novel and sort of memoir, both moral and hilarious, that offers a running commentary on chunks of the author’s life and considers its interplay with his imagination.

TRACES: Stories. By Ida Fink. (Metropolitan, $23.) Spare, lucid stories, set in Poland during the Nazi era and pervaded with the polarities of normality and terror.

TUMBLE HOME: A Novella and Short Stories. By Amy Hempel. (Scribner, $21.) Taut, precise stories that capture fleeting moments of life as though assembled from scraps of conversation.

THE UNIVERSAL DONOR. By Craig Nova. (Houghton Mifflin, $23.) In the hands of this accomplished novelist, a love story becomes a thriller as a Los Angeles doctor tries to save a woman by tracking down the criminal psychopath who shares her rare blood type.

UNRAVELLING. By Elizabeth Graver. (Hyperion, $22.95.) A mill girl of the 1840’s, ruined by a rotter and expelled by her mother, at length acquires the power to forgive in this absorbing first novel.

THE UNTOUCHABLE. By John Banville. (Knopf, $25.) A hall-of-mirrors spy story, antic in delivery, based on the life of Anthony Blunt; at heart, its focus is the appeal of Communism for Britain’s upper intellectual classes in the 1930’s.

WEST OF VENUS. By Judy Troy. (Random House, $23.) A beguiling first novel, set in Venus, Kan., where an engaging cast of characters hang out downtown, to look for love or, if they can’t find it, settle for banter and eavesdropping.

WET PLACES AT NOON. By Lee K. Abbott. (University of Iowa, $22.95.) Stories whose ebullient narrators preserve their good humor while quite awful things happen to the characters.

WHEN THE SONS OF HEAVEN MEET THE DAUGHTERS OF THE EARTH. By Fernanda Eberstadt. (Knopf, $25.) A more-than-lively novel of the New York art world, in which an untutored genius from Harvard persuades an ever so grand collector and heiress that art should be beautiful.

WHERE TROUBLE SLEEPS. By Clyde Edgerton. (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $18.95.) A stranger shows up in a small Southern town in 1950, causing disturbing reverberations in the tight-knit community.

WICKED WOMEN: Stories. By Fay Weldon. (Atlantic Monthly, $23.) A bristling collection by a cunning moral satirist, set in an uncompromising universe where right is right, wrong is wrong and justice is unblinking.

THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE. By Haruki Murakami. (Knopf, $26.95.) This big book by Japan’s most popular novelist wrangles with big subjects: the evanescence of love, the vacuity of politics, the legacy of aggression in World War II.

THE WISHBONES. By Tom Perrotta. (Putnam’s, $22.95.) A coming-of-age novel about the members of a New Jersey rock band who are forced to face the prospect of growing up or continuing to perform at weddings.

WOMEN WITH MEN: Three Stories. By Richard Ford. (Knopf, $23.) Postmacho fiction that presents all that is awkward about American manhood without ever being awkward itself.

THE WORLD IS THE HOME OF LOVE AND DEATH: Stories. By Harold Brodkey. (Metropolitan/Holt, $25.) Posthumously published stories that obsessively revisit aspects of the author’s childhood, capturing the child’s world as it continues spinning in the adult’s mind.

A YEAR OF LESSER. By David Bergen. (Phyllis Bruce/HarperCollins, paper, $12.) Bergen’s first novel offers a subtly shaded portrait of a forthright sinner, a Manitoba feed salesman who loves women and longs for grace.

50 Greatest British writers since 1945 – List of, The Times Literary Supplement

1) Philip Larkin
2) George Orwell
3) William Golding
4) Ted Hughes
5) Doris Lessing
6) J.R.R. Tolkien
7) V.S. Naipaul
8) Muriel Spark
9) Kingsley Amis
10) Angela Carter
11) C.S. Lewis
12) Iris Murdoch
13) Salman Rushdie
14) Ian Fleming
15) Jan Morris
16) Roald Dahl
17) Anthony Burgess
18) Mervyn Peake
19) Martin Amis
20) Anthony Powell
21) Alan Sillitoe
22) John le Carre
23) Penelope Fitzgerald
24) Philippa Pearce
25) Barbara Pym
26) Beryl Bainbridge
27) J.G. Ballard
28) Alan Garner
29) Alasdair Gray
30) John Fowles
31) Derek Walcott
32) Kazuo Ishiguro
33) Anita Brookner
34) A.S. Byatt
35) Ian McEwan
36) Geoffrey Hill
37) Hanif Kureishi
38) Iain Banks
39) George MacKay Brown
40) A.J.P. Taylor
41) Isaiah Berlin
42) J.K. Rowling
43) Philip Pullman
44) Julian Barnes
45) Colin Thubron
46) Bruce Chatwin
47) Alice Oswald
48) Benjamin Zephaniah
49) Rosemary Sutcliff
50) Michael Moorcock

Goodreads

Here’s the Times link, published January 05, 2008:
The 50 greatest British writers since 1945
What better way to start the year than with an argument? The Times has decided to present you with a ranking of whom they consider the best postwar British writers, and are awaiting your responses

Human beings reveal their character most clearly by what they find ridiculous. – Goethe Quote

The first time I read “Elective Affinities” was in college, when it appeared on the syllabus of a class that I swiftly dropped. The teacher pronounced “Goethe” with enthusiastic violence, making it sound like a noise someone would make when using the toilet. I read the book on my own time and strip-mined it for insights on marriage, fashion and virtue. (“Human beings reveal their character most clearly by what they find ridiculous.”)

It wasn’t until revisiting the book five years later that I saw what I had missed — and, contrarily, probably missed a lot of what I’d understood the first time. The novel is about an aristocratic married couple, Charlotte and Eduard, who fall in love with other people. They work through their rift by exchanging stiff philosophical dialogues about fate, domesticity, nature, freedom, transgression — you know, all the fun stuff. Aphorisms everywhere.

There’s a piece in The American Scholar in which Alberto Manguel describes Goethe as never merely narrating, but always injecting theories into his prose, with those theories permeating each section “like the smell of fried onions.” It remains the only novel I’ve read that feels like the work of a scientist (author) guiding lab rats (characters) through a maze (plot). It was published in 1809 to widespread bafflement.

Wind, Of Course, Goethe and Shame Our critic recommends old and new books.
Molly Young
NYTIMES

HarperCollins Strike – July 20, 2022

More than 200 unionized HarperCollins employees are on strike today following months of contract negotiations, which began in December 2021 and which, they say, have not yielded a fair agreement for workers.

HarperCollins, based in New York City—where the median rent recently reached $4,000 a month—offers a starting salary of $45,000, and unionized workers make an average salary of $55,000. Employees are calling for a pay increase along with more family leave benefits, improved efforts to diversify the company, and “stronger union protection,” while currently working without a contract, according to a press release.

Employees are currently holding a picket line in lower Manhattan, where others have joined them in support.

HarperCollins workers are on strike today
Corinne Segal
Lithub

Books from All Fifty States – NPR asked poets laureate, state librarians, bookstore owners

As the summer travel season kicks off, many of us look forward to exploring new places on trips away from home. To help with this, NPR asked poets laureate, state librarians, bookstore owners and other literary luminaries from all 50 states — plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — to recommend quintessential reads that illuminate where they live.

Here are more than 100 recommendations for you — whether you want to read about somewhere you’re heading, a place you hope to go someday, or somewhere you live and want to get to know better….

The Man Who Came Uptown by George Pelecanos: The latest from George Pelecanos, The Man Who Came Uptown is a crime novel focusing on a man returning to a Washington, D.C., that has changed dramatically during his time in prison. In researching the story, Pelecanos spent time with the D.C. Jail’s librarian to develop one of the main characters in the story, Michael Hudson.
Washington, D.C

New Jersey Noir edited by Joyce Carol Oates: This anthology is a collection of stories from all around New Jersey and is a representation of the richness of experiences with a twist: It’s not all glass skyscrapers and clouds. This anthology gives voice to stories that don’t make polite society, as most of us urban Jersey kids wouldn’t. It’s a thrilling read that brings shadows to life.
New Jersey

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines: The award-winning novel by Ernest J. Gaines focuses on two African American men: Jefferson, who is accused of murder, and Grant, who had gone away for school and returns home to a community struggling to survive. Grant visits Jefferson in prison as he waits to be executed, and the men develop a bond, both eventually learning from the other. Set in a small, segregated Louisiana town in the late 1940s, A Lesson Before Dying is filled with important and timeless themes, including justice, growth, dignity and death.
Louisiana

The Virginian by Owen Wister: For many, Owen Wister’s The Virginian established the myth of the West and Western pulp fiction. Wyoming walks the dichotomy between the myth and our reality: Wyoming turns to the myth for tourism and great stories, but we ultimately find that keeping to the myth holds us back and becomes something that we cannot shake off even today. The Virginian is a great snapshot of Wyoming’s past and present struggle with our relationship to the myth of the West. the myth of the West and Western pulp fiction. Wyoming walks the dichotomy between the myth and our reality: Wyoming turns to the myth for tourism and great stories, but we ultimately find that keeping to the myth holds us back and becomes something that we cannot shake off even today. The Virginian is a great snapshot of Wyoming’s past and present struggle with our relationship to the myth of the West.
Wyoming

See the whole selection here:
Traveling this summer? Here are book picks for all 50 states (and then some)

Hereditary Trauma in Mice

What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
The fact that anxiety generated by a specific traumatic event can be transmitted to descendants generations later, and even more interestingly, this is true whether the original trauma happened to a male or a female. I learned this from Maud Newton’s book on my night stand* so it’s fresh in my mind, though I’ll probably mangle the facts anyway. It seems that in the study a male mouse was repeatedly shocked whenever he was exposed to a certain fragrance. His sperm carried something that had been altered in his DNA by the trauma and his children and even his grandchildren reacted anxiously to the fragrance though they’d never smelled it before.

Ann Leary Likes Scary Stories
“I’m not choosy, as long as there’s a psychopath,” says the novelist, whose new book is “The Foundling.”

* “Maud Newton’s wonderful new book, Ancestor Trouble”

Queen Elizabeth – Big Jubilee Read – 70 Years Of Commonwealth Literature

A collection spanning six continents
To mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, The Reading Agency have compiled a list of seventy novels, short story anthologies and poetry collections published in the Commonwealth since 1952.

An expert panel of librarians, booksellers and literature specialists has chosen seventy titles from a “readers’ choice” longlist with ten books for each decade of Her Majesty The Queen’s reign.

BBC

1952-61
The Palm-Wine Drinkard – Amos Tutuola (1952, Nigeria)
The Hills Were Joyful Together – Roger Mais (1953, Jamaica)
In the Castle of My Skin – George Lamming (1953, Barbados)
My Bones and My Flute – Edgar Mittelholzer (1955, Guyana)
The Lonely Londoners – Sam Selvon (1956, Trinidad and Tobago/England)
The Guide – RK Narayan (1958, India)
To Sir, With Love – ER Braithwaite (1959, Guyana)
One Moonlit Night – Caradog Prichard (1961, Wales)
A House for Mr Biswas – VS Naipaul (1961, Trinidad and Tobago/England
Sunlight on a Broken Column – Attia Hosain (1961, India)

1962-71
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (1962, England)
The Interrogation – JMG Le Clézio (1963, France/Mauritius)
The Girls of Slender Means – Muriel Spark (1963, Scotland)
Arrow of God – Chinua Achebe (1964, Nigeria)
Death of a Naturalist – Seamus Heaney (1966, Northern Ireland)
Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys (1966, Dominica/Wales)
A Grain of Wheat – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1967, Kenya)
Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay (1967, Australia)
The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born – Ayi Kwei Armah (1968, Ghana)
When Rain Clouds Gather – Bessie Head (1968, Botswana/South Africa)

1972-81
The Nowhere Man – Kamala Markandaya (1972, India)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John Le Carré (1974, England)
The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough (1977, Australia)
The Crow Eaters – Bapsi Sidhwa (1978, Pakistan)
The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch (1978, England)
Who Do You think You Are? – Alice Munro (1978, Canada)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (1979, England)
Tsotsi – Athol Fugard (1980, South Africa)
Clear Light of Day – Anita Desai (1980, India)
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (1981, England/India)

1982-91
Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally (1982, Australia)
Beka Lamb – Zee Edgell (1982, Belize)
The Bone People – Keri Hulme (1984, New Zealand)
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985, Canada)
Summer Lightning – Olive Senior (1986, Jamaica)
The Whale Rider – Witi Ihimaera (1987, New Zealand)
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (1989, England)
Omeros – Derek Walcott (1990, Saint Lucia)
The Adoption Papers – Jackie Kay (1991, Scotland)
Cloudstreet – Tim Winton (1991, Australia)

1992-2001
The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje (1992, Canada/Sri Lanka)
The Stone Diaries – Carol Shields (1993, Canada)
Paradise – Abdulrazak Gurnah (1994, Tanzania/England)
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (1995, India/Canada)
Salt – Earl Lovelace (1996, Trinidad and Tobago)
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy (1997, India)
The Blue Bedspread – Raj Kamal Jha (1999, India)
Disgrace – JM Coetzee (1999, South Africa/Australia)
White Teeth – Zadie Smith (2000, England)
Life of Pi – Yann Martel (2001, Canada)

2002-11
Small Island – Andrea Levy (2004, England)
The Secret River – Kate Grenville (2005, Australia)
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (2005, Australia)
Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006, Nigeria)
A Golden Age – Tahmima Anam (2007, Bangladesh)
The Boat – Nam Le (2008, Australia)
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (2009, England)
The Book of Night Women – Marlon James (2009, Jamaica)
The Memory of Love – Aminatta Forna (2010, Sierra Leone/Scotland)
Chinaman – Shehan Karunatilaka (2010, Sri Lanka)

2012-21
Our Lady of the Nile – Scholastique Mukasonga (2012, Rwanda)
The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton (2013, New Zealand)
Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue (2016, Cameroon)
The Bone Readers – Jacob Ross (2016, Grenada)
How We Disappeared – Jing-Jing Lee (2019, Singapore)
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo (2019, England)
The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo (2019, Malaysia)
Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart (2020, Scotland)
A Passage North – Anuk Arudpragasam (2021, Sri Lanka)
The Promise – Damon Galgut (2021, South Africa)

Car as Status – Two References

Thunderbirds had been out for only a year now, since ‘55, and because they were new and there weren’t that many of them they were considered somewhat cooler than Corvettes. It was early evening. The Thunderbird was idling before a red light at the intersection, and from our perch behind the parapet we could hear the song on the radio – “Over the Mountains and across the Seas” – and hear too, just below the music, the full-throated purr of the engine. The black body glistened like obsidian. Blue smoke chugged from the twin exhausts. The top was rolled back. We could see the red leather upholstery and the blond man in the dinner jacket sitting in the driver’s seat. He was young and handsome and fresh. You could almost smell the Listerine on his breath, the Mennen on his cheeks. We were looking right down at him. With the palm of his left hand he kept the beat of the song against the steering wheel. His right arm rested on the back of the empty seat beside him, which would not remain empty for long. He was on his way to pick someone up.

We held no conference. One look was enough to see that he was everything we were not, his life a progress of satisfactions we had no hope of attaining in any future we could seriously propose for ourselves.

The first egg hit the street beside him. The second egg hit the front fender. The third egg hit the trunk and splattered his shoulders and neck and hair. We looked down just long enough to tally the damage before pulling our heads back. A moment passed. Then a howl rose skyward. No words – just one solitary soul cry of disbelief. We could still hear the music coming from his radio. The light must have changed, because a horn honked, and honked again, and someone yelled something, and another voice answered harshly, and the song was suddenly lost in the noise of engines.

This Boy’s Life
Tobias Wolff

I said, What’re you gonna do, man? Get a job up at the mall? Yeah, right, Chappie. The mall. The line forms at the end, man. They got fucking college graduates up there flipping Big Macs and carrying out the garbage. Forget it, man.

Well maybe you could sell your Camaro. You could get eight, nine hundred bucks easy for it. More maybe.

You bet your ass more. A grand and a half easy. But no fucking way, man. That car’s all I got between me and total nothingness.

Rule of the Bone
Russell Banks

Charles Dickens’ Urban Way of Seeing

In any case, what counts as realism is a contentious matter. We generally think of realistic characters as complex, substantial, well-rounded figures who evolve over time, like Shakespeare’s Lear or George Eliot’s Maggie Tulliver. Yet some of Dickens’s characters are realistic precisely by being none of these things. Far from being well rounded, they are grotesque, two-dimensional caricatures of human beings. They are men and women reduced to a few offbeat features or eye-catching physical details. As one critic has pointed out, however, this is just the way we tend to perceive people on busy thoroughfares or crowded street corners. It is a typically urban way of seeing, one which belongs to the city street rather than the village green. It is as though characters loom up out of the crowd, allow us a quick, vivid impression of themselves, then disappear for ever into the throng.

In Dickens’s world, this serves only to heighten their mysteriousness. Many of his characters appear secretive and inscrutable. They have a cryptic quality about them, as though their inner lives are impenetrable to others. Perhaps they have no inner life at all, being nothing but a set of surfaces. Sometimes they seem more like pieces of furniture than living beings. Or perhaps their true selves are locked away behind their appearances, beyond reach of an observer. Once again, this mode of characterisation reflects life in the city. In the anonymity of the great metropolis, individuals seem shut up in their solitary lives, with little continuous knowledge of or involvement with one another. Human contacts are fleeting and sporadic. People appear as enigmas to each other. So in portraying urban men and women as he does, Dickens is arguably more realistic than showing them in the round.

How to Read Literature
Terry Eagleton