January 22, 2012


Russell Banks, Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel (New York: Ecco. 2011) ("He doesn't know which story to believe. . . . His mind is bouncing off competing versions of reality as if he is living inside a video game and it's making him feel dizzy and nauseated. He wonders if the Writer's harsh theory about knowledge --that you can't ever know the truth about anything-- is true after all. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. But the Kid can't even know that: he's stuck between believing the Writer's theory and not believing it." Id. at 410. And so are we all!).

Roberto Bolano, The Third Reich, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) (See Michael Wood, "Playing With History," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 12/25/2011.).

Don DeLillo, The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories (New York: Scribner, 2011) See Liesl Schillinger, "Unnamed Sources," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/20/2011.).

Anita Desai, The Artist of Disapearance: Three Novella (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) (See Randy Boyagoda, "Hidden in Plain Sight," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 12/11/2011.).

Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery: A Novel, translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "Nineteenth-century Europe--from Turin to Paris--abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian republicans strangle priest with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate Black Masses at night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. Conspiracies rule history. From the unification of Italy to the Paris Commune to the Dreyfus Affair to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Europe is in tumult and everyone needs a scapegoat. But what if, behind all these conspiracies, both real and imagined, lay one one man? What if that evil genius created the world's most infamous document?" "Umberto Eco takes his readers on a remarkable journey through the underbelly of world-shattering events. . . .").

Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot: A Novel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the Novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives." Also see Michael Greenberg, "The Mania of Love," NYRB, November 24, 2011).).

Eleanor Henderson, Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel(New York: Ecco, 2011) (selected as one of "The 10 Books of 2011" by the NYT).

Ha Jin, Nanjing Requiem: A Novel (New York: Pantheon, 2001) (From the bookjacket: "In 1937, with the Japanese poised to invade Nanjing, Minnie Vautrin--an American missionary and the dean of Jinling Women's College--decides to remain at the school, convinced that her American citizenship will help her safeguard the welfare of the Chinese men and women who work there. She is painfully mistaken. In the aftermath of the invasion, the school becomes a refuge camp for more than ten thousand homeless women and children, and Vautrin must struggle, day after day, to intercede on behalf of the hapless victims. Even when order and civility are eventually restored, Vautrin remains deeply embattled, and she is haunted by the lives she could not save." Also, see Isabel Hilton, "In Harm's Way," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 10/23/2011.).

Denis Johnson, Train Dreams: A Novella (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011).

Stephen King, 11/22/63: A Novel (New York: Scribner, 2011) (Selected as one of "The 10 Best Books of 2011" by the NYT. Also, see Errol Morris, "'Save Kennedy'," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/13/2011.).

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84: A Novel, translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin & Philip Gabriel (New York: Knopf, 2011) ("What kind of world will be there tomorrow? 'No one knows the answer to that,' Fuka-Eri said." Id. at 499. "Back when he was a lawyer it was the same. He couldn't remember having done anything that helped society. His biggest clients ran small and medium-sized financial firms and had ties to organized crime. Ushikawa created the most efficient ways to disperse their profits and made all the arrangements. Basically, it was money laundering. he was also involved in land sharking" When investors had their eyes on an area, he helped drive out longtime residents so they could knock down their houses and sell the remaining large lots to condo builders. Hugh amounts of money rolled in. The same type of people were involved in this as well. He also specialized in defending people brought up on tax evasion-charges. Most of the clients were suspicious characters that an ordinary lawyer would hesitate to have anything to do with. But as long as a client wanted him to represent him--and as long as a certain amount of money changed hands--Ushikawa never hesitated He was a skilled lawyer, with a decent track record, so he never hurt for business. . . ." "If he had followed the path that ordinary lawyers take, Ushikawa would probably have found it hard to earn a living. He had passed the bar exam not long after he left college, and h had become a lawyer, but he had no connections or influential backers. With his looks, no prestigious law firm would ever had hire him, so if he had stayed on a straight and narrow path he would have had very few clients. There can't be many people in the world who would go out of their way to hire a lawyer who looked as unappealing as Ushikawa, plus pay the high fees involved. The blame might lie with TV drama, which have conditioned people to expect lawyers to be both bright and attractive." Id. at 764-765. Also, see Kathryn Schulz, "Escape Route," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/6/2011.).

Peter Nadas, Parallel Stories: A Novel, translated from the Hungarian by Imre Goldstein (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "In 1989, the year The Wall came down, a university student in Berlin on his morning run finds a corpse on a park bench and alert the authorities. This scene opens a novel of extraordinary scope and depth, a masterwork that traces the fate of myriad Europeans--Hungarians, Jews, German, Gypsies--across the treacherous years o the mid-twentieth century." "Three unusual men are at the heart of Parallel Stories: Hans von Wolkenstein, whose German mother is linked to secrets of fascist-Nazi collaboration during the 1940s; Agost Lippay Lehr, whose influential father has served Hungary's different political regimes for decades;and Andras Rott, who has his own dark record of mysterious activities abroad. The web of extended and interconnected dramas reaches from 1989 back to the Spring of 1939, when Europe trembled on the edge of war, and extends to the bestial times of 1944-45, when Budapest was besieged, the Final Solution devastated Hungary's Jews, and the war came to an end, and on to the cataclysmic Hungarian Revolution of October 1956. We follow these men from Berlin and Moscow to Switzerland and Holland, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, and of course, from village to city in Hungary. The social and political circumstances of their lives may vary greatly, their sexual and spiritual longings may seem to each of them entirely unique, yet Peter Nadas's magnificent tapestry unveils uncanny reverberating parallels that link them across time and space." Also, see Benjamin Moser, "Kingdom of Shadows," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/2011.).

Edna O'Brien, Saints and Sinners: Stories (New York: Nay Bay Books, 2011).

Tea Obreht, The Tiger's Wife: A Novel (New York: Random House, 2011) (selected as one of "The Ten Best Books of 2011," by the NYT).

Steve Sem-Sandberg, The Emperor of Lies: A Novel, translated from the Swedish by Sara Death (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "In February 1940, the Nazis established what would become the second-largest Jewish ghetto, in the Polish city of Lodz. The leader they appointed was Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a sixty-three-year-old Jewish businessman and orphanage director who would become the elusive, authoritarian power sustaining the ghetto's very existence." " A haunting, profoundly moving novel, The Emperor of Lies chronicles Rumkowski's monarchical rule over a quarter-million Jews for the next four and a half years. Driven by a titanic ambition, he sought to transform the ghetto into a productive industrial complex and strove to make it--and himself--indispensable to the Nazi regime. These compromises would have extraordinary consequences not only for Rumkowski but for everyone living in the ghetto." "Drawing on detailed records of life in Lodz, Steve- Sem-Sandberg, in a masterful feat of literary and moral imagination, captures the full panorama of human resilience and probes deeply into the nature of evil. Through the dramatic narrative, he asks the most difficult questions: Was Rumkowski a ruthless opportunist, an accessory to the Nazi regime motivated by a lust for power? Or was he a pragmatist who managed to save Jewish lives through his collaborationist policies? How did the inhabitants of the ghetto survive in such extreme circumstances?").