Spring is in the Air
The season's most notable releases
By John Freeman
April comes like an idiot, Edna St. Millay wrote, babbling and strewing flowers. If she were alive today, Edna might add: books, too. The publishing lists are overflowing with titles. Mohsin Hamid, however, seems to get the wisdom of the less-is-more ideology. His streamlined second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harcourt, April 3), fights well above its weight of 192 pages. Set in Lahore, and fashioned after Camus’ The Fall, it recounts a young Pakistani man’s tale of falling in and out of love with the U.S. after 9/11.
No one writes short quite as well as Haruki Murakami. The Japanese novelist is back with After Dark (Knopf, May 8), a novel about two sisters—one a fashion model, the other a student—and the encounters they have on a long Tokyo night. Eight years after his celebrated story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander delivers his first novel, The Ministry of Special Cases (Knopf, April 24). Focusing on fathers and sons, it’s set during the heart of Argentina’s dirty war. Michael Chabon is likewise back to form with The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (HarperCollins, May 1), a freewheeling comedy that imagines a post–World War II Alaska that has been declared the first Jewish state. Also worth checking out: Howard Jacobson's hilarious satire of two Jewish comic book artists in post-war London, Kalooki Nights (Simon and Schuster, April 3).
There are also some notable debuts. In God of Animals (Scribner, March 20), Aryn Kyle spins a heartbreaking story about a sixth-grader trying to grow up on her family’s languishing horse ranch. Steven Hall's Raw Shark Texts (Canongate, March 28) imagines a world in which metaphysical sharks attack a man’s memory.
In nonfiction, Mike Davis has put together his most topical micro-history yet, Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb (Verso, April 1), which ranges from 1920 to modern-day Iraq. If Davis doesn’t disturb your circadian rhythms, Atlantic Monthly columnist William Langewiesche will with The Atomic Bazaar (FSG, May 15), an urgent look at the threat of nuclear proliferation.
Biography readers have plenty to dig into. Virginia Woolf biographer Hermione Lee has come back to America for Edith Wharton: A Life (Knopf, April 10). Zachary Leader takes a swing at Martin Amis’ pop in The Life of Kingsley Amis (Pantheon, April 24). And Robert Dallek gives us Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (HarperCollins, April 24).
Memoirs have bounced back from last year’s scandals and will continue to sell, thanks to books like A.M. Homes' The Mistress’s Daughter (Viking, April 5), which tells how, 30 years after she was given up for adoption, her birth parents came looking for her. Sari Nusseibeh delivers Once Upon a Country (FSG, April 3), a must-read story of a man’s quest for peaceful co-existence between Arabs and Israelis. Harvard public-health professor and New Yorker contributor Atul Gawande gives us Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (Metropolitan, April 3), and Eliot Weinberger, whose What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles was a National Book Critics Circle finalist in 2005, returns with the essay collection An Elemental Thing (New Directions, May 1).
If Edna were alive today, she’d discover that April is also poetry month. So check out Paris Review editor Meghan O'Rourke's eagerly awaited debut, Halflife (Norton, April 30), as well as the prolific Charles Bukowski, who wants to tell you from beyond the grave—from some purgatorial dive bar, no doubt—that The People Look Like Flowers at Last (Ecco, April 1).
¡HAH! Happy Arte Hour at National Hispanic Cultural Center
Stand-up Comedy Thursdays at The Stage at Stage @ Santa Ana Star
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