Contemporary Fiction | Notable Fiction and Poetry of 2003

Notable Fiction & Poetry of 2003

Selections from the New York Times Book Review

December 8, 2003

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Akunin, Boris. The Winter Queen; translated by Andrew Bromfield.. New York: Random House, 2003.
Wildly popular in Russia, Akunin's detective novels, set in czarist times, offer entertainment to readers fatigued with official truths. This one concerns Fandorin, a young officer of good family who catches the case of another such who seems to have died playing what they call ''American roulette'' with a revolver.
Regenstein Stacks PG3478.K78A9713 2003

Ali, Monica. Brick Lane. New York: Scribner, 2003.
Leaving home is a journey without end in this novel about Bangladeshi immigrants in London's East End. The story turns on itself like a winding spring. An 18-year-old woman from Dhaka in an arranged marriage with a man of 40 is practically immured in their flat, with only one neighborhood friend, bearing children and listening to her husband's dreams of being a success and then returning home. But her sister's letters from there tell her, in hints and silences, that the Dhaka of memory is gone. Her husband's loss of work, and then of his savings to a moneylender, forces her into garment making, and she falls in love with the man who delivers and collects her piecework. In the deep background, scarcely mentioned, Islamic culture is challenged by Western values and personal choice battles fate. It is the emotional force of the woman's brief affair that releases the spring, and the deep tensions of the story erupt in front of us. When the husband returns to Dhaka, resigned to failure, she stays on with her daughters, learns English from them, and by the end seems to be sailing out into the universe on her own. The expansive generosity of the last pages is a remarkable achievement, especially in a first novel.
Regenstein Stacks PR6101.L45B75 2003
Editors' Choice

Alison, Jane. The Marriage of the Sea. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
An intricate, elegant novel that ponders the connections among love, illusion and fidelity in the permutations of eight central characters behaving in two romantic and romanticized cities, New Orleans and Venice.
Regenstein Stacks PS3551.L366M37 2003

Amis, Martin. Yellow Dog. New York: Hyperion, 2003.
The awful people in Amis's current excursion include an actor and writer who sacrifices political correctness and becomes an antifeminist because of a brain injury; a vicious journalist who hates women and excuses rape, apparently because he is genitally underendowed; and a king of England, Henry IX, a good-natured fellow who suffers from his boring job and a shocking invasion of his daughter's privacy.
Regenstein Stacks PR6051.M5Y45 2003

Antunes. António Lobos. The Inquisitors' Manual; translated by Richard Zenith.. New York: Grove, 2003.
Portugal's long fascist regime haunts this novel as it anatomizes a society permeated by meanness and arrogance; the fall of the regime happens over and over from the viewpoints of many characters, each of them complementing or contradicting the rest.
Regenstein Stacks PQ9263.N77M3613 2003

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2003.
Atwood returns to a dystopian future in this bleak novel about a man who may be the last human remaining on postapocalyptic earth.
Regenstein Stacks PR9199.3.A8O7 2003
Also available in Harper and Law

Auster, Paul. Oracle Night.. New York: Henry Holt, 2003.
An up-to-date metasomething novel on a dizzy rotation between life and invention, situated in a writer's notebook; the writer, Sidney Orr, recently very ill, has lost his will to write until he buys an exotic notebook in Brooklyn. Immediately stories begin to proliferate, right from the bottom of the page upward, in a stew of creation and discovery, communication and concealment.
Regenstein Stacks PS3551.U77O73 2003

Baker, Nicholson. A Box of Matches. New York: Random House, 2003.
Baker employs his specialty as a novelist, the exhibition of life where no life seems to be, to explore the consciousness of a man who rises early, lights a fire and sits around in a mindful state every morning till his matches are all spent.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.A4325B69 2003

Banville, John. Shroud. New York: Knopf, 2003.
The protagonist of ''Shroud,'' based on Paul de Man, the posthumously disgraced star of deconstructive criticism, dreads his exposure in his own lifetime as the author of Nazi-era anti-Semitic journalism; the worst of it is that he didn't really write that stuff, though he is living under the name of the man who did.
Regenstein Stacks PR6052.A57S57 2003

Barry, Max. Jennifer Government. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
In this clever satirical novel set in the near future, corporations are so mighty that people take their names from their employers. Jennifer Government is the agent assigned by a reduced institution to pursue a marketing ploy that kills people to sell shoes.
D'Angelo Law Stacks PR9619.B377J466 2004

Barthelme, Frederick. Elroy Nights. New York: Counterpoint, 2003.
The protagonist, an art professor at a small college, falls foul of a midlife crisis that spurs him to leave home, then fall in love with a woman who turns out to be the object of his best student's affections. A suicide follows, as do many events that indicate the wisdom of lowered expectations.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.A763E47 2003

Baxter, Charles. Saul and Patsy. New York: Pantheon, 2003.
Circumstances, alternately aggravating and ameliorating, seem to be in control of a young married-with-baby couple's life in this quite irreverent novel, which shows throughout a healthy contempt for youth and its sometimes forthright admiration of self.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.A854S28 2003

Bayard, Louis. Mr. Timothy. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
Tiny Tim, as we know, did not die; he grew up to walk without a crutch and to be the narrator of this novel; to escape, with Scrooge's help, from his low-class family; and to save a 10-year-old girl from some nasty men in an updated Dickensian catena of escapes and manifestations that gets resolved only on Christmas Day.
Regenstein, Stacks PS3552.A85864M7 2003

Begley, Louis. Shipwreck. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Not fame, not wealth, not even a French mistress can fend off the midlife writer's crisis that plagues Begley's latest protagonist, a celebrated author who evokes the familiar contradictions of Begley's lawyer character, Schmidt, but none of the sympathy.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.E373S47 2003

Berger, Thomas. Best Friends. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
Contemporary life takes another hit in this, the 22nd novel by the author of ''Little Big Man''; its chief characters, in a variation of the eternal triangle, are two well-off men (one much weller than the other) and one wife, who appears for a long time to be losing a game she is winning.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.E719B47 2003
Also available in Harper

Boyd, William. Any Human Heart. London: Hamish Hamilton, 2002.
A novel whose hero, a minor British writer and art dealer (and secret agent), becomes a sort of stoic Everyman for the 20th century, meeting almost everyone (Ian Fleming, Picasso, Hemingway, the Duke of Windsor, Virginia Woolf) and traveling to almost everywhere; he has many successes in life, each one closely attended by yet another fall.
Regenstein Stacks PR6052.O9192A59 2002
Also available in Harper

Boyle, T. Coraghessan. Drop City. New York: Viking, 2003.
Is T. C. Boyle mellowing? Well, the debris left scattered up the entire West Coast of North America in this novel is as frightening and spectacular as any he's ever dropped on his readers -- wasted people, bears, goats, wolverines, dogs, a horse, bulldozed houses and wrecked rolling and flying machines. ''Drop City'' is a 1970's California commune of hippies who migrate to Alaska believing that the lawless tundra will let them live high as kites forever. Of course, it takes only a few months of early winter to make flower power fade to black. But Boyle's compassion for the oddballs, and even a few losers, is striking; he has not often achieved such emotional complexity. At the heart of this novel are two love stories: one involving two middle-class newcomers to the commune and the other a solitary Alaskan trapper and a woman from Anchorage who seeks him out as the only safe haven in a world melting down. The cranky, passionate attachments of these couples spread warmth through the book; Boyle's joy in sharing the music of the age gives it a nostalgic tone; and his delight in evoking the effects of a rainbow of narcotics endows it with authority -- he's obviously no amateur. (The music and dope seem to have inspired him to coin a witty word, one spoiled by a typographical error in the book. We find spacey hippies ''dancing like moonwalkers to the drugged-down testiduneous beat,'' when surely what he wrote was ''testudineous.'' You won't find either word in your dictionary, but look up ''testudo'' or ''testudinata'' and you will catch his intention.)
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.O932D76 2003
Also available in Harper
Editors' Choice

Bram, Christopher. Lives of the Circus Animals. New York: Morrow, 2003.
Bram's exceedingly clever novel, set in the world of the theater, is well paced and sexy (both gay and straight); a character much like Ian McKellen is particularly acute about narcissism, the great motor of the stage, which he sees escaping into more and more of everyday life.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.R2817L58 2003

Brkic, Courtney Angela. Stillness: And Other Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
A spare, poignant first story collection based on the author's experience on a forensic team investigating mass graves in Bosnia in 1996; she writes boldly from the viewpoints of her characters: men and women, soldiers of all religions, everyone touched by the Balkan tragedy.
Regenstein Stacks PS3602.R535S7 2003

Brookner, Anita. Making Things Better. New York: Random House, 2002.
Brookner's protagonist, Julius Herz, has been left stranded by the deaths in his family; now he can think of nothing to do in his life or with it. He courts a woman he knows to be selfish and unable to love, and on Brookner's austere scale of passivity this may be counted as a kind of victory; but she is far too honest to say.
Regenstein Stacks PR6052.R5816M35 2002

Busch, Frederick. A Memory of War. New York: Norton 2003.
Ambitious to deal with large themes and issues, Busch has written a novel whose characters are plagued by World War II's aftershocks 40 years later; the chief victim is a Manhattan psychologist whose new patient, a scholar specializing in Holocaust denial, claims to be his half brother.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.U814M4 2003

Byatt, A.S. A Whistling Woman. New York: Knopf, 2002.
The bookish Frederica Potter, protagonist of this fourth novel in a series that began 25 years ago, lives by interviewing many and various savants on television, allowing the entry of much arcane information into the novel and unleashing the author's satirical powers in every which direction.
Regenstein Stacks PR6052.Y2W48 2002 Also available in Harper

Byers, Michael. Long for This World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
The protagonist of Byers's first novel is a medical geneticist whose special anguish is his inability to help the victims of a rare genetic disease that kills them of old age by 19 at most; his love for a particular patient calls him to risk his career.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.Y42L6 2003

Cantor, Jay. Great Neck. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Cantor's ambition in his immense (703 pages), teeming new novel is to capture the American scene of the late 1960's and bring it to life through six characters, all privileged Long Island teenagers, bound together by a Klan murder in Mississippi and by the antiwar movement.
Regenstein Stacks PS3553.A5475G74 2003

Carey, Peter. My Life as a Fake. New York: Knopf, 2003.
This brisk, prankish novel by the author of ''True History of the Kelly Gang,'' constructed on classical Ripping Yarn lines, proposes a Frankensteinian monster in the form of an Australian poet, Bob McCorkle, who is the creation of another Australian poet, Christopher Chubb, invented in part to embarrass Chubb's editors. Whereupon a real-life person called Bob McCorkle appears ex nihilo and proves to be a better poet than his creator, whose daughter he appropriates.
Regenstein Stacks PR9619.3C36 M9 2003

Carroll, James. Secret Father. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
The cold war and a father-and-son dyad, recalling in 1990 the events of 1961 in Berlin, generate the elaborate plot of this political thriller in which a missing roll of film eems to portend a new world war.
Regenstein Stacks PS3553.A764S43 2003

Carson, Tom. Gilligan's Wake. New York: Picador, 2003.
A loopy, exuberant novel-type prose event that sees 20th-century America through the lives of the castaways on ''Gilligan's Island.'' The originals are augmented by culturally significant characters, from Amelia Earhart and Holden Caulfield to Richard Nixon and Maggie the Cat.
Regenstein Stacks PS3603.A775G45 2003
Also available in Law

Choi, Susan. American Woman. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
A fictional account of the intersection of the radical activist Wendy Yoshimura with the fugitive Patty Hearst, who appeared to have adopted the values and perspectives of the revolutionaries who kidnapped her in 1974. The revolutionary life, it turns out, is mainly squalor and dulled anxiety; time outwears everything, and rapidly too.
Regenstein Stacks PS3553.H584A64 2003

Clark, Nancy. The Hills at Home. New York: Pantheon, 2003.
Clark's funny, intelligent first novel reveals a special and particular kind of life, that of an extended old New England family in their 200-year-old clapboard homestead, where they survive miracles of inconvenience, eat tuna wiggle or fish sticks and express invincible opinions about everything.
Regenstein Stacks PS3603.L368H55 2003

Coetzee, J. M. Elizabeth Costello.New York: Viking, 2003.
A haunting short novel whose author was awarded the Nobel Prize last month; its title character, an aging novelist who travels on the university lecture circuit (as Coetzee himself has done), gets into trouble by embracing unpopular positions on animal rights and the suppression of horrible facts. Compassionate in principle, chilly in practice, her character could support an allegorical proposition: people often fail to behave as they know they should.
Regenstein Stacks PR9369.3.C58E44 2003
Also available in Harper

Cole, Henri. Middle Earth. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
Self-portrait poems in this collection survey the shape of a life from a great, forgiving distance; closer up, the poems reflect on their own voices and ambiguities of gender. At book's end, the Christian ideal of self-abnegation is fused with the inner-life urgencies of sexuality.
Regenstein Stacks PS3553.O4725M53 2003

Corbett, David. Done for a Dime. New York: Ballantine, 2003.
The death of an old jazz musician, the axman for legends like Bobby Blue Bland and King Curtis, sounds the blue note of this dazzling novel, narrated in the blunt and vigorous idiom of California noir but full of compassion for marginal people whose rights are trampled upon by power brokers.
Regenstein Stacks PS3603.O732D66 2003

Courtemanche, Gil. A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali; translated by Patricia Claxton.. New York: Knopf, 2003.
A wonderfully rich portrait of fear and love set against the backdrop of Rwanda in the mid-1990's, where a burned-out correspondent finds it easier to drift along than risk becoming too involved in ''the hopelessness of living.''
Regenstein Stacks PQ3919.2.C627D5613 2003

Cowell, Alan S. A Walking Guide. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
A tale of romance, adventure and the redemption of a war correspondent, Joe Shelby, a cynical hack determined to conquer England's highest peak, and in the process tame a worsening neurological disorder; by a veteran correspondent for The Times.
Regenstein Stacks PR6103.O97W355 2003

Crace, Jim. Genesis. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
Mankind's baser instincts are on full display in the form of Crace's protagonist, Felix Dern, an impossibly fertile actor and singer in a metropolis that seems very familiar but different in unnerving ways.
Regenstein Stacks PR6053.R228G46 2003

Daum, Meghan. The Quality of Life Report. New York: Viking, 2003.
A fine comic first novel in which misguided fantasy betrays a young New York television journalist, first by sending her to the Midwest, where folks are simple and good, then by orders from New York to do a lifestyle series on the simple, good folk.
Regenstein Stacks PS3604.A93Q25 2003

Davis-Goff, Annabel. The Fox's Walk. Orlando: Harcourt, 2003.
Davis-Goff continues her exploration of Irish history in this novel, an unsentimental look at the world of the Anglo-Irish gentry, seen through the eyes of 8-year-old Alice, who is set adrift at her grandmother's Waterford estate during World War I.
Regenstein Stacks PS3554.A9385F695 2003

Deb, Siddhartha. The Point of Return. New York: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2003.
A first novel whose hero, an Indian veterinarian and public servant, a true believer in progress and public works, finds himself repeatedly on the wrong side of history in the intolerant, irrational and corrupt nation of real life.
Regenstein Stacks PR9499.3.D433P65 2003

DeLillo, Don. Cosmopolis. New York: Scribner, 2003.
An all-day (and book-length) chauffeured trip across midtown Manhattan exposes DeLillo's cool, New Economy protagonist to an assortment of characters in this critique of hypercapitalism.
Regenstein Stacks PS3554.E4425C67 2003
Also available in Harper

Dexter, Pete. Train. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
Set in 1950's Los Angeles, where real life was basically film noir, this novel of harsh, precise everyday violence by the author of the scary 1988 novel ''Paris Trout'' involves a cynical detective, a young woman who surely deserves better than what she gets and a black caddie, nearly 18, who is nice to animals and serves as the book's moral center.
Regenstein Stacks PS3554.E95T73 2003

Dierbeck, Lisa. One Pill Makes You Smaller. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
A sober first novel that overturns the traditional optimism of the coming-of-age story; things get worse and worse for Alice Duncan, a prematurely developed 11-year-old who is neglected, coerced and used as the fantasy object of some quite unpleasant adults.
Regenstein Stacks PS3604.I35O54 2003

Dybek, Stuart. I Sailed With Magellan. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
Grim urban struggle and nostalgic teenage guilty sex coincide in this story collection with a single narrator, Perry Katzek, in a Chicago long abandoned by James T. Farrell's Irish, now occupied by Poles, Mexicans and Italians. Perry, a Sensitive Kid, plays the clarinet, collects butterflies and gives a vivid sense of his neighbors' inner lives.
Regenstein Stacks PS3554.Y3I3 2003

Eberstadt, Fernanda. The Furies. New York: Knopf, 2003.
A formulaic situation -- rich girl loves proletarian, promoter of capitalism falls for a balding, beardy guy in Novosibirsk -- is rescued by Eberstadt's prose, which is fresh and vividly descriptive, and by her observation platform, whence she disapproves from above the takeout-menu lifestyle of 90's Manhattan.
Regenstein Stacks PS3555.B484F87 2003

Epstein, Leslie. San Remo Drive: A Novel From Memory. New York: Handsel/Other Press, 2003.
A heartbreaking Hollywood novel whose catastrophe is the death of the narrator's father, a screenwriter, after a chat with HUAC. But its focus is the narrator's brother, who is not right in the head and requires constant monitoring.
Regenstein Stacks PS3555.P655S26 2003

Erdrich, Louise. The Master Butchers Singing Club. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
Erdrich's latest novel revisits the fictional town of Argus, N.D., and the familiar themes of love, death and redemption, but shifts the focus from the town's Indians to its German, Polish and Scandinavian citizens.
Regenstein Stacks PS3555.R42M37 2003
Also available in Harper

Estep, Maggie. Hex. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
Ruby Murphy, the Coney Island drifter whose free spirit accounts for the ravishing originality of this idiosyncratic first mystery, falls for a perfect stranger's sob story and goes undercover as a stablehand at Belmont Park to keep tabs on a stable groom with sexy eyes and a mysterious past. Regenstein Stacks PS3555.S754H49 2003

Fforde, Jasper. Thursday Next in Lost in a Good Book. New York: Viking, 2003.
An effortlessly readable, shamelessly conceptual novel starring Fforde's literary detective Thursday Next, who employs a time-transcending thingummy to penetrate the text of Poe's ''Raven'' and do literary business of the utmost importance for the future of the world itself.
Regenstein Stacks PR6106.F67T48 2003

Freudenberger, Nell. Lucky Girls: Stories. New York: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2003.
A well-poised but sharp-toothed first collection of stories about Americans abroad, mostly privileged young women; though they have, or used to have, parents and lovers, their primary loyalties are to their own memories.
Regenstein Stacks PS3606.R479L83 2003

Friedman, Kinky. Kill Two Birds and Get Stoned. New York: William Morrow, 2003.
The Kinkster is back -- in spirit if not in person -- in this multilayered novel about a self-involved writer in a crisis, trying to develop a new project while cavorting with crazy strangers.
Regenstein Stacks PS3556.R527K55 2003

Galloway, Janice. Clara. London: Jonathan Cape, 2002.
The virtuoso pianist Clara Schumann (wife of the composer Robert, mother of eight) left 47 volumes of diaries. Undaunted, Galloway imagines a way into Clara's life in this novel whose up-to-date concerns don't obstruct its heroine's passionate voice.
Regenstein Stacks PR6057.A397C57 2002

García, Cristina. Monkey Hunting. New York: Knopf, 2003.
A withdrawn, melancholy novel set in Havana's Barrio Chino and concerned with how the biggest Chinatown in Latin America came to be and then to pass away with Castro's restrictions on private property; by a Cuban-American writer who is a natural student of families scattered around the earth.
Regenstein Stacks PS3557.A66M66 2003

Gibson, William. Pattern Recognition. New York: Putnam's Sons, 2003.
Gibson's elegant, entrancing seventh novel concerns a supersmart woman, a freelance marketing consultant who covers the globe looking for the next big salable fad, trying all along to solve the disappearance of her father, a retired C.I.A. man, in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
Regenstein Stacks PS3557.I2264P38 2003
Also available in Law.

Gordimer, Nadine. Loot: And Other Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
Death and the complicated burden of loss are the dominant themes of this structurally diverse collection, Gordimer's first since 1991, the year she won the Nobel Prize.
Regenstein Stacks PR9369.3.G6L66 2003
Also available in Harper

Gordon, Neil. The Company You Keep. New York: Viking, 2003.
A rousing, cerebral thriller in which Woodstock Nation meets Islamic fundamentalism; the action, most of it set in 1996, concerns a left-wing lawyer from the 60's who kidnaps his daughter to avoid her mother's custody suit, then has to explain (in 2006) why he abandoned her a decade before.
Regenstein Stacks PS3557.O677C66 2003

Govier, Katherine. Creation. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 2003.
A wily, intricate, speculative novel about John James Audubon, 48 years old with a wife and a girlfriend; he lives in fear that his eyesight will fail, or he will die before his work is done, or the birds will vanish. Govier depicts him as a man of multiple fidelities, not really able to resolve them all but trying his best to come clean.
Regenstein Stacks PR9199.3.G657C74 2003

Gowdy, Barbara. The Romantic. New York: Metropolitan/Holt, 2003.
Obsession knows no greater exponent than Louise, narrator and protagonist of this adroit novel that refuses to honor the claims of adulthood. Abandoned by her mother at 9, Louise soon falls madly in love with another family's mother, then with that mother's adopted son, and remains consciously faithful to her doomed love ever after.
Regenstein Stacks PR9199.3.G658R66 2003

Grass, Günter. Crabwalk; translated from the German by Krishna Winston.. Orlando: Harcourt, 2002.
Grass's lifelong analysis of Germany's past and present centers, in this new novel, on a refugee ship sunk by a Russian submarine with the loss of 9,000 lives; the story is told through three generations of a family, all marked, one way or another, by the ship's fate.
Regenstein Stacks PT2613.R338I413 2002
Also available in Harper

Gunesekera, Romesh. Heaven's Edge. London: Bloomsbury, 2002.
A fictional reworking of the myth of Eden, its dignity enlarged by its awareness that there is no recovery; it takes place in a nameless tropical landscape that much resembles the author's native country, Sri Lanka.
Regenstein Stacks PR9440.9.G86H43 2002

Gunn, Kirsty. Featherstone. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
Exploring the effects of rural flight on those left behind, Gunn creates a small town that is eerily alive and full of old-fashioned people and old-fashioned epiphanies, though every small-town stereotype applies, including promiscuous barmaid and village idiot.
Regenstein Stacks PS3557.U4864 F43 2003

Guterson, David. Our Lady of the Forest. New York: Knopf, 2003.
An eccentric, accomplished novel concerning a teenage runaway, Ann Holmes, who wanders into the Pacific Northwest rain forest in November and sees a vision of the Virgin Mary. Small, wet and weedy-looking, Ann has been a druggie, a hippie and a rape victim; nevertheless, some thousand followers come to watch her watching the Virgin in North Fork, Wash.
Regenstein Stacks PS3557.U846O94 2003

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
Presented as a detective story, this funny, original first novel stars a sort of autistic savant, 15 years old, whose grasp of social clues is near zero (he cannot lie or understand a joke) but whose logical faculties are dominant except when overloaded.
Regenstein Stacks PR6058.A25C87 2003

Hagedorn, Jessica. Dream Jungle. New York: Viking, 2003.
Hagedorn's intricate novel combines under high pressure the discovery of a Stone Age tribe in the Philippines and a movie in the making that recreates the Vietnam War; thematic characters include a Filipino playboy, his cook's 10-year-old daughter, an ancient child star and a Philippine-American journalist from a Rolling Stone-ish rock magazine.
Regenstein Stacks PS3558.A3228D74 2003

Hansen, Brooks. The Monsters of St. Helena. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
The island chosen for Napoleon's final exile lends its hermetic isolation to Hansen's novel, in which a defeated, domesticated Bonaparte plays with children and writes his memoirs while his presence intrudes on the local haunt, a Portuguese traitor stranded many years before.
Regenstein Stacks PS3558.A5126M66 2003

Hazzard, Shirley. The Great Fire. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
In Hazzard's first novel in more than 20 years, set in the still smoldering aftermath of World War II, a British major of 32 falls in love with an impossibly precocious 17-year-old; the numerous vicissitudes that follow are supported by the weight and scope of the book's observation of a world and a time in chaos.
Regenstein Stacks PR9619.3.H369G74 2003

Hecht, Julie. The Unprofessionals. New York: Random House, 2003.
The narrator of Julie Hecht's first novel, a photographer of some repute and the owner of a tone of voice that mocks her own narcissism, suffers a feeling of disensoulment, a consequence of her long attachment to a man much younger than herself who has committed suicide.
Regenstein Stacks PS3558.E29U57 2003b

Heller, Zoe. What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal. New York: Henry Holt, 2003.
A 42-year-old teacher has an affair with a 15-year-old boy in this darkly comic novel; a no-nonsense spinster colleague (and narrator) tries to account for this behavior in a book that focuses on the rift between perception and truth.
Regenstein Stacks PR6058.E483W48 2003

Hirsch, Edward. Lay Back the Darkness: Poems. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Hirsch's sixth collection, which is much concerned with the work of a good citizen, bravely commences with the title ''I Am Going to Start Living Like a Mystic,'' and continues with cameos of great moments in the classics and powerful stuff about Hades and the Holocaust.
Regenstein Stacks PS3558.I64L39 2003

Huebner, Andrew. We Pierce. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
Rooted in the author's family history, a novel of the 1991 Persian Gulf war follows a young Army sergeant as he gradually perfects the emotional hollowness that allows him to live with all that he has seen and done in Iraq, as well as with the exquisite awareness of his own expendability.
Regenstein Stacks PS3558.U3126W4 2003

Huneven, Michelle. Jamesland. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Alice Black, who cannot forget her descent from William James (people keep bringing him up), has trouble being pragmatic about the paranormal in the Los Angeles of this novel, where unlikely things (a deer in the house) seem to trump less exotic ones (like mental illness and fear of mental illness).
Regenstein Stacks PS3558.U4662J36 2003

Hustvedt, Siri. What I Loved. New York: Henry Holt, 2003.
A generous, engaged philosophical novel, set in the New York art world with its vanities and corruptions, and developing such propositions as the impress of one personality on another, the instability of sexual identity, the passage of the world through people's thoughts and lives.
Regenstein Stacks PS3558.U813W48 2003

Ignatieff, Michael. Charlie Johnson in the Flames. New York: Grove, 2003.
costs of bearing witness are explored in this dark, provocative novel when an American television newsman sees a young woman set ablaze by a Serbian officer, who mechanically describes her as ''collateral damage.''
Regenstein Stacks PR9199.3.I36C47 2003

Iyer, Pico. Abandon: A Romance. New York: Knopf, 2003.
A graceful novel whose hero, an English graduate student of Sufi mystical poetry who hopes to uncover that within himself which passeth show, heads first for California and later for Iran, where he and the woman he is traveling with improve their understanding of mystical poetry and of themselves.
Regenstein Stacks PS3559.Y47A64 2003

Johnson, Diane. L'Affaire. New York: Dutton, 2003.
Johnson's third witty and graceful novel about Americans in France is a comedy of manners that concerns a self-made woman, a dot-com millionaire from Palo Alto who goes to France seeking a life-changing love affair. Most of it happens at a ski resort in the Alps, where cultural misunderstandings prevail by day, love affairs by night.
Regenstein Stacks PS3560.O3746A68 2003

Jones, Edward P. The Known World. New York: Amistad/HarperCollins, 2003.
What makes this novel so startling is that the situation Edward P. Jones imagines was reality in parts of this country in the 1850's: there were black slave owners, more than a few, and a few were pretty well heeled. Jones's story, centered on one such man in Virginia, exposes the heart of slavery; there are few real villains in this book, because slavery poisons the entire society, white and black, and for the same reason there can be no real heroes. Until now Jones has been a writer of short stories, and this first novel often reads like an assemblage of stories within stories. But he has a sharp ear for speech and a gift for spotting individualizing gestures; ''The Known World'' is crowded with individuals who refuse to get lost in the vast picture of humiliation and disgrace it presents. Jones knows how to create dramatic confrontations that appall us and will not let us escape, as in the treachery of a traveling white con artist who returns a freed black man to shackles by a despicable trick and thus sets the novel on a course to its tragic end. The book has an epic feel, and the seductive force of folk tales.
Regenstein Stacks PS3560.O4813K58 2003
Editors' Choice

Julavits, Heidi. The Effect of Living Backwards. New York: Putnam, 2003.
A savage, funny novel whose droll heroine can't quite take it seriously when her plane is hijacked; one culprit, a terrorist-anthropologist interested in ''essential human morality,'' rigs perverse ethical situations for his hostages, forcing them to make decisions with one another's lives.
Regenstein Stacks PS3560.U522S53 2003
Also available in Harper

Kalfus, Ken. The Commissariat of Enlightenment. New York: Ecco/ HarperCollins, 2003.
Nobody listens to anyone else or looks anyone in the eye in this novel by an author interested in the force of ideas and the power of images over life; the first half of the book is full of people whose concern is taking some personal advantage from the impending death of Tolstoy.
Regenstein Stacks PS3561.A416524C66 2003

Karnezis, Panos. Little Infamies: Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux., 2003.
Love, loss and skulduggery not long after World War II in a kind of Greek Brigadoon, an impoverished village, full of gothic and mythical elements, that is bound to vanish when consumerism and electronic media arrive.
Regenstein Stacks PR611.A76L58 2003

Keillor. Garrison. Love Me. New York: Viking, 2003.
Fame, seduction and downfall are the major motifs of this novel whose Midwestern protagonist, fired by the success of his first novel, moves to New York, obtains an office at The New Yorker and mislays his skills somewhere. William Shawn, the magazine's famously retiring editor, is represented as a big-mouthed, gun-toting tough, and his venerable magazine undergoes a Mafia takeover.
Regenstein Stacks PS3561.E3755L68 2003

Keneally, Thomas. Office of Innocence. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2003.
This fictional chronicle of the sentimental education of a priest mixes elements of melodrama, murder mystery and theological treatise, all of them swirling around an earnest young curate whose indiscretions bring scandal to the church and a killer to his confessional box.
Regenstein Stacks PR9619.3.K46O37 2003
Also available in Harper

Kennedy, A. L. Indelible Acts: Stories. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Consolation is unavailable for most characters in these stories; they act out the same emotional errors that made the rest of us as disappointed as we are. Salvation sometimes comes within reach, but not exactly within grasp.
Regenstein Stacks PR6061.E5952I54 2003

King, Ross. Domino. New York: Walker & Company, 2002.
This intricate novel is a meditation on appearance and reality in 18th-century Europe; everybody is dressed up as something else in a narrative that follows a murderer who wants to be a society portraitist and a Venetian castrato pursuing a singing career in England.
Regenstein Stacks PR6061.I475D66 2002

Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
This first novel by Lahiri, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning ''Interpreter of Maladies,'' is a mild, graceful study in dissonance: its Indian-American hero, Gogol Ganguli, is afflicted with a name that feels profoundly alien and seems committed to wafting haphazardly through life.
Regenstein Stacks PS3562.A316N36 2003

Lê, Thi Diem Thúy. The Gangster We Are All Looking For. New York: Knopf, 2003.
The father of the anonymous narrator is the ''gangster'' of the title; he may have been a black-market operator long ago before escaping to America with his daughter. The story itself is a tale of persecution, tragedy and gritty determination, told with a poetic sensibility and a sharp eye for the matter of everyday life.
Regenstein Stacks PS3612.E2G36 2003

Le Guin, Ursula K. Changing Planes. Orlando, Harcourt, 2003.
Philosophical fiction in the manner of Jonathan Swift and Jorge Luis Borges; dispensing with the technojargon of science fiction, Le Guin offers a grand tour of imaginary societies whose governing principles range from inspiring to disgusting to almost unbearably poignant.
Regenstein Stacks PS3562.E42C48 2003

Leonard, Elmore. When the Women Come Out to Dance: Stories. New York: William Morrow, 2002.
All of Leonard's talents for hard-boiled fiction -- the sadism, the sex and especially the deadpan vernacular -- are on display in his second collection of short stories.
Harper Library PS3562.E55W47 2002

Leroy, Margaret. Postcards from Berlin. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.
This unhappy-family novel starts with a middle-class idyll and it's downhill from there as an 8-year-old daughter falls ill and then iller; a mother's dark secret -- the girl was put in an orphanage for her own rotten mother's convenience -- seems to be generating her daughter's sickness.
Regenstein Stacks PR6112.E765P675 2003

Lethem, Jonathan. The Fortress of Solitude. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
Everyone seeks his own Garden of Eden, but who would think to find it in a single block of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, in the 1970's, when New York City was going down the tubes? In Jonathan Lethem's new novel it is there for Dylan, a white geeky boy, and his friend Mingus, a hip black neighbor. These boys' knowledge of life comes in piles of hoarded comics; graffiti, which they streak together as if by a single hand across the borough; unending black and white confrontations of will on the street; and black music, from jazz and blues to hip-hop. If Dylan, who seems to be Lethem's alter ego, looks like the threatened outsider among the black kids on their street, what he gets from them makes him a prophet of cool among whites he later meets in college, but since he ends up a pedantic music critic, the cool must have worn off. It was Mingus who was the outsider all along; from Day 1 he had a lashing knowledge of the great world and he emerges out of a long silence at the novel's center as the tragic figure of the book. If at times this sometimes disheveled novel strikes one as a meander through memory, magic and regret, his fate gives it a bitter bite.
Regenstein Stacks PS3562E8544 F67 2003
Editors' Choice

Lewis, Jim. The King is Dead. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Lewis's third novel, a tale of the South after World War II that revolves mainly around Memphis, bears the anti-Faulknerian moral that the past is indeed over, so out of reach that a chief character's parents seem unreal to him and so does their adherence to certain rules of the Old South code governing marital conduct.
Regenstein Stacks PS3562.E9475K56 2003

Lightman. Alan. Reunion. New York: Pantheon, 2003.
A small-college professor, attending his 30th college reunion, vividly and at length recalls his first passionate love affair (with a ballerina!), reconstructing the past in this spare, economical novel that probes life's most complex and enduring relationship: the one between who one is and who one used to be.
Regenstein Stacks PS3562.I45397R48 2003

Liss, David. The Coffee Trader. New York: Random House, 2003.
A historical novel and an economically detailed romance of capitalism, in which a young Jew in 17th-century Amsterdam seeks to evade censure from the Jewish authorities and to build a personal fortune by exploiting the rising popularity of coffee, which he intends to buy cheap and sell dear.
Regenstein Stacks PS3562.I7814C64 2003

Lively, Penelope. The Photograph. London; New York: Viking, 2003.
An engaging novel (the author's 13th) whose hero, a landscape historian, finds in a closet a snapshot that suggests adultery by his wife (now dead) and her brother-in-law; the more he investigates the dead woman, the more she seems insubstantial when alive, a fluffy creature, casting no shadow and scarcely attached to the ground.
Regenstein Stacks PR6062.I89P48 2003

London, Joan. Gilgamesh. New York: Grove Press, 2001.
A first novel with epic affinities whose heroine, a dweller in the Australian outback, experiences something like conversion when she meets an Armenian lad whom she pursues, with their child, all the way to Yerevan -- a sort of descent into hell -- hoping for rediscovery and renewal.
Regenstein Stacks PR9619.3.L62G55 2001

Ludington, Max. Tiger in a Trance. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
This entertaining first novel hits the road with Jason, Ludington's 18-year-old narrator, who joins a troupe of nomads following the Grateful Dead in the fall of 1985, relishing casual hygiene and bootleg tapes, and worshiping Jerry Garcia.
Regenstein Stacks PS3612.U27T5 2003

Martin, Valerie. Property. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2003.
Set in and around antebellum New Orleans, this novel turns on sexual rivalries and power struggles involving a boorish planter; his enraged wife, who hates him; and an accomplished, beautiful slave woman who belongs to the wife but has also borne a child to the husband.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.A7295P76 2003

Mawer, Simon. The Fall. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.
Mountaineering as a metaphor for life still clings to its perch in this fine novel that extends back through half a century and two families of climbers, souls ruled by passions for the mountains and for each other, producing a tangle of erotic connections and a great deal of physical precision in dangerous attitudes.
Regenstein Stacks PR9120.9.M38F35 2003

Meloy, Maile. Liars and Saints. New York: Scribner, 2003.
A spectacular first novel that pursues a family through the consequences of a secret. An unmarried teenager's baby is presented, even to much of the family, as the child of the teenager's mother; this calls for some fancy concealing and a kindhearted examination of faith and morals.
Regenstein Stacks PS3613.E46L5 2003

Millhauser, Steven. The King in the Tree: Three Novellas. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Stories whose characters are endangered by imagination as it fosters creative bitterness, illicit love, romantic triangles and jealousy in locations from a modern marriage to the legendary court of Cornwall, where Tristan and Ysolt destroy their lives and those of others.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.I422K46 2003

Moore, Susanna. One Last Look. New York: Knopf, 2003.
A fine historical and political novel, recorded by Lady Eleanor Oliphant, sister to the governor general of India in the 1830's; its grand set piece is a state visit to the Punjab to ally with a maharajah. Everything goes wrong in Afghanistan, though, and terrible things are seen by those with the courage to look.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.O667O54 2003

Moran, Thomas. Anja the Liar. New York: Riverhead Books, 2003.
Moran explores the moral climate of the post-World War II era through characters (Anja, a girl from Krakow who was once a Nazi informer; a German engineer; a murderous woman who ran a Chetnik unit) who, like their nations, have had experiences so extreme there is no prescription for recovery.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.O7714A85 2003

Morrison, Toni. Love. New York: Knopf, 2003.
All kinds of crime, perversion and soul-wrecking hatred inhabit this short novel, in which the widow and granddaughter of a rich, charming and long-dead resort owner struggle over his legacy. The action, which has to do with a forgery scheme, throws up memories and revelations, each of which stirs up new questions about the situation and the morality, or lack thereof, of the novel's characters.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.O8749L68 2003
Also available in Harper

Mortimer, John. Rumpole Rests His Case. New York: Viking, 2002.
For a while it looked as though Horace Rumpole, Mortimer's curmudgeonly London barrister, might have breathed his last in this collection, in which he defends his usual assortment of eccentric clients.
D'Angelo Law Stacks PR6025.O7552R83 2002

Mosley, Walter. Fear Itself. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.
Paris Minton, the lily-livered bookstore owner who wouldn't last a minute on the rough streets of Los Angeles without his deadly friend, Fearless Jones, invites trouble by trying to help a frantic mother locate the runaway father of her child, in a noir tale driven by its high-stepping, fast-talking characters.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.O88456F38 2003

Moynahan, Molly. Stone Garden. New York: William Morrow, 2003.
Moynahan's second novel is about grief, but no ordinary grief. Its narrator, Alice McGuire, can be exasperated by commonplace frustrations, but as events turn darker she recoils from conventional sentiment; when her boyfriend is killed in Mexico, she dismisses the irrevocable and takes up arguing about forgiveness and helping prisoners write poetry.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.O965S765 2003

Murray, John. A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies: Stories. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
Stories by a doctor whose understated authorial presence and gift for description are strong enough to sustain an occasionally underconstructed narrative.
Regenstein Stacks PR9619.4.M87F48 2003

Naslund, Sena Jeter. Four Spirits. New York: Morrow, 2003.
A historical novel that brings dignity and moral complexity to a panoramic view of Birmingham, its people and their daily struggles in 1963, when a church bombing killed four black girls; the author herself grew up in Birmingham during the civil rights era.
Regenstein Stacks PS3564.A827F68 2003

Nemerov, Howard. The Selected Poems of Howard Nemerov; edited by Daniel Anderson. Athens: Swallow/Ohio University, 2003.
Twelve years after Nemerov's death, the editor's selections trace his career from would-be modernist to godfather of the New Formalists and winner of just about every poetry prize.
Regenstein Stacks PS3527.E5A6 2003

O'Connor, Joseph. Star of the Sea. London: Secker & Warburg, 2002.
A ripping yarn, by an Irish critic and playwright, that is also an agonizing inquiry into our vast tolerance for the suffering of others, in this instance the starving Irish of 1847, morally observed by an American journalist and the captain of a ship carrying émigrés in steerage.
Regenstein Stacks PR6065.C558S73 2002

O'Hagan, Andrew. Personality. Orlando: Harcourt, 2003.
This meditative novel, the author's second, is the chronicle of a Scottish family of Italian descent whose past is rich with complex incident; now Maria, a wildly talented singer at 13, is threatened with reduction to a media personality, all her own characteristics eradicated and a TV image posted in their place.
Regenstein Stacks PR6065.H18P47 2003

Orringer, Julie. How to Breath Underwater: Stories. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Parents seem well meaning but ineffectual in these stories; they do everything right, but it doesn't necessarily work. Children and adolescents operate in a secret world of their own, a kind of callous, Darwinian universe that admits reality as illness and loss, aggression and sexuality.
Regenstein Stacks PS3615.R59H68 2003

Ozeki, Ruth. All Over Creation. New York: Viking, 2003.
A sophisticated novel in which dread and hope coexist and the end of nature is envisioned through the impact of genetically modified crops on a potato-growing family and the representatives of pro- and antimodification factions who descend on their Idaho potato farm.
Regenstein Stacks PS3565.Z45A75 2003
Also available in Harper

Packer, ZZ. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. New York: Riverhead Books, 2003.
A first collection of short stories about characters who are apt to be struggling, under thick layers of stereotype, to make their presence felt in the world as black women, often engaged with that old-time religion and hemmed in by passivity learned in segregated daily life.
Regenstein Stacks PS3616.A335D75 2003

Parkhurst, Carolyn. The Dogs of Babel. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.
An inventive first novel whose hero and narrator, a linguist whose wife has died in a fall seen only by the family dog, resolves to find out what happened by teaching the dog to talk; ultimately he realizes that the explanation that can sustain him in his love and grief can come only from himself.
Regenstein Stacks PS3616.A754D6 2003

Parks, Suzan-Lori. Getting Mother's Body. New York: Random House, 2003.
This first novel by a Pulitzer-winning African-American playwright takes a cheerful tack across deep Faulknerian waters, relating the fortunes of the survivors of a woman who was buried (as people think) in some very expensive jewelry.
Regenstein Stacks PS3566.A736G4 2003
Also available in Harper

Pelecanos, George P. Soul Circus. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.
Fascinated with the way crime actually works, Pelecanos takes apart the gun trade like an urban anthropologist, fitting the pieces into the thriving drug industry and gang culture of a Washington neighborhood where enterprising criminals work hard to make a dishonest living.
Regenstein Stacks PS3566E354 S68 2003

Phillips, Caryl. A Distant Shore. London: Secker & Warburg, 2003.
In the sad and ugly modern Britain of this novel by a Caribbean writer who has specialized in the homelessness of the descendants of slaves, nothing redemptive happens in the friendship of Dorothy, an Englishwoman and retired schoolteacher, and Solomon, an illegal refugee from a war-blighted African nation; both are left to drift.
Regenstein Stacks PR9275.S263P4729 2003

Pierre, DBC. Vernon God Little: A 21st Century comedy in the Presence of Death. London: Faber, 2003.
A first novel that is smart, ridiculous and funny even though it is nourished chiefly by the Columbine High massacre of 1999; its 15-year-old protagonist, whose best friend has killed 16 classmates, is the focus of the town's lust for retribution.
Regenstein Stacks PR6066.I353V47 2003

Powers, Richard. The Time of Our Singing. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
This dazzling, difficult novel, Powers's eighth, follows the lives of a talented mixed (he Jewish, she black) couple in America from about 1939 on; their sufferings are reflected in musical and scientific developments.
Regenstein Stacks PS3566.O92T55 2003
Also available in Harper

Price, Richard. Samaritan. New York: Knopf, 2003.
A sprawling cast of cinematic characters, often little people who command feeling for a moment, then vanish, surrounds the two chief characters of this urban North Jersey novel, in which the beating of a television writer is investigated by an old friend turned police detective.
Regenstein Stacks PS3566.R544S26 2003
Also available in Harper

Pritchard, Sara. Crackpots. Boston: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
The crackpots in question belong to the Reese family of Ashport, Pa., who represent the 1950's but with additional pathology in a novel of 14 interlocking stories concerning Ruby Reese and the losses she bears over half a century.
Regenstein Stacks PS3616.R575C73 2003

Proulx, Annie. That Old Ace in the Hole. New York: Scribner, 2002.
Proulx's new novel follows the destiny of Bob Dollar, abandoned at 8 on a Denver doorstep, through the high plains of Texas and Oklahoma, where he seeks locations for hog factories until he encounters the real folks who live there and is caught up in their yarns and legends.
Regenstein Stacks PS3566.R697T48 2002
Also available in Harper

Pye, Michael. The Pieces from Berlin. New York: Knopf, 2003.
A tough, mature, difficult but brilliantly paced novel in which a woman in Nazi Berlin accepts Jews' valuable possessions to safeguard them, then appropriates them and slopes off to Switzerland. Nemesis arrives 60 years later when a woman spots and remembers a piece of family furniture.
Regenstein Stacks PR6066.Y4P94 2003

Raban, Jonathan. Waxwings. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.
Both a kind of historical novel and domestic drama, Waxwings, set in Seattle in 1999, ostensibly concerns a writer accused of child abduction, but its most real presence is a Chinese contractor, an illegal immigrant who bosses a team of illegal Mexicans.
Regenstein Stacks PR6068.A22W39 2003

Rankin, Ian. Resurrection Men. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.
It could just be John Rebus's paranoia kicking in again, but the abrasive Edinburgh cop suspects he is under internal surveillance when he is taken off a murder investigation for remedial training at the Scottish Police College, along with five other officers in need of an attitude overhaul.
Regenstein Stacks PR6068.A57R47 2002

Rendell, Ruth. The Babes in the Woods: A Chief Inspector Wexford Mystery. New York: Crown, 2002.
Supple prose, intricate plotting and an ominous atmosphere draw us into this disquieting case of Chief Inspector Wexford, involving two teenagers who disappear during ferocious rainstorms that flood Kingsmarkham and drench the story with intimations of nature's dark forces raging out of control.
Regenstein Stacks PR6068.E63B33 2002

Robinson, Roxana. Sweetwater. New York: Random House, 2003.
In Robinson's third novel, questions of personality and self-esteem in an undemonstrative woman arise for a widowed environmental specialist who maintains a probationary approach to her second marriage.
Regenstein Stacks PS3568.O3152S94 2003
Also available in Harper

Ruff, Matt. Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
A heavily populated novel (its two principal characters, Andrew and Penny, suffer from multiple personality disorder). When Andrew's personalities begin to riot, he and they hit the dangerous road for his childhood home while Penny does her best to keep up.
Regenstein Stacks PS3568.U3615S48 2003

Rush, Norman. Mortals. New York: Knopf, 2003.
A long comic novel (with long, nutty digressions) whose hero, a C.I.A. agent, Milton scholar and private-school teacher in Botswana, improbably masters his surroundings through violence in an insurrection while beavering away inside his head to wreck his marriage with paranoid quotations.
Regenstein Stacks PS3568.U727M67 2003
Also available in Harper

Salter, Mary Jo. Open Shutters. New York: Knopf, 2003.
This installment in Salter's lifework is formal in manner, modern in matter (sonograms and satellite hookups appear). Many poems postdate 9/11; a generalized fear of terrorism darkens the background against which the inexplicable is ''always cropping up.''
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.A46224O6 2003

Schine, Cathleen. She Is Me. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.
A skillful domestic comedy (full of cancer victims and short tempers) whose title refers to the frightening probability of growing up to become our mothers. One major character is an expert on ''Madame Bovary''; she is trying to develop a Bovary movie treatment, while nearly everyone has one or more symptoms of Flaubertian adultery.
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.C497S54 2003

Shattuck, Jessica. The Hazards of Good Breeding. New York: Norton, 2003.
An astute first novel whose blue-blooded inhabitants have occupied the same house in Concord, Mass., for 254 years (with one temporary exception). The appearance of social stasis that comforts them proves, however, to be an illusion.
Regenstein Stacks PS3619.H357H39 2003

Sherrill, Steven. The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break. Winston-Salem, N.C. : John F. Blair, Publisher, 2000.
A tender first novel that spans two weeks in the life of the Minotaur, thousands of years after the Theseus caper, living in a North Carolina trailer park and cooking at a steakhouse, awkward with human society but no longer devouring virgins.
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.H4349M56 2000

Simic, Charles. The Voice at 3:00 A.M.: Selected Late & New Poems. Orlando: Harcourt, 2003.
Tidy, blunt verses whose moral vision is rooted in an appreciation of the absurd, a surrealism of a sort that is always in position to raise existential questions about daily life.
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.I4725V6 2003

Smiley, Jane. Good Faith. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Joe Stratford, narrator and protagonist of this subtly polemical novel (it is against greed), rests reasonably content with his life as a real estate agent. It doesn't last; the prospect of big money opens before him, and a former I.R.S. agent, now some kind of wise guy, enmeshes him in unblessed doings.
Regenstein Stacks PS3569M39 G66 2003
Also available in Harper

Spencer, Scott. A Ship Made of Paper. New York: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2003.
In the author's eighth novel he reprises the theme of consuming love, this time in the form of an affair between well-adjusted adults told from both perspectives, and asks whether that love isn't worth the suffering it causes to those around them.
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.P455 S47 2003
Also Available in Harper

Stephenson, Neal. Quicksilver: Volume One of the Baroque Cycle. New York: William Morrow, 2003.
Nine hundred pages of dizzying complexity -- rich with bibliographies, time lines and mathematical diagrams -- that delve into the philosophy, economics and wars of the 17th and 18th centuries, and serve as a prequel to the cyberpunk world of Stephenson's earlier fiction.
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.T3868Q53 2003

Stevenson, Jane.A The Shadow King. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
The second novel in an intended historical trilogy; in this installment, Balthasar (son of a black father and cousin, by some fatal arrangement, of Charles II of England) and Aphra Behn, British proto-novelist and spy, encounter each other in a modern drama of displacement and self-invention set in the later 17th century.
Regenstein StacksPR6069.T4535P74 2003

Stone, Robert. Bay of Souls. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
A highly concentrated (for this author), wholly unnerving novel whose hero, an unhappy professor of English specializing in literary ''vitalism,'' becomes desperately involved with an exotically attractive woman who thinks she has lost her soul and hopes to retrieve it in a voodoo rite.
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.T6418B3 2003

Swan, Mary. The Deep: And Other Stories. New York: Random House, 2003.
The first book by a promising Canadian writer who devises and explores different forms with interesting results; the 68-page story at the heart of this volume probes World War I by seeing what it does to a 26-year-old pair of twin sisters who have volunteered to work in France.
Regenstein Stacks PR9199.4.S93D44 2003

Swift, Graham. The Light of Day. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Told in a police-blotter argot so spare it reads like a sort of gumshoe haiku, this moody novel about severed connections might well be summarized thus: Woman kills husband. / Private eye falls hard for her: / Two lives held in check.
Regenstein Stacks PR6069.W47L54 2003

Truong, Monique. The Book of Salt. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
A lush, fascinating, expansive first novel about exile, concerning a gay Vietnamese cook who works for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris; he Frenchifies their apple pie while observing with an aching heart how much better adapted to expatriation they are than he is.
Regenstein Stacks PS3620.R86B66 2003

Ullman, Ellen. The Bug. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2003.
A thrilling, intellectually fearless first novel that reinvents the story of Frankenstein's monster as an allegory of the birth of the computer among engineers in Silicon Valley; a Yale Ph.D., hired to test computer codes for bugs, falls in love with the ''artificial reality'' inside the machine.
Regenstein Stacks PS3621.L45B8 2003

Unsworth, Barry. The Songs of the Kings. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2003.
A modern retelling of Euripides' ''Iphigenia in Aulis,'' in which seers struggle to see which god is holding up the invasion of Troy while Odysseus, a scheming political animal, works to unite the Greek forces to preserve his chance of looting Troy and dying rich.
Regenstein Stacks PR6071.N8S66 2003

Upadhyay, Samrat. The Guru of Love. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
A terse, understated first novel, concerned with universal middle-class anxieties and set in Katmandu, Nepal, where its protagonist, Ramchandra, worries all the time about money and worries even more about his adulterous love affair, which his wife knows all about.
Regenstein Stacks PR9570.N43G8 2003

Updike, John. The Early Stories: 1953-1975. New York: Knopf, 2003.
The 103 stories in this volume, some of them published when Updike was 21, are witnesses to a marvel of prodigious production (during the same years he produced seven novels and five books of poetry). Their themes tend to be Eros and God (that is, women and death) but they happen in a generally propitious America, where life is rarely really unbearable.
Regenstein Stacks PS3571.P4 A6 2003

Vida, Vendela. And Now You Can Go. New York: Knopf, 2003.
A swift, spare first novel of self-discovery whose heroine is the victim of a terrifying crime (but no grave physical damage). She returns to everyday life through a number of low-pressure encounters whose significance is rendered without being raised to the false cosmic.
Regenstein Stacks PS3622.I34A8 2003

Weber, Katharine. The Little Women. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
A lively, winsome riff on Louisa May Alcott's classic, in the form of an autobiographical novel by Joanna Green, the middle of three sisters dismayed by their mother's infidelity and disgusted by their father's apathy.
Regenstein Stacks PS3573.E2194L58 2003

Welsh, Louise. The Cutting Room. Edinburgh; New York: Canongate, 2003.
This accomplished first novel's hard-bitten hero is a Glasgow auction house employee who must assess the belongings of a newly dead man, a task that leads him into the city's darkest corners of commercial sex and criminal glamour.
Regenstein Stacks PR6123.E47C87 2003

Wagner, Bruce. Still Holding. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
Third of a series in what Wagner calls his ''cellphone trilogy,'' this hip, angry, funny and humane novel set in Hollywood employs the clinical apparatus that dissects the lives of major stars on nobodies as well -- for example, a 25-year-old aspirant who looks like Drew Barrymore and whose major breakthrough is being cast as a cadaver.
Regenstein Stacks PS3573.I385E94 2003

Wiggins, Marianne. Evidence of Things Unseen. Simon & Schuster.
This panoramic, epically ambitious and erotically original novel follows a heartland American couple from World War I to the atomic bomb project at Oak Ridge; Opal, the practical half, keeps the books and fixes the truck; Fos, the visionary, is attracted by light in all its forms.
Regenstein Stacks PS3573.I385E94 2003

Wilcox, James. Heavenly Days. New York: Viking, 2003.
A delicious novel whose valiant, stubbornly forgiving heroine gets everything wrong at first; her warm, sensitive husband is really a rigid, crew-cut, fetish-ridden compulsive who has moved out of the house without her even noticing it.
Regenstein Stacks PS3573.I396H43 2003

Wilson, Jonathan. A Palestine Affair. New York: Pantheon, 2003.
The prenatal injuries that would mark the birth and life of Israel are dramatized in this novel, set in 1920's Palestine, through three characters: a thoroughly British Jew who joins the police; a painter, also British and Jewish, who compromises his art; and the painter's wife, a non-Jewish American Zionist.
Regenstein Stacks PR6073.I4679P35 2003

Wolff, Tobias. Old School. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Wolff's first novel, which greatly resembles his life as he has told it in two books of memoirs, concerns a prep school boy, his lower-middle, partly Jewish background disguised, who is obsessed with both writing and dissembling -- activities that have a great deal in common.
Regenstein Stacks PS3573.O558O43 2003

Wolitzer, Meg. The Wife. New York: Scribner, 2003.
A light-footed, streamlined novel that rushes in to shed new heat on old themes like gender, writing and identity; Joan Castleman gives up her writing career to service that of her husband, Joe, a jerk of many flavors, and Wolitzer deploys a calm, seamless humor over the agony.
Regenstein Stacks PS3573.O564W5 2003

Wood, James. The Book Against God. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
Wood, a distinguished British critic interested in the expansive 19th-century novel about big things like literature and faith, has bitten the bullet and written a big-thing novel, his first, which has to do with literature and faith but is also, thank goodness, laden with wit, forceful images and English eccentrics.
Regenstein Stacks PR6123.O527B66 2003
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