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Contemporary Fiction | Books for Summer Reading 2004


Summer Reading 2004: Fiction and Poetry

Selections from the New York Times Book Review

June 6, 2004


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Abani, Chris. Graceland. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004.
Abani's protagonist, Elvis Oke, lives in a slum near Lagos, Nigeria, where the poor pick on the extremely poor, violence is ubiquitous and justice rare. The author was arrested in 1985, when he was 18, in connection with a politically dangerous novel he had written two years earlier.
Regenstein Stacks PR9387.9.A23 G73 2004

Asher, Neal. The Skinner. New York: Tor/Tom Doherty, 2004.
If every age gets the science fiction it deserves, what does Asher's frighteningly effective exercise in existential horror say about ours? Set on a planet whose evolutionary arena makes the jungles of Earth look like playgrounds, the story tracks a dead man who is bent on righteous revenge. Asher imagines an unrelentingly brutal future with such conviction that it carries the force of prophecy.
Regenstein Stacks PR6101.S54 S55 2004

Azzopardi, Trezza. Remember Me. New York: Grove Press, 2004.
A suitably memorable British novel whose focus is Lillian, a vagrant old woman upstairs in an empty room. Nearly all she ever had has been taken from her, starting before World War II, and as her story is slowly unearthed from the bogs of East Anglia, loss itself becomes the subject of meditation.
Regenstein Stacks PR6051.Z96 R46 2004

Barker, Pat. Double Vision. London: Hamish Hamilton, 2003.
Barker's latest novel describes a single English winter in the lives of a handful of interconnected characters, starting with Kate, a newly widowed sculptor, and the sinister young man who becomes her assistant after she is disabled in a car crash. He in turn is a former lover of a 19-year-old girl who is now involved with a foreign correspondent who was working with Kate's husband when he died.
Regenstein Stacks PR6052.A6488 D68 2003

Bausch, Richard. The Stories of Richard Bausch. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
The stirrings of the male heart and soul are the matter of Bausch's stories. In ''Valor,'' for example, a man acts heroically when a school bus crashes, then goes home to his wife, who has decided to leave. But his noble deed retains its nobility and enables him to reach over and touch her shoulder. It's not much, but it isn't nothing.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.A846 A6 2003

Blanchard, Alice. The Breathtaker. New York: Warner Books, 2003.
Set in a region of rural Oklahoma known as Tornado Alley, this gale-force thriller charts the warped progress of a serial murderer who strikes only during tornadoes, rattling the chief of police and lending a macabre kick to the daredevil local custom of driving into the eye of a killer storm.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.L36512 B74 2003

Boylan, Clare. Emma Brown: A Novel From the Unfinished Manuscript by Charlotte Brontë. New York: Viking, 2003.
A novelist steeped in Brontëana shrewdly develops the characters and ideas of two original chapters into a story of a passionate, reform-minded woman cramped by hypocrisy and convention.
Regenstein Stacks PR6052.O9193 E47 2004

Brock-Broido, Lucie. Trouble in Mind: Poems. New York: Knopf, 2004
The inner landscape of a poet who has seemed to allegorize her own life has become northern, bleak, full of negation; the book appears to circle obsessively about its griefs as the poet's incantations are directed toward death and the diminished self; elegy and epitaph abound.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.R6145 T76 2004

Brookner, Anita. The Rules of Engagement. London: Viking, 2003.
Brookner's 22nd novel arrives, regular as clockwork and twice as delicate. Steeped in the moral codes of just yesteryear, two Englishwomen (one called Elizabeth, the other Betsy), childhood friends born in 1948, putter in their rooms and in their lives until, surprisingly, each of them has an affair with the same married man. It does not turn out well.
Regenstein Stacks PR6052.R5816 R9 2003

Byatt, A. S. Little Black Book of Stories. London, Chatto & Windus, 2003.
Five scary Gothic tales that are also meditations on art and its place in a world where the mere appearance of a horrible creature can make one woman grow up a child psychologist, another a storyteller; or where a woman is literally transformed into stone in a gritty manner that out-Ovids Ovid.
Regenstein Stacks PR6052.Y2L58 2003

Byrd, Max. Shooting the Sun. New York: Bantam Books, 2004.
Science fiction meets the Wild West in this ingenious novel about an expedition in 1840, organized by a beautiful young Francophile American astronomer, to photograph an eclipse of the sun, predicted by an early computing machine of the English savant Charles Babbage.
Regenstein Stacks PS3552.Y675 S47 2004

Carlson, Ron. A Kind of Flying: Selected Stories. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003.
Each of these 33 stories can take the reader off guard between Carlson's skills and his imagination; ''Plan B for the Middle Class,'' for instance, on the surface a story about a married couple's first vacation without their children, grows to become the recollection of the narrator's romantic coming-of-age.
Regenstein Stacks PS3553.A733 A6 2003

Chase-Riboud, Barbara. Hottentot Venus. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
A powerful, earnest historical novel that humanizes the indignities endured by Sarah Baartman, a young woman from South Africa's Eastern Cape who was lured to Europe in 1810 and displayed as a scientific oddity and a sideshow curiosity -- even after her death in 1816.
Regenstein Stacks PS3553.H336 H68 2003

Connelly, Michael. The Narrows. Boston: Little, Brown, 2004.
Harry Bosch's homicidal nemesis, the Poet, resurfaces in this murder marathon to give the retired California homicide cop an opportunity to work another case with the maverick F.B.I. agent Rachel Walling and to settle scores with characters from such past novels as ''Blood Work'' and ''The Poet.''
Harper Library PS3553.O51165 N37 2004

Cusk, Rachel. The Lucky Ones. London: Fourth Estate, 2003.
Five loosely linked narratives purporting to be a novel, by an English writer; the first story is a brutal account of a convict in the last stages of pregnancy, and the long concluding pair devastate the reader with characters nobody could love and marriages nobody should have entered into.
Regenstein Stacks PR6053.U825L83 2003

Danticat, Edwidge. The Dew Breaker. New York: Knopf, 2004.
Short stories by a Haitian-American writer who has pungently portrayed the distress and torment of the Haitian people both in this country and in their homeland. The title story of this collection describes an agent of the 1960's dictator François Duvalier waiting for a political victim, arresting him, torturing him, then murdering him at last.
Regenstein Stacks PS3554.A5815 O96 2004

De Kretser, Michelle. The Hamilton Case. London: Chatto & Windus, 2003.
A beguiling, multilayered novel that spans much of the 20th century, shifting its point of view several times; its primary action bears on the murder of a white man in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and the history, both family and personal, of Sam Obeysekere, an upper-class Sinhalese lawyer whose analysis of the crime is crucial but does nothing to advance his prospects.
Regenstein Stacks PR9619.4.D4H25 2003

Dibdin, Michael. Medusa. New York: Pantheon, 2003.
On a par with his superb Venetian mystery, ''Dead Lagoon,'' Dibdin's latest Aurelio Zen investigation takes the Italian cop into the mountainous district of the northern Dolomites, where the recovery of a soldier's desiccated corpse stirs up old political animosities.
Regenstein Stacks PR6054.I26 M43 2003

Dixon, Keith. Ghostfires. New York: St. Martin's, 2004.
Dixon's first novel is a fierce and intimate snapshot of a wealthy family's self-destruction, aided by addictions (drugs, booze, status) perfect for corrupting physically and spiritually.
Regenstein Stacks PS3604.I95 G47 2004

Dunant, Sarah. The Birth of Venus. New York: Random House, 2004.
A witty, ingenious historical novel whose heroine avoids taking guff from Florentine male chauvinists of the late quattrocento by falling in love with art, artists and gossip; she companionably marries a nice old guy who really goes in for fellows, while she eventually hides as a Dominican nun.
Regenstein Stacks PR6054.U45756 B58 2004

Dunne, John Gregory. Nothing Lost. New York: Knopf, 2004.
This final novel by a writer who could do anything well (usually in a belligerent mode) concerns a black drifter in a Plains state, two men who killed him, a supermodel and several lawyers, all of whom seem to have secrets; few of them are still standing at the end of the day.
Regenstein Stacks PS3554.U493 N68 2004

Egan, Timothy. The Winemaker's Daughter. New York: Knopf, 2004
This first novel by Egan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for The Times, revolves around a beautiful, feisty woman charged with saving her aging father's Pacific Northwest vineyard, set against a backdrop of beautifully captured settings and equally serious issues (river ecology, Indian land rights, water rights).
Regenstein Stacks PS3605.G36 W56 2004

Ellmann, Lucy. Dot in the Universe. London: Bloomsbury, 2003.
A cheerfully subversive novel whose heroine, Dot, an inconspicuous wifey in an English seaside town, acquires a taste for blood in an accident and takes to wiping folk out, including herself; after a spell in hell, she is reborn to an American family, but retains, for social observation and comment, all her British powers of snideness.
Regenstein Stacks PR6055.L54E45 2003

Farah, Nuruddin. Links.New York: Riverhead, 2004.
Farah, a Somali novelist living in South Africa, explores his homeland's disintegration by sending his protagonist, Jeebleh, back to Somaliland, where he tries to find his mother's grave and rescue a kidnapped girl; menace succeeds menace so densely Jeebleh is soon possessed by a spirit of violent vengeance.
Regenstein Stacks PR9396.9.F3 L56 2004

Fossum, Karin. Don't Look Back, translated from the Norwegian by Felicity David. London: Harvill, 2002.
The first of this Norwegian author's police procedurals to be published in the United States, this subtly horrifying crime story discreetly mourns the loss of innocence in a picturesque village at the edge of the sea when the naked body of a well-liked high school athlete is discovered on a mountain by a local child.
Regenstein Stacks PT8951.16.O735D65 2002

Fowler, Karen Joy. The Jane Austen Book Club. New York: Marian Wood/Putnam, 2004.
An ambitious comic novel that is more about how to read than about book groups or Jane Austen; all the members have different, private Austens, and their proprietary attitudes speak to the improbability that any two readers, or any two Janes, are alike.
Regenstein Stacks PS3556.O844 J36 2004
Also availablea in Harper

Greer, Andrew Sean. The Confessions of Max Tivoli. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004.
Dorian Gray would have understood: Max Tivoli's misfortune in this fantastic novel is to be born with the appearance of a 70-year-old man, and to regress methodically through his life to physiological babyhood. This is a hard fate, but it does enable Max to woo the same woman three times, at suitable intervals, without being recognized as the same man.
Regenstein Stacks PS3557.R3987 C66 2004

Grossman, Lev. Codex. Orlando: Harcourt, 2004.
This entertaining novel (the author's second) concerns a young investment banker who (improbably) agrees to catalog a duke's library and ferret out a lost 14th-century book. Along the way, he -- and we -- learn a lot about bibliographic entries and entities, as well as how to derive plots from computer games.
Regenstein Stacks PS3557.R6725 C64 2004

Hadley, Tessa. Everything Will Be All Right. New York: Holt, 2003.
Hadley is a British novelist mesmerized by the perpetual turbulence of domestic arrangements; here, the correspondences and frictions of about 50 years emerge over three generations of daughters as they feel their way toward adulthood, each one mimicking and refracting the experiences of those who went before.
Regenstein Stacks PR6108.A35 E94 2003

Harris, Robert. Pompeii. New York: Random House, 2003.
The hero of Harris's latest imaginative -- and prodigiously researched -- reconstruction of the past doesn't have time for sentimental musings about the meaning of civilization; a hydraulic engineer, he's too busy investigating the systemic failure of the water system in the days leading up to the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Regenstein Stacks PR6058.A69147 P66 2003

Harrison, Colin. The Havana Room. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004.
Bill Wyeth, hero of this thriller-cum-social-satire novel, is a rising young New York lawyer and master of the universe when an accident ruins his prospects; disgraced and out of work, he becomes involved in a peculiar real estate deal and (eventually) in a subterranean private bar, the Havana Room, where strange goings-on go on.
Regenstein Stacks PS3558.A6655 H38 2004

Harrison, Jim. True North. New York: Grove, 2004.
David Burkett -- scion of a wealthy logging dynasty, narrator of this novel and son of a crooked, nympholeptic father -- inhabits a morass of guilt and self-loathing, all wrapped up in a grim comic struggle between his better self and an Oedipal fancy of killing his father.
Regenstein Stacks PS3558.A67 T78 2004

Heinlein, Robert A. For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs. New York: Scribner, 2004.
Written and rejected in the late 1930's, this manuscript of Heinlein's first extended piece of writing went missing for over 60 years until its recent unearthing. More utopian tract than flesh-and-blood fiction, its most effective passages show Heinlein's uncanny knack for making the future feel like the present.
Regenstein Stacks PS3515.E288 F67 2004

James, P. D. The Murder Room. London: Faber, 2003.
James's 12th Commander Dalgliesh mystery preserves the element of old-fashioned, hair-raising suspense as the dour poet-detective investigates the bizarre death of a museum trustee and pursues (but more cautiously) a new romantic relationship.
Regenstein Stacks PR6060.A467M87 2003
Also availablae in Harper

Kelman, James. You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free. Orlando: Harcourt, 2004.
Jeremiah Brown, Kelman's hero in this novel, is a down-and-outer, authority hater and epic drinkist. Brought up Glaswegian, he has lived in the United States for 12 years and acquired the analytical powers that make this paranoid performance, set mainly in bars, a brilliant gloss on the political and social reverberations of 9/11 in this country.
Regenstein Stacks PR6061.E518 Y68 2004

King, Stephen. Wolves of the Calla: The Dark Tower V. Illustrated by Bernie Wrightson.
Hampton Falls, N.H.: Donald M. Grant; distributed by Simon & Shuster, 2004. The epic Mid-World fantasy that King began in 1970 resumes its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink storytelling enthusiasm, as the trekking Òka-tetÓ (roughly, those joined by destiny) defends Calla Bryn Sturgis, a village teeming with twins.
Harper Library PS3561.I483 W65 2003

Kleinzahler, August. The Strange Hours Travelers Keep. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
Complex, cognitive poetry by a writer who might be called a postmodern metaphysical poet when his poems spring from a conceit deftly played out; in this collection we accompany him en route as he writes loving, reflective odes and epistles from modern life.
Regenstein Stacks PR9199.3.K482 S77 2003

Kunzru, Hari. Transmission New York: Dutton, 2004.
A fast-paced up-to-date British novel whose protagonist, a shy young computer programmer in India, moves to America, where he finds the demand for his services far less than he had supposed; thwarted at work (and in love also), he launches a killer computer virus in the hope of becoming a hero by ultimately stopping it. Rotten idea.
Regenstein Stacks PR6111.U68 T73 2004

Laxness, Halldor. Iceland's Bell. New York: Vintage Books, 2003.
Originally published in Icelandic in the 1940's, this novel by Iceland's sole Nobel laureate is a fabulistic tale of two heroes: Jon Hreggvidsson, a scoundrel, scapegrace and candidate for hanging, and Arni Arnaeus, who devotes his life and resources to the discovery and preservation of Iceland's medieval manuscripts.
Regenstein Stacks PT7511.L3 I813 2003

Le Carré, John. Absolute Friends. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.
Le Carré's novel returns to the cold-war stomping grounds of Germany and Eastern Europe, but with the fall of the Berlin Wall his espionage counterparts, an English expatriate and a German radical who found their ''natural art form'' in spying, are trying to redefine their idealism and reignite their passions over the invasion of Iraq.
Regenstein Stacks PR6062.E33 A65 2003
Also available in Harper

Leavitt, David. The Body of Jonah Boyd. New York: Bloomsbury, 2004.
A charmingly acerbic novel about a psychology professor's family, their secretary and their vortex of a house that attracts inexplicable affection and mystery, including the disappearance of a precious manuscript on Thanksgiving of 1969.
Regenstein Stacks PS3562.E2618 B64 2004

Lee, Chang-rae. Aloft. Lee. New York: Riverhead, 2004.
The newer developments of Long Island, and the optimistic (if also ambivalent and cautionary) tale of self-made American rising, provide the conditions for Lee's third novel, whose affable, ingratiating hero, Jerry Battle (descended from Battaglias), approaches his 60th birthday with a gift for affable contentment that is also his deepest flaw.
Regenstein Stacks PS3562.E3347 A79 2004
Also available in Harper

Leonard, Elmore. Mr. Paradise. New York: Morrow, 2004.
Tone is the key to divining deception from reality in this novel, Leonard's 40th book, as the homicide detective Frank Delsa sorts out the murders of an ogre of a lawyer named Anthony Paradiso and a former prostitute caught in the middle of a contract hit on ''Mr. Paradise.''
Regenstein Stacks PS3562.E55 M75 2004
Also available in Harper and Law

Lessing, Doris. The Grandmothers: Four Short Novels. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
A collection of novellas that reflects the panoply of subjects, styles and literary modes that Lessing has commanded for more than 50 years, including a political allegory and a London social drama of class and race.
Regenstein Stacks PR6023.E833 G69 2003

Liss, David. A Spectacle of Corruption.. New York: Random House, 2004.
Benjamin Weaver, the ruffian for hire introduced in ''A Conspiracy of Paper,'' is back, caught in the roil of 18th-century English politics and accused of murder to boot: he wants you to know he's been framed.
Regenstein, Stacks PS3562.I7814 S64 2004

Mallon, Thomas. Bandbox. New York: Pantheon Books: 2004.
At the center of this novel, set in a Hecht-and-MacArthur universe of curmudgeonly editors, swell dames and shimmering watering holes, two glossy magazines wage a circulation war in the twilight of the pre-Depression era.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.A43157 B36 2004

McGrath, Patrick. Port Mungo. New York: Knopf, 2004.
This immensely clever, tautly composed novel concerns a Gauguinistic artist who flees the suffocating confines of London for New York, then Havana, then Port Mungo, at the end of world and mind, where his genius flourishes. Unless it doesn't, since we learn that the narrator of all this is quite unreliable and full of hidden purpose.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.C3663 P67 2004

McMahon, Thomas. Ira Foxglove. St. Simons Island: Brook Street Press, 2004.
A darkly genial novella, discovered among McMahon's papers a year or so after his death in 1999; set around an amateur inventor whose projects include a device to assist a failing heart -- and who happens to suffer from a bum ticker himself -- this work, early as it may be, has the same loopy charm as McMahon's other published fiction.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.C3858 I73 2004

McMurtry, Larry. By Sorrow's River: The Berrybender Narratives, Book 3. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.A319 B9 2003
______. Folly and Glory: The Berrybender Narratives, Book 4. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.A319 B9 2003
This disjointed family of English aristocrats finish their trek across the American West in these novels, at the center of which stands Tasmin Berrybender, a sharp lass with impulsive appetites.

Mda, Zakes. The Madonna of Excelsior. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004.
The author, a South African playwright as well as novelist, conducts his story, which concerns forbidden sexual relations and their consequences, in a voice that is humorous, wry and generous, never softening the brutality visited on blacks but never denying the humanity of the oppressors as well as of the oppressed.
Regenstein Stacks PR9369.3.M4 M33 2004

Menéndez, Ana. Loving Che. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003.
A deft first novel that captures, in an unnamed narrator's journeys to Cuba in search of the mother she never knew, the shifting sense of identity in the now mythic early days of Cuba's revolution and the desperate reality that has since set in.
Regenstein Stacks PS3563.E514 L68 2003

Morgan, Richard K. Broken Angels. New York: Del Rey/ Ballantine, 2004.
Takeshi Kovacs, the all-but-indestructible galactic mercenary whom Morgan so memorably introduced in ''Altered Carbon,'' is back, this time on an archaeological dig that triggers a scam of truly cosmic proportions. Once again, Morgan breathes energy and authority into a post-human killing machine who suffers from an irrepressibly working conscience.
Regenstein Stacks PS3613.O748 B76 2004

Muñoz Molina, Antonio. Sepharad; translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden. Harcourt
An alarming novel whose elusive narrator seems to tell a large but arbitrary selection of all Spain's dislocation stories, from the expulsion of the Jews onward; the author acknowledges his intention to memorialize all the ''lives that deserve to be told'' lest they ''fade from memory as if they had never existed.''
Regenstein Stacks PQ6663.U4795 S4413 2003

Newman, Robert. The Fountain at the Center of the World. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, 2004.
This frisky political novel by a British comedian concerns resistance to international capitalism's world empire and stars two brothers who have never met; one is a corporate shark who manipulates consciousness, the other an inept eco-terrorist.
Regenstein Stacks PR6064.E9293 F685 2004

Parker, Robert B. Double Play. New York: Putnam, 2004.
In a deeply felt and intimately told memory tale, Parker defends the ideals of a young Dodgers fan from Boston by sending out a hero named Joseph Burke to save Jackie Robinson from being killed by mobsters during the historic 1947 season, when he integrated major-league baseball.
Harper Library PS3566.A686 D68 2004

Pelecanos, George. Hard Revolution. New York: Little, Brown, 2004.
Derek Strange, African-American cop turned private investigator, is the hard-boiled hero through whom Pelecanos has filtered his knowledge of the unfortunate victims and nearly as unlucky perpetrators of crime in Washington. This volume, a kind of prequel, flashes back to Derek at 12, then yields to a family tragedy in 1968, amplified by the fury of the Martin Luther King riots.
Regenstein Stacks PS3566.E354 H37 2004

Perrotta, Tom. Little Children. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004.
This novel of adultery and child-raising in a generic suburb is an outstanding contribution to the literature of Bad Mommy and Bad Daddy; its families are hothouses of boredom and everyone dreams of escape, if only to a new environment that is much the same as its predecessor.
Regenstein Stacks PS3566.E6948 L57 2004

Rankin, Ian. A Question of Blood. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.
Rankin's 14th novel (the first was published in 1987) about Inspector John Rebus adheres fairly closely to the procedural formula, though its author sometimes cites the perceptions of the Rolling Stones. This time around, Rebus himself is in trouble for being seen drinking with a man who turns up the following day as a murder victim.
Regenstein Stacks PR6068.A57 Q44 2003

Sharpe, Matthew. The Sleeping Father. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, 2003.
Sharpe's second novel rotates the point of view among the members of the Schwartz family of suburban Connecticut; of these, our primary guide is Chris, a bitterly intelligent boy rolling bored through high school. He contains the family's emotion by simple commentary: ''Anyone who didn't embrace irony was a fool, because whether you embrace irony or not, sooner or later irony embraces you.''
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.H3444 S58 2003

Shepard, Jim. Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2004.
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.H39384 L68 2004
______. Project X. New York: Knopf, 2004.
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.H39384 P76 2004
A story collection and a novel by an author who applies a lapidary style to outlandish subjects; the stories often dwell on characters near collapse, like German fighter pilots flying deathtraps or a collector whose bubble gum cards become hallucinations. ''Project X'' considers the half-demented, perpetually embarrassed world of early adolescence in a sensitive examination of the Columbine phenomenon.

St. Aubyn, Edward. Some Hope: A Trilogy. New York: Open City Books, 2003.
Part comedy of manners, part chamber of horrors, these linked autobiographical novellas, set in the loftiest echelons of the British upper class, demonstrate that deep chemical dissolution and crisp Savile Row tailoring need not be conflicting imperatives.
Regenstein Stacks PR6069.T134 S83 2003

Stephenson, Neal. The Confusion: Volume 2 of the Baroque Cycle. By Neal Stephenson. New York: Morrow, 2004.
Part 2 of Stephenson's projected historical epic novel is as rollicking and overstuffed as its predecessor, ''Quicksilver,'' featuring the return of Jack Shaftoe, the world-renowned ''King of the Vagabonds,'' and the beautiful Eliza, now a French duchess and spymistress at the court of Louis XIV.
Regenstein Stacks PS3569.T3868 C55 2004

Theroux, Paul. The Stranger at the Palazzo D'Oro: And Other Stories. London: Hamish Hamilton, 2003.
Sexual awakening (not necessarily at the right time or for the right object) is a constant in this rather clinical collection of a novella (which centers on an aging countess whose vanity demands the perpetual service of a young lover) and three short stories about older men ruined by inopportune attacks of desire.
Regenstein Stacks PS3570.H4S87 2003

Thompson, Jean. City Boy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
A rising young couple (he a writer, she a beautiful but troubled banker) move into a Chicago apartment to discover their neighbor upstairs is a stoner kid with an almighty loud reggae blaster and other bad habits; before long, his hippie antinomianism begins to corrupt the lives below him.
Regenstein Stacks PS3570.H625 C58 2004

Tyler, Anne. The Amateur Marriage. New York: Knopf, 2004.
An ambitious exploration of domestic dislocation, ranging over 60 years of American experience, beginning with the marriage of Tyler's two ''amateurs,'' thrown together after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Regenstein Stacks PS3570.Y45 A59 2004
Also available in Harper

Van Niekerk, Marlene. Triomf; translated by Leon de Kock. Woodstock: Overlook , 2004.
Published 10 years ago in South Africa, ''Triomf'' is a comic triumph, featuring a burned-out family of Afrikaner Snopeses in flight from democratic changes; their easygoing brutality and prejudice are often mingled with startling tenderness and love, much as happens in real life.
Regenstein Stacks PT6592.32.A545 T75 2004

Vapnyar, Lara. There are Jews in My House. New York: Pantheon Books, 2004.
This first collection of stories, by a woman who immigrated from the Soviet Union in 1994, chiefly concerns the perceptions of children trying to figure out what adults are up to. They half know and half understand the grown-up world but prefer their own consciousness of exploration and wonder.
Regenstein Stacks PS3622.A68 T47 2003

Vega, Ed. No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew it Cauze Bill Bailey Ain't Never Coming Home Again. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
A roomy novel full of colorful characters soaked in the ethnic stew of New York; families and cultures are linked in the precocious Vidam'a Farrell and her search for her father, a pianist who lost two fingers in Vietnam.
Regenstein Stacks PS3572.E34 N6 2003

Walbert, Kate. Our Kind. Scribner
A novel in stories, collectively narrated by women who came of age before 1960, the last educated generation to miss out on feminism; to know that the natural order made career and family incompatible; to choose, almost exclusively, motherhood. Now they are about to die off in a novel that zealously and successfully grapples with the passage of time.
Regenstein Stacks PS3573.A42113 O97 2004

Wallace, Melanie. Blue Horse Dreaming. Aspen: MacAdam/Cage, 2003.
A first novel that turns on Indian captivity (as other novels have done, notably works by Fenimore Cooper and Thomas Berger, so well the subject fits ''modern'' themes of isolation and identity loss). Its heroine, Abigail Buwell, is ''redeemed'' from a life she infinitely prefers to 19th-century Western civ.
Regenstein Stacks PS3573.A42684 B58 2003

Weinstein, Debra. Apprentice to the Flower Poet Z. New York: Random House, 2004.
A deliciously nasty first novel featuring a great fraud of a poet (Z.) who seeks perfection of the life, leaving her work to be done by the book's real heroine, Annabelle Goldsmith, Z.'s apprentice and dogsbody, who eventually researches and even writes Z.'s poems.
Regenstein Stacks PS3573.E39648 A66 2004

Williams, C. K. The Singing. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
Williams's ninth collection of poems (a National Book Award winner last year) exhibits the exacting ethical scrutiny he has long applied to the world before him and the world within; he is able to ask whether poetry is worth writing and to conclude that it is, provided what it speaks is the truth.
Regenstein Stacks PS3573.I4483 S56 2003

Yehoshua, A. B. The Liberated Bride; translated from the Hebrew by Hillel Halkin. New York: Harcourt, 2003.
A dark and comic novel that presents the two worlds of Israel's two nations, the Jews and the Arabs, and the travels in both of them by an Israeli professor whose magnificent obsession, for five years so far, is with trying to find out why his son's marriage to a rich young woman failed to endure.
Regenstein Stacks PJ5054.Y42 K3513 2003