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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

For Literary Lovers

The month of May will have some wonderful literary novels arriving. Three of the ones I am going to discuss are by relatively well known authors and one by an author that might be new to you. Two of them are out on May 8, 2012.

John Irving's In One Person is being published by Simon & Schuster. In it Irving returns to intense sexual and political concerns. His editor says "IN ONE PERSON addresses the search for identity and connection in a world that is not always tolerant of unconventional people." Others say that only Irving could make you laugh while discussing Aids, homophobia and bullying. Billy Abbot is the bisexual protagonist and he shares his life, moving back and forth in time. People who have read the advance reader's copies either love it or hate it but isn't that true of all of Irving's works? He does like to push the envelope and he does that in this work.

Varley O'Connor's May 8th entry is The Master's Muse. This title is a work of biographical fiction following the lives of Tanaquil Le Clercq, a top ballerina with the NYC Ballet and wife of the well known choreographer and director George Balanchine. Tanaquil was struck down by polio in 1956 and never walked again. George quits the ballet to work with his wife on regaining the ability to walk but when that doesn't happen, he returns to his work and Tanaquil must redefine herself as a person and find a new role in life. Very moving and an interesting read for those who love ballet.

Peter Carey's US edition of The Chemistry of Tears comes out on May 15. Carey has won the Booker Prize ( a literary prize awarded to the best full length original novel, written in the English language, by an author from the British Commonwealth) twice. It is a story of learning to deal with secret grief. A museum conservator learns that her married lover has died. While hiding her pain, she is sent to work on a 19th century automaton - a swan. There she discovers the diaries of the man who built the swan and the story goes back and forth between the two eras. Stories two centuries apart that somehow Carey makes into a cohesive tale.

Paul Theroux's The Lower River arrives on May 22. Many who have read the advanced copies of this title compare it to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. That gives you some idea of the esteem this title and author has created. It is the story of Ellis Hock who when his wife leaves him taking the family home, returns to the Lower River in Malawi. This is where he servied in the Peace Corps many years ago and he remenbers being happy there. When he arrives, he finds the school, church and clinic that he had help build, only rubble. Theroux delves deeply into whether a healthy interest in a different culture can coincide with the arrogance and egotism that we bring to that culture. It is a fictional look of a clash of cultures,  Western imperial arrogance and benevolence pitted against weary, restless Malawi natives who have eked out miserable lives born of poverty and despair. Many think it may be his best work.

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