Paperbacks of note

November 17, 2012 

"The Angel Esmeralda: Stories" by Don DeLillo.

The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories by Don DeLillo. (Scribner) DeLillo’s first collection of short fiction, written between 1979 and 2011, offers telling insights into his fascination with the uneasy margins of contemporary life. In the 1994 title story, an aging nun in the South Bronx is swept up in a crowd that gathers around a billboard, seeking holy significance in the meaningless murder of a homeless girl.

Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle. (Basic Books) In two previous books, “The Second Self” (1984) and “Life on the Screen” (1995), Turkle, an MIT psychologist, looked optimistically to a future of digital connection. Here she takes a darker view, arguing that today’s technology is drawing us away from social fulfillment.

Cain by Jose Saramago. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Saramago (1922-2010), the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner, poses profound moral questions as he reimagines the characters and narratives of the Old Testament in his final novel. Its protagonist, Cain, is a picaresque hero who enters the tales of Abraham and Isaac, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife, Noah and his sons.

Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York by James Wolcott. (Anchor) Wolcott, the longtime cultural critic for Vanity Fair who arrived in New York in 1972 with literary aspirations and a letter of recommendation from Norman Mailer, entertainingly describes coming of age at The Village Voice (days) and CBGB (nights).

Torch by Cheryl Strayed. (Vintage Contemporaries) Teresa Rae Wood, the 38-year-old Midwestern heroine of Strayed’s first novel, has fled a bad marriage and rebuilt her life, dispensing wisdom as the host of a local radio show. But when she learns she’s dying of cancer, her fragile family – two grief-stricken children and their stepfather – quickly falls apart.

A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead. (Harper Perennial) In January 1943, 230 women of the French Resistance were sent to Auschwitz as political prisoners of the Reich. Moorehead meticulously traces their fates through a 2 1/2-year ordeal, as they endured starvation, disease, physical abuse and exposure.

Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson. (Steerforth) Set against the arrival of P.T. Barnum’s outlandish American Museum in 1840s Manhattan, Carlson’s first novel dwells on the nature of identity and metamorphosis, expressed through the stories of Ana Swift, a depressive giant grappling with her place in the world, and the museum’s taxidermist, obsessed with proper taxonomic classification.

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis. (Vintage) Davis’ defining work presents the gruesome realities behind George Mallory’s pursuit of Mount Everest and puts the legend in sweeping historical context: from Britain’s 19th-century imperial ambitions to the devastation of World War I.

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