Mr. Fox, by Helen Oyeyemi. (Riverhead) Playfully weaving variations of the Bluebeard myth, Oyeyemi’s captivating novel is presented in the alternating voices of St. John Fox, a celebrated slasher novelist in midcentury Manhattan; Daphne, his neglected wife; and Mary Foxe, his imaginary muse (and creative sparring partner), who challenges him to embrace intimacy over violence and death.
Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark, by Brian Kellow. (Penguin) This is a fair-minded, deeply reported biography of Kael (1919-2001), the influential and maddening writer whose prime years as a film critic coincided with renaissances in foreign cinema (the 1960s) and American movies (the 1970s).
Chango’s Beads and Two-tone Shoes, by William Kennedy. (Penguin) Kennedy’s riotous novel follows a newspaperman’s journey from the nightclubs and jungles of 1950s Cuba – where he trades quips with Ernest Hemingway and witnesses the rise of Fidel Castro – to the newsrooms and charged streets of Albany in 1968, where a race riot looms after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.
Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, by Chris Matthews. (Simon & Schuster) Matthews, the host of “Hardball” on MSNBC, makes no secret of his admiration for Kennedy in this engaging biography; he praises Kennedy’s ability to unite toughness and inspirational leadership, but doesn’t shy away from his shortcomings.
The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. (Ballantine) Hadley Richardson comes into her own as Ernest Hemingway’s long-suffering wife in McLain’s stylish novel. Narrated largely from Hadley’s point of view, the book chronicles their five-year marriage, much of which was spent “beautifully blurred and happy” among aspiring writers in Paris.
Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything, by David Bellos. (Faber & Faber) How do notions of translation differ across cultures? What’s the difference between a native tongue and a learned one? Why is Google Translate so effective? In 32 wide-ranging chapters, Bellos, a professor of French and comparative literature at Princeton, ranges across the whole of human experience to show why translation is at the heart of what we do and who we are.
Mr G, by Alan Lightman. (Vintage Contemporaries) So, what’s God really like? As personified in Lightman’s imaginative account of how the Supreme Being created the cosmos, he spends his formative years with squabbling relatives and faces off against a dark opponent named Belhor, wrestling over elusive matters like human suffering and mortality.
The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, by RJ Smith. (Gotham) This sparkling biography argues that Brown (1933-2006) was the most significant modern American musician in terms of style, messaging, rhythm and originality.
New York Times