Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon. (Penguin) The horror of Sept. 11 looms over Pynchon’s novel of New York in the vortex of the dot-com boom. When Maxine Tarnow, a fraud investigator pinballing between work and family, starts looking into a computer-security firm and its corrupt chief executive, she finds herself mixed up with an array of hackers, drug runners and entrepreneurs, some of whom begin turning up dead. Times reviewer Jonathan Lethem called this shaggy-dog conspiracy tale “dazzling and ludicrous.”
The Heir Apparent: A Life Of Edward VII, The Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley. (Random House) Born Prince Albert Edward, and known as Bertie to familiars, King Edward VII (1841-1910) was vain, gluttonous, promiscuous and none too bright, but he emerges as an appealing character – with a surprising affinity for kingship – in Ridley’s fine book, the fruit of a decade’s immersion in the royal archives.
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman. (Morrow/HarperCollins) In this slim, unsettling dream of a novel, a middle-aged narrator looks back on his lonely, frightened boyhood in Sussex, England, and his encounters with the supernatural alongside Lettie Hempstock, “a most remarkable girl.” Gaiman’s “mind is a dark fathomless ocean,” Benjamin Percy said in the Book Review.
The American Way Of Poverty: How The Other Half Still Lives by Sasha Abramsky. (Nation Books) Seeing itself as an heir to Michael Harrington’s “The Other America” (1962), this study reaches across a range of issues – education, housing, criminal justice – to present a sweeping panorama of poverty’s elements. Abramsky also proposes a host of remedies, chiefly by government as the great mobilizer of financial resources.
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Fools by Joan Silber. (Norton) From New York to India to Paris, from the Catholic Worker movement to Occupy Wall Street, Silber’s linked stories weave in historical figures while exploring the lives of people willing to risk something for their ideals. “Structurally, the intricacy is skillful; emotionally, it’s astounding,” Natalie Bakopoulos wrote in the Book Review.
Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography by Richard Rodriguez. (Penguin) In “Hunger of Memory,” the 1982 book that made him one of his generation’s most prominent essayists, Rodriguez wrote: “I wanted to forget that I had a body because I had a brown body.” The soul-searching essays here claim this body in all its difficulties as Rodriguez – Hispanic, Roman Catholic, gay – tries to reconcile faith and spirituality with personal and public tragedy.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) In Iceland in 1828, a servant named Agnes Magnusdottir was convicted of murdering two men and removed to her homeland’s farthest reaches, to a farm in northern Iceland, to await execution. Kent’s atmospheric first novel reimagines the story of this doomed woman, the farming family compelled to be her death-row custodians, and the hesitant clergyman dispatched to the farm to act as Agnes’ spiritual guide.
New York Times