The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig At The End Of The World by George Prochnik. (Other Press) Fleeing Hitler, Zweig, a celebrated Austrian writer, left behind his familiar Viennese milieu and ventured westward, touching down in England, New York and, finally, Petrópolis, Brazil. Prochnik examines the effects of prolonged exile on the writer in his last years, as he struggled to adapt to his new homes and translate his former culture into “the idiom of the New World.”
Consumed by David Cronenberg. (Scribner) Two Internet journalists transfixed by sexual perversion are at the center of this novel. Naomi investigates news of a French Marxist’s grotesque death (amid rumors of cannibalism), while Nathan, after contracting a rare sexually transmitted disease in Hungary, sets out to find the doctor who discovered it. Known for such films as “The Fly” and “Naked Lunch,” Cronenberg probes how disease and sex become “a metaphor for our relationship to our technologies,” Jonathan Lethem wrote in The Times.
How To Be Both by Ali Smith. (Anchor) This Man Booker Prize finalist pairs the stories of George, a modern-day English teenager, and Francescho, a cross-dressing Italian Renaissance painter (based on the real-life artist Francesco del Cossa). The twin story lines turn on questions of gender, identity and art, resulting in what reviewer Christopher Benfey called a “sly and shimmering double helix of a novel.”
Whatever Happened To The Metric System? How America Kept Its Feet by John Bemelmans Marciano. (Bloomsbury) In this engaging account, Marciano guides readers through the curiously fraught history of the metric system in the United States, showing how a barrage of ideological clashes, budget cuts and political ennui eventually prevented it from taking root, even as “metrication” seemed imminent in the 1970s.
Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt. (Picador) A woman’s individual right to privacy was a cornerstone of Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that established the legality of abortion more than 40 years ago. But here, Pollitt reframes the issue as central to the public interest, arguing that ending an unwanted pregnancy can be beneficial for women, their families and society.
The Arsonist by Sue Miller. (Vintage Contemporaries) After a long stint working in East Africa, Frankie Rowley has returned to her parents’ vacation house in New Hampshire. Soon after her arrival, homes of the town’s wealthy summer residents are the targets of an arsonist, bringing class tensions to the fore.
The Republic Of Imagination: A Life In Books by Azar Nafisi. (Penguin) Nafisi’s earlier memoir, “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” detailed her time teaching forbidden works of American and British fiction in Iran. Now a U.S. citizen, she explores in this present book the impact of three major works of American literature on her adopted country’s worldview, values and society.
New York Times