Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage Of The Flesh by John Lahr. (Norton) This deeply researched biography opens at the 1945 Broadway premiere of “The Glass Menagerie,” the work that heralded an era of critical acclaim for Williams (1911-83). In Lahr’s telling, Williams was an artist who flourished in spite of repression, a process that reviewer Blake Bailey saw as “the triumph of art over life – the alchemy whereby a miserable childhood, and the enduring alienation that followed, were made into something sublime.”
Man At The Helm by Nina Stibbe. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) Sensing the stigma around single women, three siblings in 1970s England scheme to pair their recently divorced mother with a man in their new, rural town. In this warmly funny novel, the children’s innocent ideas about men (they “loved fires and omelets and needed constant snacks”) lead to their screwball plan for inviting the locals to come courting.
Men: Notes From An Ongoing Investigation by Laura Kipnis. (Picador) “Men have fascinated me, maybe too much,” Kipnis observes in the preface to her collection of essays, a sharp (and often hilarious) evaluation of modern masculinity. Zeroing in on the “poetics of masculine panic,” she contemplates the absurd theater of the male of the species, approaching men encountered in her personal life, and ones who occupy the public sphere, with a critic’s eye.
The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella. (Simon & Schuster) At this debut novel’s outset, 17-year-old Leonie Putzkammer is a waitress in 1950s Philadelphia who has resigned herself to a quiet life with her widowed father. After a wrestling promoter whisks her off to the School for Lady Grappling, in Florida, Leonie is re-christened Gorgeous Gwen Davies and groomed to be a champion. With her new name, a new life beckons.
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Political Order And Political Decay: From The Industrial Revolution To The Globalization Of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) The companion volume to the author’s 2011 study “The Origins of Political Order,” this book delves into the role of political institutions in societies across the globe. Fukuyama’s sweeping analysis considers how and why institutions develop and how to foster political accountability in liberal democracies.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. (Vintage International) In Ishiguro’s fablelike novel, set in a fantastical, ravaged English countryside 1,500 years ago, Axl and Beatrice, an aging couple, travel to find their long-lost son after years of separation by war. Meanwhile, as a mysterious mist has settled across the land, bringing widespread amnesia, they are (literally) fogged by faltering memory.
Possibilities by Herbie Hancock with Lisa Dickey. (Penguin) The jazz composer and keyboardist, a longtime collaborator with Miles Davis, has written a memoir that is also a clear-eyed contemplation of Buddhism, creativity and music. As he puts it, “Jazz is about being in the moment, at every moment.”
Gay Berlin: Birthplace Of A Modern Identity by Robert Beachy. (Vintage, $16.95.) In his deeply researched book, Beachy shows how Germany, in the half-century before the Nazis, was home to progressive ideas about homosexuality, including efforts to change public discourse, and calls by pre-eminent legal scholars and doctors for an end to discrimination.
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