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In Ishiguro's 'The Buried Giant,' memory draws a blank

Kazuo Ishiguro has made a career of the unexpected. His best-known novel, 1989's Man Booker-winning "The Remains of the Day," is narrated by an English butler looking back on the love he let elude him on a country estate in the years leading to World War II. "When We Were Orphans" (2000)...

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  • Mohsin Hamid's new book takes a post-9/11 view
    Mohsin Hamid's new book takes a post-9/11 view

    Writers, Lynne Sharon Schwartz once insisted, write "anything and everything, just as a composer composes anything — not only sonatas or only nocturnes or only symphonies." And yet, it's undeniable that certain authors are better at certain things. For every George Orwell, equally adept...

  • Reif Larsen's 'I Am Radar' transmits narrative magic
    Reif Larsen's 'I Am Radar' transmits narrative magic

    The big, beautiful, ambitious novel "I Am Radar" opens as Radar Radmanovic is born during a fantastic blackout in suburban New Jersey. Although his parents are white, the baby has charcoal-black skin; doctors can find no medical explanation.

  • 'Hush Hush' speaks volumes about dark domestic impulses
    'Hush Hush' speaks volumes about dark domestic impulses

    In 1994, Susan Smith drowned her two sons by pushing them into a South Carolina lake and implicated a black man for the crime; in 2001, Andrea Yates drowned her five children in Houston; in 2005, China Arnold microwaved her infant daughter to death in Dayton, Ohio. What drove these women and...

  • 'Age of Acquiescence' examines America's second Gilded Age
    'Age of Acquiescence' examines America's second Gilded Age

    Remember Occupy Wall Street? Steve Fraser does — he opens his book on our current state of popular political paralysis by recalling the "millions of 'occupiers' in a thousand cities" who in fall 2011 chanted "We are the 99 percent." His question is not what Occupy wanted or why it...

  • 'Lucky Alan and Other Stories' is Jonathan Lethem at his bizarre best
    'Lucky Alan and Other Stories' is Jonathan Lethem at his bizarre best

    I woke this morning from a memory in which I found myself demanding a whole smoked-fish plate, with plenty of bagels, sturgeon and chopped liver too, in exchange for having sex with an acquaintance after a demoralizing threesome. The demand of fish for sex didn't sound like me. Also, I don't...

  • 'Girl in a Band' is Kim Gordon's unconventional self-creation tale
    'Girl in a Band' is Kim Gordon's unconventional self-creation tale

    Feminism never actually promised women they could have it all, but Kim Gordon seemed to nail it anyway. A founding member of the long-running experimental rock group Sonic Youth, she had the successful band, the devoted husband (her bandmate Thurston Moore), the golden family. On the side,...

  • 'A Kim Jong-Il Production' times it right, post-Sony hacking
    'A Kim Jong-Il Production' times it right, post-Sony hacking

    In publishing, as in showbiz, timing is critical. Serendipity seems to have smiled on author Paul Fischer and his new book, "A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power."

  • It's game time for the history of Monopoly
    It's game time for the history of Monopoly

    Among the many impressive feats that Mary Pilon pulls off in "The Monopolists," her fascinating history of one of the most popular and iconic American games, the most remarkable may well be that, unlike Monopoly, her book never lags.

  • Political consultant David Axelrod delivers in revealing 'Believer'
    Political consultant David Axelrod delivers in revealing 'Believer'

    As President Obama's political consultant, David Axelrod was guarded and disciplined when he appeared on the weekend talk shows. He stayed on message, with little hint of humor or personality. But the Axelrod we meet in his autobiography, "Believer," is a different creature altogether.

  • Tom McCarthy keeps protagonist and readers guessing
    Tom McCarthy keeps protagonist and readers guessing

    In his first novel since "C," nominated for the Booker Prize in 2010, Tom McCarthy continues his exploration of the search for meaning in the modern age while subverting what a novel can be with the story of a nonexistent text and how it doesn't come to be written.

  • Science may prove to be humanity's savior
    Science may prove to be humanity's savior

    If you'd been born a few thousand years ago, before the invention of the state, every decade you'd have stood a 1-in-20 chance of a violent death. Today, your skull might be on display in a museum somewhere with an arrow hole through the cranium. Fortunately those odds have decreased a...

  • 'My Avant-Garde Education': Bernard Cooper's sketches of a life in art
    'My Avant-Garde Education': Bernard Cooper's sketches of a life in art

    Bernard Cooper discovered his passion for art in — of all places — the pages of Life magazine. He was sitting in the library of his Los Angeles middle school in the mid-1960s, studiously putting off research on a geography assignment by leafing through a copy of Life, when he...

  • 'It's What I Do' a war-zone photographer's harrowing memoir
    'It's What I Do' a war-zone photographer's harrowing memoir

    It would be easy for "normal" people to conclude that journalists chronicling war and disaster are anything but.

  • T. Geronimo Johnson brings culture clash to 'Welcome to Braggsville'
    T. Geronimo Johnson brings culture clash to 'Welcome to Braggsville'

    When was the last time you were shocked by a turn in a novel? Not merely surprised or astonished but actually stunned? T. Geronimo Johnson makes it happen twice in his second novel, "Welcome to Braggsville" — first, about a third of the way in and, again, toward the end of the book.

  • Laura van den Berg's 'Find Me' captures a memorable apocalypse
    Laura van den Berg's 'Find Me' captures a memorable apocalypse

    Ninety-five years ago T.S. Eliot published "The Wasteland," one of the first and bleakest visions of a shattered modern world. Nearly a century later, we're awash in fictional dystopias. Science fiction writers tilled this stony ground for decades before the current vogue for grim variants of...

  • Ander Monson's 'Letter to a Future Lover' and the lives of books
    Ander Monson's 'Letter to a Future Lover' and the lives of books

    Ander Monson favors the word "labyrinth." It appears throughout "Letter to a Future Lover," which frames its own sort of labyrinth, one defined not so much by the author's readings as by his physical engagement with books.

  • 'Ella' is like 'Eloise' as today's urban hipster
    'Ella' is like 'Eloise' as today's urban hipster

    Children's book parodies may just be the grilled cheese trucks of the book world these days. Easy, tasty, but sometimes a little lazy, these whimsical tomes have flooded the shelves since Adam Mansbach's wildly popular 2011 hit "Go the F — to Sleep." Fans of the genre can now choose...

  • Anne Tyler traces a family line with 'A Spool of Blue Thread'
    Anne Tyler traces a family line with 'A Spool of Blue Thread'

    Over the course of 20 novels, Anne Tyler's artistry has become so assured and invisible that her books often read less like fiction than dispatches from the real world. In such midcareer masterpieces as "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" and in recent works like "Digging to America," Tyler has...

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