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The Early Word: New Books for the Week of February 22, 2010

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This week's list of new novels includes Robert B. Parker's ninth novel featuring Paradise, Mass., police chief Jesse Stone. 
The Infinities
by John Banville

Like a classical drama, John Banville’s 15th novel The Infinities offers the unities of time and place, allows the Greek gods to intrude into the action, and even features a flawed family, full of furtive guilt and dysfunctional love. The entities and beings of both worlds, Olympian and Earthly, collide throughout the novel, and multi-tasking intermediary Hermes, messenger of the gods (and so much more), deals both with what is going on in with the dramas above, and interprets for book's central family below, which is headed up by Adam Godley, a retired meta-mathematical pioneer, who had suffered a stroke and is being confined, comatose, to a darkened room where his wife sees to his needs. The loved ones have gathered to observe the final days of the head of the household, including the lumbering Young Adam and his lovely wife Helen, and the loony daughter Petra, who is akin to "a sack half filled with sticks.”

Indeed, Young Adam and Helen take center stage for a while while Hermes, The Infinities'  narrator, delights in revealing details of their private lives, while his father Zeus (or "Dad") visits Helen in the body of her husband and seduces her in a night of rampant fervor, having instructed Hermes to delay the dawn for a whole hour. To Helen, this has all happened in a dream in which her husband has been transformed into something rather more unreal than his ho-hum reality.

Though the narration is godly and these variations of visitations with other family members and guests divinely-inspired, most literally so, they are really rather non-spiritual and bawdy, intentionally so. And in addition to some fine scenes, both uproarious and moving — often at the same time — the imagery is on target, while we can always count on the Booker Prize-winning Banville to create rich, textured passages:

Of all the things we fashioned for them that they might be comforted, dawn is the one that works. When darkness sifts from the air like fine soft soot and light spreads slowly out of the east then all but the most wretched of humankind rally. It is a spectacle we immortals enjoy, this minor daily resurrection, often we will gather at the ramparts of the clouds and gaze down upon them, our little ones, as they bestir themselves to welcome the new day. What silence falls upon us then, the sad silence of our envy.

Deities can be so human in their emotions sometimes, but they express themselves well — if writers like Banville put words in their mouths. 

MORE FICTION

Apple Turnover Murder (Hannah Swensen Series #13)
by Joanne Fluke

Money to Burn
by James Grippando

Black Magic Sanction (Rachel Morgan Series #8)
by Kim Harrison

The Sable Quean (Redwall #21)

by Brian Jacques

Split Image (Jesse Stone Series #9)
by Robert B. Parker

Heresy
by S.J. Parris

Fantasy in Death (In Death Series #30) Fantasy in Death (In Death Series #30)
by J.D. Robb

Big Girl
by Danielle Steel

NONFICTION

Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making
by John Curran

You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story
by Annabelle Gurwitch, Jeff Kahn

Never Tell Our Business to Strangers: A Memoir
by Jennifer Mascia
 
Law of the Jungle: The Hunt for Colombian Guerrillas, American Hostages, and Buried Treasure

by John Otis  

About Gordon Hauptfleisch