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The Early Word: New Books for the Week of January 22, 2007

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Fiction predominates this week, and even then there’s a dearth of new releases. However, a couple of old, familiar names that have been out of the spotlight for a while do pop up, and are definitely worthy of renewed consideration. Other than that, there are some old standbys that should serve as perfect company if you’re snowed in during this winter’s big freeze.

FICTION

Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
In a Byzantine and Beckett-like plot with Kafkaesque themes, a disoriented old man without memory of his past or identity of his captors, awakens in an unfamiliar room and begins reading a mysterious manuscript seemingly left there for him. There’s a lot of “seeming” going on as “Mr. Blank” tries to piece together the clues to his existence. The ever-present ambiguity also extends to the visitors who come and go – the doctor, lawyer, and others he’s apparently supposed to know spark no recognition, and Mr. Blank will forget them as soon as they leave. Let’s hope Travels in the Scriptorium is not one of those book you forget once you’ve read it.

Voices from the Street by Phillip K. Dick
In a previously unpublished 1953 novel of social realism and ‘50s-style existentialism that pre-dates his classic science fiction works, Dick writes of the main character, an Ike-liking middle-class man who becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his life and the American Dream. In addition to seeking escape through booze and sex, he flirts with religious fanaticism when, swayed by quack evangelist, he joins the spurious Society of the Watchmen of Jesus, a turn of event that leads to further alienation from his friends and family.

The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer
The devil not only made him do it, he’s in all the details, as well. In Mailer's first novel in 11 years, as audacious as it is psychoanalytic, 83-year old Mailer chronicles the early life of Adolph Hitler, narrating the story through the eyes of Dieter, a former German SS officer who multi-tasks as a demon under orders by Satan to cultivate Hitler's nascent evil. Mailer also brings Freud into the incestuous, scatological and sibling rivalry-ridden mix, as these and other developments are significantly set against the romantic nationalism of Austria and Central Europe.

Also new in Fiction:

Flesh and Bone by Jefferson Bass

Matters of Honor by Louis Begley

Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz

Dancing to Almendra by Mayra Montero, Edith Grossman (Translator)

NON-FICTION:

What a Party!: My Life among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and Other Wild Animals by Terry McAuliffe, With Steve Kettmann

Off the Record: A Reporter Lifts the Velvet Rope on Hollywood, Hip-Hop, and Sports by Allison Samuels

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