Apologize, Apologize!

In the story of the hyper-flawed Flanagans, whimsy and melodrama come crashing together. What might be frothy in lesser hands becomes, in those of Elizabeth Kelly, remarkably rich. Collie, named for the dog breed, is born into a family as wealthy as it is nuts, in a sprawling house on Martha's Vineyard. Nine months later, another son arrives, a charming rapscallion beloved by all. Rather than parent, their "professionally Irish" dad elevates drinking into high art, while their mom attempts to illustrate why her own imperious father deserves to be hated, complete with charts. Practical, with a predilection for self-awareness, poor Collie earns his mother's scorn (she calls him "good little comptroller") and his grandfather's admiration. Then an accident recalibrates the dynamics, and suddenly Collie's no longer just the family's straight man.


Since nobody could be harder on this young man than he is on himself, his struggles have a relatable poignancy even as the plot tends toward the outrageous. Nevertheless, Kelly's sparkling writing in Apologize, Apologize! keeps it all going: a character has "red hair shining like his personal sunset," someone else looks like "an effete fugitive from Wallis Simpson's id." Attempting a life lesson, in a speech worthy of a Wes Anderson movie, Collie's dad remarks, "[S]ometimes this I-slash-me business just gets you down." Who could disagree? Like her filmic counterpart, Kelly recognizes that beneath feigned simplicity, burnished irony, or even operatic antics often resides a wellspring of true feeling. This charismatic debut taps into it, and leaves it behind.

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.