My Education

Susan Choi's fourth novel, My Education, could be lumped into the ever-growing pile of coming-of-age-via-shattered-innocence  tales -- like Lynn Barber's memoir of a very similar title, An Education. But Choi turns the cliché on its head by having her protagonist, Regina, an English doctoral student, fall in love not with her older male professor but instead with his mysterious and pregnant wife. Seeing Martha for the first time, Regina feels the impact of her attention. "Without pausing she threw a look at Brodeur that seemed to drop on him like a grenade...she was impressive in that way that preempts every other impression." And her depiction of the ensuing affair is suitably steamy: "We lay hours on end raptly stroking the other's smooth face...we endured our orgasms like shipwreck survivors with hoarse shrieks of actual fear."

This is not Choi's first time at the rodeo. Her second novel, American Woman, was a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize. But her flowery language occasionally goes overboard, as in this mouthful of SAT vocabulary: "My classmates constituted a cabal of highly specialized persons, and once the spell was broken they piped up in an elaborate argot." Subplots and minor characters are introduced too late or neglected for too long to make much sense of the novel's ending. But all that said, My Education is more than just a juicy summer read. Choi's accomplishment is her ability to capture the feeling of falling in love. When Martha comes to visit Regina's new apartment, Regina marvels, "How had she done it? She had bound the room deftly all was snug." My Education shows us just how ignorant we are at that first bloom, and how little skill most of us have at discerning the difference between lasting love and utter infatuation.


April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.