My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro

The sparrow in the title of this anthology was one prong of an inconvenient love triangle described by the Latin poet Gaius Catullus in 84 B.C. The pet bird belonged to a girl who was loved by the poet and, unfortunately, her own husband. The sparrow takes the brunt of the lover's displaced jealousy, until it dies, taking his girl's happiness along with it. According to author Jeffrey Eugenides, all love stories since have followed the same template: "there is either a sparrow or the sparrow is dead." Frequently in these 26 stories, that sparrow takes the form of an inconvenient spouse, though it becomes apparent that the sparrow's presence is what makes the song so sweet. William Trevor provides a glimpse of the ordinary happiness that eludes a pair of lovers who take the unorthodox path of making a workaday love out of an illicit one, while Lorrie Moore gives a welcome take from the perspective of the mistress herself ("When you were six you thought mistress meant to put your shoes on the wrong feet. Now you are older and know it can mean many things but essentially it means to put your shoes on the wrong feet"). The selection is well packed with classics -- stories from Faulkner, Chekhov, Joyce, Nabokov, and Carver among them -- which speaks for Eugenides' comprehensive scope but may feel remedial to some. Contemporary tales by Deborah Eisenberg, Denis Johnson, Miranda July, and others pack more surprise. Though all the entries illuminate the amatory state, none are much of an advertisement for its wholesome pleasures. Warns Eugenides: "Read these love stories in the safety of your own twin bed. Let everyone else suffer." -

April 21: " 'Pull' includes 'invitations to tea' at which one hears smiling reminders that a better life is available to people who stop talking about massacres..."

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.