The Konkans

Surely, this is the age of fact disguised as fiction in Indian writing in English. When Arundhati Roy dedicated The God of Small Things to her mother, "who taught me to say 'excuse me' before interrupting her in public" -- a line repeated in the novel -- Roy let the reader know that her protagonists Rahel and Estha had more to share with herself and her brother than fiction often allows. In Tony D'Souza's The Konkans, the origins of narrator Francisco D'Sai pointedly mirror the mixed heritage of the author, the Chicago-raised son of an Indian father and American mother. Francisco's tale builds on the dual perspectives of his own father, Lawrence -- propelled by family industry and ambition first to a white-collar job in Bombay and eventually out of "the noise, the crowd, the filth" of India -- and his American mother, Denise, enraptured by her own view of India as exotic spectacle and spiritual destination. Their uneasy compromise of visions takes them back to an America Denise cannot see as home, and brings to join them Lawrence's two brothers, Sam and Lesley, with results that put Lawrence and Denise's bond into question. The resulting family saga plays out in a sprawling fashion, suggestive of the large history to be discovered within a small community. The Konkans of the title are a close-knit Catholic community in India, who, as a character in the book recounts, "had been waiting" for the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama "since the beginning of time" -- a mythic perspective containing a typical mixture of truth and semi-truth. While the Konkans indeed converted to Christianity, the process was brutal, and involved outlawing Hindu sacred texts, music, clothing, and foods. In The Konkans, D'Souza enmeshes the complexities of the historical with the urgency of the personal, to fashion a courageous story of identity and the timelessness of love. -

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

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.