The Mighty Angel

Wit is the life raft on the boozy waters that brace Jerzy Pilch's The Mighty Angel. The winner of Poland's 2001 NIKE Literary Award, this remorselessly enjoyable novel concerns the goings-on of "Jerzy," a writer who has teetered in and out of rehab 18 times and always has a snug expression ready to sling. At the inpatient facility, this ingratiates him to his peers, who pay him to write their emotional journals -- a compulsory requirement for all aspiring teetotalers. While ghostwriting one such entry, Jerzy poses a series of questions that bask in the novel's ruminative superstructure: "How can the depths of the drunken soul be reconciled with the shallows of the drunken body? How can the loftiest flights of the soul ever be equated with a fearful barfing? What is the connection between the boldness and panache of the evening and the fear and trembling of the morning?" From the opening paragraph -- in which the protagonist awakens to discover a couple of Mafiosi in his room who have taken it upon themselves to act as literary agents for a female poet -- to the closing paragraphs that flick away the tragic arc that's usually prefabricated for books in the end-of-the-bottle genre, Pilch teases out plenty of LOL moments from desultory situations. All told, The Mighty Angel furnishes enough Schadenfreude to stylishly blacken just about any comedic sensibility.

July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).