The Snows of Yesteryear

An ember among the cinders of a bygone empire, Gregor von Rezzori's The Snows of Yesteryear is a memoir that doesn't lack for the emotional and observational reticulations proper to a classic novel. In the telling of his story, the renowned author of Memoirs of an Anti-Semite leans less on the blunt scythe of chronology than on the "fine-webbed ramifications" suited to an impressionistic imagination. Born close to the outset of the First World War in Czernowitz, Bukovina (now Chernovtsy, Ukraine), a region that in his lifetime (1914-98) passed from the ownership of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Romania to the Soviet Union, Rezzori came to manhood in an unsettled household. He lived amid eccentric personalities like his mother, who forbade her children to sit on the ground lest "vapors emanating from the soil" induce "infant paralysis," and his wet-nurse, an illiterate woman who conversed in a hodgepodge of languages, whose linguistic idiosyncrasies sprouted "newly minted with every sentence." Like weathervanes of history, the erratic fortunes of his family mark the currents that blew throughout Europe during the first half of the 20th century. The life-giving kernel of this book is summed up in Rezzori's observation that "where unrest leads to grief and grief gives rise to lament, poetry blossoms."

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…

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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.