Travel Pictures

Divided into four parts, Travel Pictures by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) is a proud, unruly book that was inspired by the poet's travels across Germany and Italy during the early part of the 19th century. Rather than sticking to the familiar travelogue form, Heine's book is an exercise in poetic fancy that reads like a collection of short stories. Curiously, Heine seems less invested in the lyrical evocation of the places that he visited -- as one might expect from a writer identified with German Romanticism -- than in treating the reader to a number of baser delights, such as pulling pranks, savaging one's enemies, and recounting a good ghost story. One display of Heine's earthiness is occasioned by the lack of a vacancy at an inn, obliging the author to share a room with a traveling salesman. Alas, the man from Frankfurt regales Heine -- a converted Jew -- with a carelessly anti-Semitic remark about Jewish merchants' abdication of noble values in favor of maximizing their profit margins. In response to this, Heine tells the man that he's a sleepwalker and apologizes, in advance, for any misfortune that may be visited upon him due to this condition. In the morning, Heine writes: "he poor fellow did not shut an eye all night, fearing that I might in my sleepwalking state do something regrettable with the pistols I kept lying in front of my bed." After reading this poet's biting account of his travels, one would imagine that most readers will presume that those pistols were loaded and primed for any eventuality.

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

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…

advertisement
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.