Wolves of the Crescent Moon

This 2003 novel from Saudi Arabia has already garnered comparisons to Gabriel Garc¡a M rquez and the school of magic realism but, delivered in a poetic translation by Anthony Calderbank, the effects produced by Al-Mohaimeed?s tale more closely resemble the shaggy metaphysical surrealism of Haruki Murakami. Cosmic coincidences insusceptible to logical parsing, along with life-or-death choices for the protagonists result in spiritual transformations. But here the supernatural events always prove to have mundane explanations. A woman hangs her laundered underwear out to dry beneath the gaze of the full moon, and thereafter immaculately conceives a daughter. Or so family and neighbors believe, not being privy to the photo of a handsome man she secretly weeps over. This modern reduction of the miraculous to the commonplace, abetted by the assaults of contemporary civilization against human nature, drives the novel as both thesis and complaint. Even the streets of the city declaim injustice: "?the quarter of al-Mazlum, an old name that means 'he who has been severely wronged.'" The sufferings of the three protagonists are exemplary: Turad, a Bedouin exiled to modern Riyadh, was once a daring desert bandit --but now must serve as coffee boy to jeering office workers. Tawfiq was stolen from his idyllic Sudanese village to become a eunuch and slave. And orphaned Nasir Abdullah, enjoys a brief mansion idyll before being kicked back to the streets. The lives and fates of these three intertwine in eerie synchronicity. Despite an attempt at uplift in the final chapter, Al-Mohaimeed?s novel paints a disturbing picture of a Middle Eastern society suffering from anomie and resentment: not the freshest news, but boldly delivered.

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…

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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.