• ON THE DESK

Odysseys

Reading Zachary Mason's forthcoming The Lost Books of the Odyssey, I've been in danger of missing my subway stop. The book is hard to characterize; it's a collection of short pieces -- some of them really short -- which reimagine and retell parts of the Iliad, or the Odyssey, or imaginary scenes and episodes in between the actions in those two epics. Funny, spooky, action-packed, philosophical -- the mood keeps shifting, and you keep wanting to read just one more. I wouldn't want to spoil any of its pleasures -- part of the niftiness of the book is figuring out, as you read, what aspect of the original is being turned on its head. But look out for the story in which one of the characters in the Odyssey is neatly transformed, by the end, into Homer himself. Read more...

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
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).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.