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Accomplished, fearless short stories that examine the exchange of energy between language and loss; inhabited mostly by young people whose heads are smarter than their hearts, and illuminated, sometimes, by barrages of emotional and rhetorical fireworks.

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By Jim Crace. Sixty-four brief fictions that require the reader to settle for not knowing exactly what is going on when tourists, for example, are tormented with snacks that induce ''chemical mirth. A ribald, earthy novel by a Cuban living in Cuba; the narrator, a former journalist who has fallen out with the Castro government, expertly evokes sensuous experience in his prose, and that experience is chiefly of poverty and sex, one of which helps him to survive the other.

By Philip Roth. The third Roth novel to star David Kepesh title character of ''The Breast'' back in brings an old man's perspective to the characteristic needy, argumentative voice of Roth's heroes without cracking the solipsism and self-regard. By John Banville. In Banville's 12th novel, an actor, a man already heartlessly detached from his wife and daughter, loses all sense of being himself and hides out at his childhood home, alone with himself, the reader and a highly communicative narcissism.

By Seamus Heaney. Heaney's new book of poems is a compendium of poetic genres set in an array of forms and tuned to many kinds of experience, the work of a mature poet and world citizen, aware of his cultural authority as a public man and of the rights and responsibilities that go with it.


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By Sandor Marai. First published in Budapest in , this elegant novel, set in a vast estate and the vanished splendor of Hapsburg empire, peaks in an amazing confrontation after 40 years between two of the parties in an adulterous turn-of-the-century triangle. By Richard Russo.

A humane sympathy for weakness does not rule out stern satiric judgment in this satisfying novel about several generations in a Maine mill town that sickens as the textile industry that sustained it perishes; Russo is brave enough to conceive a large ambition, but too smart to overreach. By Peter Orner. A first collection of short stories, many of them revolving around two Jewish families; history and geography invest characters with a real-life sense of passing time and changing place.

Cause and effect are little invoked; life is understood in sidelong glances. By Margot Livesey. A Scottish woman, born in , is accompanied all her life by a woman and a girl who are invisible to everyone else in this often sad and scary novel. Sometimes they help her out, sometimes they determine her life without regard to her own preferences. And they never explain themselves. By Benjamin Anastas. Not really a narrative at all, for starters; a seductive, virtually plot-free examination of American culture, and particularly of a family of conspicuous consumers who are conscious of their sin but unable to stop committing it.

By Joyce Carol Oates. Stories featuring themes like terror, female passion, male identity, loneliness, divorce, death and gun ownership, by an immensely productive author who wants us to be afraid of ourselves and shows us why. By Mario Vargas Llosa. A bloody end is never in doubt in this novel starring Gen.

Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic for 30 years; the suspense comes from wondering which of Vargas Llosa's nightmare characters will be the one to succeed him. By Jane Gardam. A subtle, clever coming-of-age and generational-conflict novel involving three girls in England and their families or the missing members of families ; set in , it makes excellent use of the dislocations and deprivations caused by World War II.

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By Bernhard Schlink. A first collection of fiction that features chiefly repressed, depressed men, emotionally buffered by success and propriety; the author, a German lawyer and judge, examines his characters with a powerful analytic intelligence as they awaken to see what they have lost by self-deception. By John Irving. The protagonist of this novel loses one hand to a circus lion, but on balance the encounter seems profitable, leading toward occupational sobriety and the love of a good woman who imposes her moral priorities on him.

By Salman Rushdie. In the first of Rushdie's novels to be set squarely in New York, a dapper Cambridge professor from India who is also a successful deviser of television puppets participates in replays of the creator-creature question and denounces a good many things that he sees in America. By David Anthony Durham. Fifteen years old and black in the post-Civil-War West, the hero of this keen first novel is as outside as an outsider can be; he has every qualification for the self-sufficiency that enables the classic confrontations of cowboy, Indian and nester.

By Kate Walbert. An elusive, eloquent first novel whose plot moves back and forth in America, Paris and Japan, as its narrator, a woman coming of age in the 's, construes the past in a way that obscures some uncomfortable facts but never involves her in emotional dishonesty.

By Helen Simpson. Unsentimental, stylistically playful, acutely observed British stories featuring two victim classes: women who sacrifice their lives for their children, and career women who rarely see the kids except on weekends. By Amitav Ghosh. A morally and psychologically complicated novel that examines the frequent deceptions and self-deceptions of India's Anglicized elite, a tribe deliberately created by Britain to think and act Britishly, still going strong after 50 years of independence.

By Irvine Welsh. Imbued with the quality of oral epic by the argot of the Edinburgh pubs and projects, this novel follows the growth to middle-aged dissolution of four boyhood friends whose only limitless prospect is for self-destruction. By Mark Jude Poirier. When the hero of this first novel, a year-old straight-A stoner from Tucson, goes east to a fancy prep school, he leaves behind not only his infantile New Age mother but also his surrogate father, a handyman who tends the flatulent bovid ruminants of the title. By Joseph Kanon. The deepest considerations of right and wrong pervade this novel about an American journalist searching for his prewar lover in the ruined and harrowingly described Berlin of , where everything is for sale and experience with rocket weapons commands a very high price.

By Allen Kurzweil.

A librarian whose life strategy depends on rules and compulsions acquires and then escapes a peculiar benefactor and his obsessions in this engaging, multilevel novel. By Paul LaFarge. By Kevin Canty. Nan A. Elliptical, impressionistic short stories, in a style at once tender and telegraphic, featuring characters who do the wrong things for the wrong reasons; for starters, in the first story Godzilla declares his love for Tokyo.

By Chuck Kinder. By Paul Theroux. By Wolfgang Hoeppen. Translated by Michael Hofmann. A masterpiece of German literature, first published in and now in English, about an honest politician attempting to rebuild postwar Germany. By Nick Hornby. A surprisingly sentimental novel in which a British physician's snarling husband falls under the influence of a faith healer and embarks on the venture of transformation to goodness, perhaps excessive goodness. By Julia Leigh. A moody first novel that follows an obsessed Australian hunter in his effort, undertaken on a mission for a biotech company, to find and kill a Tasmanian tiger, a beast as fierce as the hunter himself but believed extinct since By Claire Messud.

The first, titled ''A Simple Tale,'' intensely and compassionately written, illuminates the deadly bleak life of an old woman whose luck failed her repeatedly; the second concerns a tenant in a London flat who fears his neighbor may be a mass killer. By Mary Ladd Gavell. The inevitable losses between mothers and children are at the heart of these subtle, polished stories, whose author died at 47 in , when ladies still approached their goals by indirect means.

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A collection of wise, painful stories about the Cuba in Miami and the Miami in Cuba, after 40 years of what is neither migration nor exile but a condition of joint obsession for those who never left and for those who did. By Robert Cohen. An elegant, witty novel whose protagonist is a struggling year-old single mother and adjunct professor whose gravest need is just a little sleep; she gets it, eventually, through involvement with a not particularly scrupulous experimental sleep laboratory.

By Kathleen Cambor. A sober, indeed stoical, novel, incorporating class conflict and observing the personal and emotional reticence of the 19th century, set in Johnstown, Pa.

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By Sarah Boxer. A smart, droll, original series of interconnected cartoons in which a Mr. Bunnyman is psychoanalyzed by Dr. Floyd in a universe that drifts, dreamlike and inexorable, in parallel with the real history of Freud and his cases; by a reporter for The Times. By Alistair MacLeod. The small but highly concentrated output of 33 years' work, all of it dealing with life in Nova Scotia, where generations of hardship and authenticity, once stubbornly borne, are on the cusp of yielding to prosperity, education and cultural impoverishment.

By Olaf Olafsson. This novel's heroine, a tough woman who has been running a hotel in England for 20 years, returns to her native Iceland, keeping a diary in which a lifetime's grave issues burble up; the author, vice chairman of Time Warner Digital Media, wrote the book in Icelandic, then Englished it himself. By David Schickler. Eleven linked stories that seem to come from an ancient world of happy endings; die-hard romantic strivers seek redemption from their ordinary problems in the dark whirl of a mythical city, some of them in the Preemption, a gargoyle-encrusted apartment house dominating the Hudson at 82nd.

By Louise Erdrich. A beguiling novel that takes place in Ojibwa country in North Dakota and centers on the innocence of Father Damien Modeste, a wilderness priest who lives for a century and is really a woman. By James Hynes. A full-blown academico-Gothic farce, in which a self-effacing white male who loves books acquires the mysterious power to make people do whatever he wants; this faculty he employs against a Midwestern English department full of theorists and freaks. By Barry Lopez. A distinctive and often lovely sampling of Lopez's recent short fiction, characterized by his belief that rewards come to the respectful explorer.

By Dana Spiotta. A first novel, placed in a film-settish Los Angeles, by a satirist whose central character is a defiant walker in Four-Wheel City; she prefers in-between places and is more likely to be en route to somewhere than to arrive to meet her husband or lovers. By Henry Bromell. A novel that examines American involvement in the Middle East in through a C. By Susan Isaacs. The Long Island housewife-sleuth Judith Singer, now a widow and a professor, does the work of a whole homicide squad when a fellow dweller in Singer's trenchantly observed suburbs is made dead.

By Julian Barnes. Barnes's ninth novel continues the adventures of ''Talking It Over'' , exhibiting the further ups and downs of two nearly young men and the woman they both love; like other Barnes folk, they have the habit of addressing the reader, sharing secrets other characters don't know. By Amy Wilentz.