As the next step in a remarkable career turn, Jhumpa Lahiri, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of several works of fiction in English, follows her Italian-language In Other Words by editing The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories (Penguin, $30). Discovering that many writers who inspired her were out of print or poorly translated, she assembled a collection of forty stories that represent the “robust tradition” of Italian writing from the twentieth century. Aiming “to present a portrait of Italy that reflects its reality,” she chose poets, journalists, musicians, critics, teachers, visual artists, scientists, politicians, and diplomats—then organized their works in reverse alphabetical order by their last name. Many of these names—Tomasi di Lampedusa, Italo Calvino, Primo Levi, and Natalia Ginzburg—will be familiar to English speakers, while others—Elio Vittorini, Ennio Flaiano, and Anna Banti—will be wonderful discoveries, as will be the sixteen stories here translated into English for the first time. Added bonuses include Lahiri’s illuminating introduction, brief profiles of each contributor, a dual chronology of Italy’s historical and literary events from 1840 to 2009, and suggestions for further reading.
David Bowie: The Oral History (Three Rivers $18) is a portrait of an artist as told in nearly two hundred interviews. Collected by GQ editor-in-chief Dylan Jones and presented chronologically, these stories and testimonials from Bowie’s family, friends, neighbors, lovers, fellow musicians, producers, and fans form a vivid oral biography of the late star. While Bowie himself says only "I just did too much...” during his heyday, the accounts by John Lennon, Mick Jagger, and Freddie Mercury give insight into a man who was, above all, a performance artist who adapted to his surroundings. Onstage, Bowie was the self-described “chameleon" you grew up listening to as you morphed from a teenager to whatever you considered to be adulthood. Here we get a glimpse of Bowie’s mod suburban London beginnings, his first hit song with "Space Oddity," and on to the dynamic glam rock of his Ziggy Stardust persona, the Berlin years collaborating with Brian Eno, and his acting career. This book takes us behind the scenes and gives us the very vivid and real portrait of Bowie’s life story.
"Most of the great battles are fought in the creases of topographical maps." With the opening line of his bestselling Warlight (Knopf, $26.95), Michael Ondaatje prepares the reader to look for what is hidden in the creases. Ondaatje sets the scene in 1945 London. The Second World War has just ended and fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his sixteen-year-old-sister Rachel are at boarding school. While under the care of their parents' mysterious colleague, who the children have nicknamed "the Moth," the two create a secret world of elaborate spy missions, tracing their adventures on a map. Nathaniel uses these mapped narratives, told from the child's perspective, to explain his parents’ otherwise unaccountable absence as well as to make sense of the Moth’s shadowy business dealings. As the narrator grows from child to adult, Ondaatje skillfully pieces together the family’s secrets and revelations with the deeper realities of wartime activities—all of which lead to a devastating truth.