The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (Penguin, $15). Maurice Bendrix, novelist, gives us the "record of hate" that is his account of his adulterous affair with one Sarah Miles. Greene forces Bendrix to wrestle with the possibility of miracles, which makes Bendrix even angrier.
Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth (Vintage, $16). The affair that Mickey Sabbath, gifted puppeteer, has with an innkeeper's wife catapults him into a journey backward. The novel is a debauched sexual roller coaster that ends with Roth's best closing line — a line about turning away from death: "How could he go? Everything he hated was here."
Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan (Penguin, $15). Emily Maxwell, the least creative person on this list, is in her eighth decade and passes her days mostly alone at home in Pittsburgh. Perhaps there is some small betrayal in Emily's husband having died before her. A car dies too, and Emily takes up with a bright blue Subaru. Who knew a writer could give readers such joy by describing an old woman falling asleep on a winter afternoon?
The End of the Story by Lydia Davis (Picador, $16). Davis's novel about an affair between an older writer and a much younger man disorients and frightens us with the possibilities of what any of us might do when overcome by obsessive love. I am afraid to read it again, but my wife and I keep several copies around the house.
The Great Man by Kate Christensen (Anchor, $15). Painter Oscar Feldman's life is dismantled shortly after his death by two biographers and the women who endured him. Love among the elderly is revered here, and it is a subject that writers too often ignore. And Kate Christensen, one of our best living writers, makes the women who speak about Oscar wild and whole.
Gods' Man by Lynd Ward (Dover, $9). This 1929 graphic novel is about a painter celebrated by art dealers and rich people. He is then robbed, scorned, and banished, and ultimately he leaves the dirty city to find a happy life with a wife and child before death greets him with a smile. Ward's story in pictures is unabashedly sentimental, and completely brilliant.
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