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Also of interest ... novels about altered states
<em>Out of My Skin</em> by John Haskell; <em>Lowboy</em> by John Wray; <em>The Housekeeper and the Professor</em> by Yoko Ogawa; <em>The Way Through the Doors</em> by Jesse Ball
 

Out of My Skin
by John Haskell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $14)
Working from a premise that “sounds like a gimmick,” John Haskell has created “one of the most distinctive American novels of recent years,” said Gregory Leon Miller in the San Francisco Chronicle. Haskell’s narrator, a newcomer to L.A., takes inspiration from a Steve Martin imitator and starts acting like Martin, too. When “the impersonation begins to take over,” Out of My Skin becomes “a richly suggestive, deeply funny, and elliptically philosophical exploration of identity.”

Lowboy
by John Wray (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25)
It seems a shame to give away even the outline of this “meticulously constructed” novel, said Charles Bock in The New York Times. One of the pleasures of reading it is discovering slowly that its 16-year-old narrator is a paranoid schizophrenic who’s off his meds by the time he enters the New York subway intent on saving the world. As his mother and a detective give chase, John Wray displays an impressive command of both suspense and tragedy.

The Housekeeper and the Professor
by Yoko Ogawa (Picador, $14)
Very little happens in this “strangely charming” Japanese best-seller, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. A brain-injured mathematician who can’t retain a new memory for more than 80 minutes repeats himself often as he conveys his enthusiasm for numbers to the woman who prepares his meals. But “you can’t help but be seduced” by the delight the housekeeper takes in learning, and the story is “flecked with” enough wisdom to keep us “engaged throughout.”

The Way Through the Doors
by Jesse Ball (Vintage, $14)
The author of Samedi the Deafness “appears dedicated to writing odd books,” said Laurel Maury in the Los Angeles Times. His latest novel is “a lovely, unpretentious little thing,” a tale about a young city inspector who begins spinning yarns for a comely girl who lost her memory in a taxi accident. The protagonist “tells stories nestled inside stories,” as if he were unpacking a Russian nesting doll. “Every strange line of prose feels, somehow, thoughtful and necessary.”

 

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