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Also of interest ...

in story and essay collections

Our Story Begins
by Tobias Wolff (Knopf, $27)
Here is a book that belongs on every reader’s shelf, said Marianne Wiggins in the Los Angeles Times. Tobias Wolff is a “genius” at writing short stories, and the 32 new and old works gathered in Our Story Begins demonstrate his utter mastery of voice, character, trajectory, and pacing. “There’s nothing artificial—artistic—about them. They happen, the way life happens.” Which means, of course, that they frequently surprise.

Unaccustomed Earth
by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf, $25)
There’s a “distinctly 20th-century” feel to Jhumpa Lahiri’s fiction about 21st-century immigrant families, said Lev Grossman in Time. The stories in the Pulitzer winner’s new collection unfold with “a stately slowness,” their prose “almost completely free of humor or cleverness.” But that’s the way Hemingway practiced the art, too—giving us page upon page of delicately constructed emotional tension before delivering “one sharp, perfectly aimed stab of achy sadness and hope.”

The Second Plane
by Martin Amis (Knopf, $24)
The British novelist Martin Amis suffers “a chronic inability to realize when he’s coming across as a narcissist,” said Adam Kirsch in The New York Sun. Reading his collected essays and stories about Islamic extremism, “one cannot help admiring his refusal to make compromises with fundamentalism.” But Amis sometimes seems to believe that the Western freedoms most in need of defending are a man’s freedom to enjoy sex and publish novels. Even when he’s right, “he’s right for the wrong reasons.”

I Was Told There’d Be Cake
by Sloane Crosley (Riverhead, $14)
You don’t have to be a 29-year-old New Yorker like Sloane Crosley to enjoy her humorous personal essays, said John Mark Eberhart in The Kansas City Star. Like the rest of us, she loses keys, curses in front of children, and makes people feel bad when she’s trying to make them feel good. She’s writing, in other words, about “a universal problem: screwing up,” and it’s always good to learn perspective from someone else’s foibles.

Maps and Legends
by Michael Chabon (McSweeney’s, $24)
“It’s hard to imagine” the intended audience for the first book of nonfiction from the author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, said Publishers Weekly. Whether discussing authors he admires or explaining how he came to write his own novels, he “casts himself as one of the few brave souls” willing to admit an appreciation of genre fiction. It’s a surprisingly “bitter” stance for a writer who’s won a Pulitzer.

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