Loverboy by Victoria Redel (Harvest, $14). A mother loves her young son so much it almost kills her. Obsessed and gripped by the extraordinary devotion she feels for her child, the nameless mother goes to all lengths to insulate her “Loverboy” from the realities of the world. The prose in this 2001 novel is stunning and ethereal; it operates with a nervous system all its own.
Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson (Perennial, $12). Important prose. Every word in Johnson’s debut story collection should be crowned.
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Flying Leap by Judy Budnitz (Picador, $10). One of the most unusual and original American voices I’ve read. This 1998 collection knocked me flat. Budnitz sees so clearly into the far-fetched that the plausible dilemma must seem extraterrestrial to her.
First, Body by Melanie Rae Thon (out of print). Thon is a remarkable writer who swerves from the sheen and into the shadows. In this corporeal collection, body is the landscape, the one last suggestion of possession for people who have lost or are losing it all. The only decisions left are the bad ones; the only thing left to scar is the skin.
Driving the Heart by Jason Brown (W.W. Norton, $23). These stories feel newly harvested. Brown injects radiance and humor into stories about hopeless men stuck in grim situations, and the prose is astonishingly fresh.
DSM–IV–TR: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
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