Andrei Codrescu, poet, novelist, and NPR commentator, has just published a memoir, An Involuntary Genius in America’s Shoes (Black Sparrow Press). His fictionalized account of the last years of Giacomo Casanova, Casanova in Bohemia, will be published by Simon and Schuster.
Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais, translated by Burton Raffel (W.W. Norton, $15.96). Before the novel really came into being, when monsters and humans mixed rudely and with great appetite in a silly and perilous world, Rabelais gave us the raw human comedy and empowered us ever after to be big, shameless, and joyful.
The Legacy and The Testament by Francois Villon (Story Line Press). This great 15th-century poet, thief, alleged murderer, and sometime medical student invented the modern lyric.
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Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (Penguin Classics, $9.95). Sterne feared no digression, and never put the brakes on a felicitous aside—even if it took 50 pages to get back. Things were so much dandier before the novel became self-conscious and full of compositional rules!
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (Bantam Classic and Loveswept, $4.45). Twain had little patience for the rules of any genre. Here, he breaks them all by writing a superb fantasy, fiction, and love story full of plump and wicked moral points.
The Man Without Qualities, Vol. 1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails by Robert Musil (Vintage Books, $16). This unfinished novel by an early-20th-century Viennese writer contains all the dilemmas of the last century, embodied in a set of characters so hilariously tormented that I cried through the giggles.
Eugene Ionesco’s plays, poetry, and journals, including his famed The Rhinoceros (Grove Press, $10.40). This Romanian-born playwright plunges his satirical blade through our ideological pretensions and make us woefully naked. Recently, there was a fine new production of The Chairs on Broadway.
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