Our book suggestions for May 8, 1992 -- We pick the new must read paperback picks

Brief Lives

Our book suggestions for May 8, 1992

Jazz Singing: American’s Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Be-Bop and Beyond Will Friedwald It’s not often that a critic manages to redefine a field, but that’s just what Friedwald accomplishes with this survey of vocalists from Bessie Smith to Bobby McFerrin. Friedwald’s capacious definition of jazz singing includes any kind of pop vocalizing that swings. There is no better guide to the art form. A-

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept Elizabeth Smart Smart’s novel of an extramarital imbroglio swells with passions so volcanic you keep hoping for a good soaking rain. But the prose is interesting even when it veers toward deepest purple. B

A Home At the End of the World Michael Cunningham The voices of the alternating narrators that Cunningham uses to tell his story are sometimes too literary, but it doesn’t matter. This is an astonishing novel, the story of three refugees from broken homes and modern life who briefly find a kind of comfort together. When the time comes to remember how the AIDS losses piled up in America’s hearts and changed a nation, when someday someone wants to know how it really felt, they can open this book. A+

The M.D.: A Horror Story Thomas M. Disch Billy Michaels is just 6 when he finds a caduceus, the winged and serpent-twined ancient symbol of the medical profession. Whether supernaturally fortified or psychically charged, the caduceus works; it’s a magic wand with the energy to charm or to curse. As Billy’s boyhood pranks with it turn into adolescent maliciousness and then to adult evil, The M.D. brilliantly earns its subtitle. A

Who Do You Love Valerie Sayers Following a long line of Southern novelists, Sayers tries a little too hard to turn her own Dixie postage stamp into a cosmos. Like her previous novels, Who Do You Love is set in Due East, S.C. It centers on three members of an Irish Catholic family, each of whom undergoes a personal crisis in a portentous time: November 1963. B

Brief Lives Anita Brookner Would the year really be unbearable if Anita Brookner didn’t produce another sharp, slender, and , accomplished novel? Can anyone tell one from another at this point? Brief Lives strikes the usual notes — the shy, nebbishy spinster, the beautiful charmer. One sings; the other doesn’t — and guess who gets the guy? B

If You Really Loved Me Ann Rule Another true-crime saga from the queen of the genre (Small Sacrifices). This tale of a father suspected of training his daughter to kill has plot curves that just keep on coming. You may wince, but you won’t stop reading. B

The Kneeling Bus Beverly Coyle A series of connected stories in the form of a childhood memoir make up this delicate, perceptive, and often funny first novel. The heroine is the younger daughter of a Methodist minister in Florida during the ’50s. Family life, the embarrassments of her father’s calling, love, death, and growing up are all described with an intelligent eye and an admirable attention to detail. A-

Brief Lives
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