“Key of Life”
A Comedy about Mistaken-Identity
Sakurai is a struggling actor thinking about suicide due to the mediocrity of his life. Kondo is an elite hit-man who leads a luxurious life but he is set aside from society due to the nature of his job. Kondo finds himself in the hospital with no memory after an accident at a bathhouse. Because of a mistake, locker keys were messed up and the documents and personal property in the lockers. This gives Sakurai a change to escape his dull life that depressed him so much. Because both men are anonymous, they now have the perfect cover and each can begin where the other left off. Kondo is released from the hospital and tries to understand what is going on especially when he goes home and Sakurai settles into a life of organized crime. Two conflicting personalities struggle to become part of lives which have nothing to do with the way they lived before the mix-up.
As if that is not enough to keep us going, the director gives us a satirical look at modern Japan and romance. Kanae, a female magazine editor with a controlling personality enters the plot. She wants a husband; Sakurai wants financial success and Kondo wants compassion. Eventually the mixed-up identities are discovered. Kondo helps Sakurai get out of his situation and it is a lot of fun. I could not help myself from laughing at Sakurai trying to get out of his mess, Kondo’s bewilderment and Kanae’s going through candidates for marriage.
Writer-director Kenji Uchida gives us an entirely fresh take on the time-worn themes of identity swapping and amnesia. The screenplay is literate and surprises us all the way through.
Kanae (Ryoko Hirosue), an anally retentive publishing house editor, announces to her team that she’s planning to get married, before revealing unabashedly that she doesn’t have a groom in mind. She gives herself two months to find the right guy – the wedding day already marked in her diary. At the same time, Kondo (Teruyuki Kagawa), goes about his brutal work and Sakurai (Masato Sakei), has just failed to successfully hang himself in his apartment. Uchida gives the themes of acting and assumed identity a work out and the fun begins when we see that no one is who he is supposed to be.
The Best of 2013 in LGBT Film on DVD—A Personal List
It is that time of year again and so here is my personal list of favorites. It has been a big year for film with almost 150 new films—This is my persona list and in no specific order. Reviews for all of these titles can be found elsewhere on my site.
The Best of 2013 in LGBT Literature—A Personal List
It is that time of year again and so here is my personal list of favorites. I found my biggest surprise to be three volumes of poetry (which I group together as one number) and two collections of short stories. The list is in no special order and reviews for all of these titles can be found elsewhere on my site.
Spinelli, Frank. “Pee-Shy: A Memoir”, Kensington, 2013.
I was very surprised that I had never heard of Frank Spinelli when I read this but that is now the past. Now I know about him and I will not be the only person that will discover Spinelli, the man and his contributions to the way we live today. I see that he is a man of courage and that was what led him to transform his life after having gone though a childhood filled with trauma.
Spinelli grew up during a tumultuous time in American history—the 70s. He came from an Italian/Catholic family in which priests and cops were almost regarded as gods. His mother worried about him and she knew that he was different and was being bullied at school. She signed him up for the Boy Scouts when he was eleven and she had the hope that this would make a man out of him. Instead, for the next two years, Spinelli lived two different lives—one for his family and the other was a secret life that he shared with his scout leader but that he could not talk about to anyone else. Soon afterwards, Bill Fox, a policeman and his scoutmaster abused him both sexually and mentally over a two year period. He told his family but they did nothing and Spinelli blamed himself for everything and closed himself off from the world.
He was a chubby and awkward kid who lived n the shadow of his molestation. He relates his story to us with brutal honesty. It took a while but now he does the opposite of what most others do after suffering molestation—he tells us about it and I am sure that he dealt with it in this manner was what allowed him to overcome it. Many of us do not know what is to lose one’s innocence via molestation and how that can scar a life. What is even more interesting is how he is able to inject wit into his story. Personally, I cannot imagine what it is like to live with a secret like that. Even now, some thirty years later, the scars remain. Perhaps the most shocking of all is that Fox was allowed to adopt fifteen boys over time and was even named “Father of the Year”.
It was when Spinelli learned this that he found the strength and the character to deal with the thirty years of blaming himself and of being confused. He had been holding his feelings within himself.
Never having had to deal with the kind of past that Spinelli went through, I found it difficult at first to imagine his private hell. The trauma that was the result of his molestation carried through well into adulthood and actually interfered with his ability to urinate. I do not think that this book me for a long time. However, I am glad to say that Spinelli has been able to overcome and he also shares his story as an adult. He is in a healthy relationship even though he still has the scars of youth. It is where those scars come from that is interesting and heartbreaking. When I think that they are the result of his parents pushing him to become “normal”, I have to stop to think. With all of the news about the Boy Scouts banning gays, we see that pedophiles do not share that fate. Scouting, they say, develops the all-American boy whereas in this case it did just the opposite. I really love that Spinelli was determined to find his abuser and that he learned that he had become father to fifteen and was allowed to continue within the scouting movement.
Today his world is quite different—he is a successful doctor (an internist), an author and a television host. He has emerged from a youth that was full of sexual abuse and denial to become a successful person in whatever he does. His past overshadowed his life until he found a way to rid himself of thirty years of self-blame and confusion, not just for himself but also for others who experienced what he had.
I understand that Spinelli decided to write this book after he learned that his molester, William Fox, had adopted a son and wrote a book about it and then received the title of “Father of the Year” and appeared on The Today Show where there were words about making his book into a movie. Spinelli knew he had to write a book when he discovered that Fox had adopted a total of 15 boys over the past 30 years. Writing his story took three years for Spinelli; it was certainly difficult for him to deal with some of it and relive those terrible experiences. But he knew that if he did not write with honesty, there would be no point in writing at all. The question that I think most will ask is why it took him so long to come forward with the information. He told his parents what was going on but they chose to remain silent about it. He tells us that the reason that child molestation is so horrible is because “it creates a desire in the child to want to please their molester. It’s about the psychological manipulation of a child’s mind to accept an adult relationship that’s been sexualized when they have no capacity to understand that type of relationship because they are a child”. The attention feels good even though the child knows it is wrong and they blame themselves. It can take years for a child to understand it wasn’t his fault and that is why many come out against their attackers as adults. However, there is the problem of the statute of limitations.
It was not until 2008 that Spinelli contacted the police and he even contacted Fox. The title “Pee-Shy” comes from the fact that Spinelli suffered with parauresis which affects men and women, especially those who are victims of child molestation. They feel ashamed and frustrated using a public restroom. Once he learned to accept this as a part of who he was, he had to deal with it and it became less of an issue. Now I can use a urinal. Not always, but most times.
Spinelli deals with what he says is the misconception that men who molest boys are gay and states that they are not gay. They’re child molesters. “Just because someone sexually desires a child of the same gender does not make them homosexual. Studies show that most adult men who molest boys do not report sexual interest in adult men. Many child molesters don’t really have an adult sexual orientation. They have never developed the capacity for mature sexual relationships with other adults, either male or female. That’s why the Boy Scout ban on homosexuals is ridiculous”.
Another interesting aspect here is that Spinelli hated his family for a very long time because of their turning away but after therapy and learning to accept himself and that the molestation was not his fault, he was able to reconcile with them and now their relationship is wonderful. Today his abuser is in prison and life is good for Spinelli. We all owe him so much for sharing his story with us.
Barbara hates that her mother is addicted to ten prescription pills, Johnna Monevata (Misty Upham), the Native American housekeeper-cook is furious that Steve is messing with an underage female, Charles and Mattie hurl barbs and accusations against each other, and plates are thrown around the room. Everyone shouts but none of this means anything without Violet whose drug usage affects her more than her cancer and she starts in on Barbara, her eldest who she regards as an ingrate.
Director John Wells gets wonderful performances and one of the characters says, “Thank God we can’t tell the future. We’d never get out of bed”, we sense that we are in for a “long day’s journey into night” and a view of a truly dysfunctional family. The cast is uniformly excellent as they bitch and yell at each other and make Elizabeth Taylor’s Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” seem like a virgin.
The Weston family has been estranged for years. They have all moved away from Oklahoma’s Osage County but they have taken their feelings for each other with them. We first meet Violet as se harasses her poet husband while he introduces her to the new family maid, a Native American. But then Beverly disappears and the family comes together bringing their secrets and personal problems with them.
Barbara is trying to hide her separation from husband Bill, while their daughter flirts with rebelliousness. Barbara’s younger sister Ivy who stayed close to home is now resentful for it; Karen arrives from Florida with a sketchy new fiancé with wandering eyes. And this is just the beginning as the family is all under one roof in sweltering Oklahoma summer heat (the gauge reads 108 degrees) and allowed to stew in their own juices. Then there are Violet’s boisterous sister Mattie Fae and her quarreling with even-keeled husband Charles over their awkward son “Little” Charles (Cumberbatch) and there’s barely a moment when something venomous isn’t spewing out of someone’s mouth.
Streep is mesmerizing as Violet. She is the perfect mix of dramatic, controlling, and crazy and obviously a woman who has been through a lot. She has become extremely bitter over the years, and has decided to overuse prescription drugs as a way to alleviate the pain. There are several moments in this film where Violet calls out several of her family members mainly at the dinner table that showcases just how amazing Streep is as a leading lady. Out of all the actors and actresses on-screen, Streep gets the most screen time out of everyone involved and I don’t think a single second of it goes unused. Julia Roberts who in my opinion has been overrated as an actress finally comes into her own. She is the film’s standout performance because of how much emotion her character displays interacting with Violet as well as her other family members.
I do not think that this is the kind of movie that will attract everyone and that is because the dialogue is very heavy but for those who do see it, it has a great deal to say about what acting is all about.
A Parallel Universe
Andrew James (Phillip Gay) is an older man who is both wise and enigmatic. He has the ability to travel between parallel universes and using the energy of serial killers to stay among the living. On one of his adventures, he saves the life of Mark Roberts (Marc Maynon), an unsuspecting 19 year old. However as he did this, he drew Marc into his world. From that sentence alone, you can understand how difficult is to write a review of the film without giving something away.
I suppose you already understand that this is a supernatural drama but it goes steps further than that by dealing with the important ideas of morality, humanity and fear. It looks at how one can justify “living a selfish life out of fear and self-preservation” and that is contrasted with free will that is used to do what is right even when we are not sure.
Andrew has been fueling his life off of the energy of serial killers since he was 17 and he is now 155 years old. Now he and Andrew have to learn if they continue to live this way as self-centered people or whether their lives will change and be devoted to something greater than themselves.
This is not a film that you are likely to forget just as it is not a film to come out of the Hollywood movie machine. It is quite boldly complex as it challenges the viewer and beckons him to enter into plot. There are very few movies that capture the viewer the way this does. I have always felt that any of the arts that challenge us are what we should strive for.
Edgar Michael Brown both wrote and directed “Monster Killers” and he makes sure that his characters are important to the viewers and even though this is a supernatural thriller, the special effects are not nearly as important as the characters and what they say. Just as Andrew and Mark enter a new world of a parallel universe, so do we.
The main focus of the film is one the two main characters. I found the supporting cast to be excellent as well. What I really like here is the way film is layered and how this allows it to be understood in many different ways. Uncertainty is one of the acts of lives and dealing with is based upon how we live. Our lives are real and existential and this is what we see here.
Remembering the Rosenbergs
Fifty years after the execution of the Rosenbergs, Julius and Ethel, Ivy Meeropol, their granddaughter, looks at their lives, their death and their principles. Many Americans considered them to be traitors while others think of them as heroes.
Before sentencing the Rosenbergs to death in the electric chair, Judge Irving Kaufman said, “I consider your crime worse than murder…I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000, and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country…Indeed, the defendants Julius and Ethel Rosenberg placed their devotion to their cause above their own personal safety and were conscious that they were sacrificing their own children, should their misdeeds be detected—all of which did not deter them from pursuing their course. Love for their cause dominated their lives—it was even greater than their love for their children”.
It was on June 19th, 1953 that the Rosenbergs died in the electric chair after they were convicted of treason against the United States. They had been accused of giving the secrets of the Atomic Bomb to the Soviet Union. Today not only do the Rosenbergs no longer exist but neither does the Soviet Union. The Rosenbergs left behind two sons, Michael was then ten and Robert who was six. The boys were eventually adopted by strangers because no one in the Rosenberg family wanted them. Ivy Meeropol who is the eldest grandchild of the Rosenbergs sets out to find out the truth about who her grandparents really were and to learn more about their trial and execution.
Since the filmmaker is related to the Rosenbergs, we cannot say that this is an objective film. However, I believe that Meeropol tries very hard to be objective. The director does not waste any time trying to prove that her grandparents were innocent. She gives us a look at the victims of the Rosenberg trial—those who became the heirs to the execution. We do not look at innocence or guilt especially now since documents that were once classified have been released. The Venona papers, for example, confirm that Julius Rosenberg was a spy for the Soviet Union. Aleksander Feklisov, former colonel of the KGB has admitted that he recruited Julius in 1943. In the memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev, he credits the Rosenbergs for their help in speeding up production of the atom bomb.
Meeropol is only after the truth and as unprofessional on screen, we sense her honesty and the fact that she had to deal with her own emotions. She faces the evidence that her grandparents were guilt of something that was linked to espionage. She tries to reconcile that with a picture of the Rosenbergs that comes out of her interviews with Rosenberg friends and family.
There is a powerful moment when Meeropol meets with Darren Roberts and says,” This is the first relative I’ve met on the Rosenberg side.” He is the grandson of Julius’s brother David (who changed his name to Roberts in order to avoid the infamy then attached to the family name); Darren learns for the first time that his grandfather was among those family members who refused to take in Michael and David. He breaks down into a tearful apology at one point. Ivy tells him there is no need, but Darren is adamant: “Who else is left to apologize?” he says.
It seems to me that Ivy Meeropol is trying to find the human story between her grandparent’s trial while, at the same time, connecting with Julius and Ethel. We see the ambiguity of the trial when we meet Julius’s former boss who is now 103. He weeps as he describes what the Rosenbergs went through; especially their going to their own execution instead of signing documents that implicate others in Communist activities. What I saw here was this: if they were simply highly principled people, then of course they wouldn’t sign false documents. But if they were really spies, then of course they would not rat out their fellow agents. And even if their sacrifice was made for the most noble reasons imaginable, it does not change the fact that they were willing to die to save 25 suspected Communists but were not willing to live to save their own children. “They gave their lives,” Steingart weeps and Meeropol responds with “But they left two children.” Robert’s son Greg tells us of the difficulty of the situation: “Why didn’t he say ‘it was me and not my wife’?” Why, indeed. This question is never satisfactorily answered in the film, leaving us to draw some not-too-flattering conclusions.
I think we can all understand that Meeropol wanted to show her grandparents as loving people but what I want to know is why the Rosenberg chose being martyred over love of family. Neither had to die and we know that several deals were offered to them. If they had admitted the truth, they would have been saved. Meeropol remarks that she and the others, because of the grandparents, are able to live a life in which they are proud. I just cannot grasp why allegiance to a dictator like Stalin is more important that raising children. While the Rosenbergs are regarded as the first victims of American fascism negates the idea that the Rosenbergs were good people. Meeropol says that they were idealists who had good intentions and who really believed that the Communist way was the better way. It is been even harder to believe that the Rosenbergs who were intelligent people could serve a cause that was responsible for the enslavement of the people of Eastern Europe.
The way I see it is that there are two possible conclusions to be drawn from the film. One is that the Rosenbergs were nice people yet willingly and knowingly supports the policies of the U.S.S.R which terror, murder and slavery to Eastern Europe. The other is that she paid no mind to what was going on in the Soviet Union and by doing this they could remain idealists. I keep thinking about the two children they left behind which they did not have to do. I see no heroism here.
We will probably never know the truth about their guilt or that innocence and I am sure this weighs heavily on the family. Here Meeropol tries to understand the complex issues about her grandparents and she certainly succeeds in letting us see the humanity of those involved.
There are several extras on the DVD—an interview with Tony Kushner who used the idea of Ethel Rosenberg in his prize-winning drama, “Angels in America”. There is also an interview with Arthur Kinoy, a lawyer who tried to get a stay of execution for the Rosenbergs; there is also an interview with Bill Ruben, who was the first to claim the Rosenberg’s innocence. There is also deleted footage that presents an even more rounded perspective from some of the featured interviewees, who talk at length about their perspectives on the Rosenbergs and the difficult circumstances surrounding their trial and execution, the meaning of Communism, the Rosenbergs’ perjury, the possibility of the evidence that has since surfaced supporting the Rosenbergs’ guilt, and other engaging subjects.
There is a lot of background information here so that those who do not know of the Rosenberg case will be able to follow the film. I love that we see an innocent approach to the subject and the interviews give us a lot to think about.
Lambda Literary Foundation.“25 for 25”, 2013.
I have not seen this new anthology but I want everyone to be aware of it.
“The Lambda Literary Foundation’s 25th Anniversary collection E-Book is now on sale and makes a great holiday gift!
25 for 25 is an anthology of works by some of our community’s leading authors, including Dorothy Allison, Ellen Bass, Alison Bechdel, Ivan E Coyote, Jewelle Gomez, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Alex Sanchez, Sarah Schulman, David Trinidad, Edmund White and many others, with original introductions by emerging writers they’ve influenced, many of whom the Lambda Literary Foundation has had the opportunity to support and nurture during one or more of our annual Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Voices Retreats.
Coedited by Lambda Fellow, Ames Hawkins, and former LLF Board President, Judith Markowitz, 25 for 25 marks the first-ever e-publication by the Foundation. The anthology is available for Kindle, iPad and other e-readers”.
“MEMORY OF THE DEAD”
Here is a film that makes no sense whatsoever yet is fun and interesting to watch. Seven weeks to the day after the death of her husband, a grieving widow brings a group of friends and family together to honor his memory. This gathering, however, becomes something else altogether. This is one of those films that has the viewer scratching his head and thinking,“WTF”! I read that was homage to the Giallo films of Italy and the Luis Bunuel films of Spain. Giallo films are noted as full of blood and crime and these were popular in Italy in the 70s. Bunuel films are built on a single ridiculous premise which is turned into masterpieces. In other words this film combines gore and suspense with surrealism. The ambition is but it did not work.
When the film begins we see Alicia (Lola Berthet) and Jorge (Gabriel Goity) walking down a garden path which leads them to their country home. Then one night Alicia wakens from a terrible dream and finds Jorge lying in bed bleeding from his face and next to her even though in the dream he killed himself. He dies but he leaves instructions for Alicia and these include his last wish. Jorge had been having premonitions about his death but she did not take them seriously. In the note, Jorge told Alicia to get the people who he loved together and spend an evening speaking about him. The evening begins with a reading of the letter during which Alicia tells each person what they meant to her husband. The evening quickly changes from memory to horror. Strange things happen outside the house and the characters and the audience then realize that it is going to be a long and strange night.
Here is where we get the idea that the movie is based on Bunuel. It is both character and dialogue driven but we really do not get to know the characters. In the letter we hear of intimate relationships between Jorge and the characters present. Some cry, some are angered and we wonder who these people are. I do not think we would care who they are even if we knew. Director Valentin Javier Diment combines comedy and gore.
The letter also has a little fact that I did not mention. It says that Jorge plans to return from the dead via a ritual in which everyone in the home will be visited by ghosts from their past. Told they will be safe as long as they remain inside the house the group abides by Jorge and Alicia’s wishes hoping to see their friend again. What they cannot know is they are about to be sacrificed as part of an arcane magic ceremony designed to betray each of them.
The film starts out on a surprisingly effective and serious note. By the time Jorge has passed away and everyone has come to his house to hear the reading of the letter the characters have been introduced, relationships established and considerable empathy generated for all concerned. But then one of the guests sees the ghost of a long dead relative outside and rushes to meet him and the seriousness of the film is forgotten and we watch a parade of special effects. The screenplay, which keeps the characters confronted with a variety of personal sins and anxieties, gives a solid framework to an equally solid cast in making important moments seem heartfelt. If anything the humor makes some of the films darker observations easier to digest. The film ends on a hard twist that it absolutely earns but by then has lost a little of the dramatic power it gained from its setup making the highly energetic project seem a bit of a cinematic curiosity rather than full fledged minor gem.
Despite numerous parts that feel as if they were borrowed from earlier horror films, Diment still manages to give us a unique story wedged into the mayhem, and the flick is energetic and unpredictable.
100 Notable Books of 2013
Published: November 27, 2013
The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.
FICTION & POETRY
THE ACCURSED. By Joyce Carol Oates. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $27.99.) Oates’s extravagantly horrifying, funny and prolix postmodern Gothic novel purports to be the definitive account of a curse that infected bucolic Princeton, N.J., in 1905 and 1906.
ALL THAT IS. By James Salter. (Knopf, $26.95.) Salter’s first novel in more than 30 years, which follows the loves and losses of a World War II veteran, is an ambitious departure from his previous work and, at a stroke, demolishes any talk of twilight.
AMERICANAH. By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (Knopf, $26.95.) This witheringly trenchant novel scrutinizes blackness in America, Nigeria and Britain.
BLEEDING EDGE. By Thomas Pynchon. (Penguin Press, $28.95.) Airliners crash not only into the twin towers but into a shaggy-dog tale involving a fraud investigator and a white-collar outlaw in this vital, audacious novel.
CHILDREN ARE DIAMONDS: An African Apocalypse. By Edward Hoagland. (Arcade, $23.95.) The adventure-seeking protagonist of Hoagland’s novel is swept up in the chaos of southern Sudan.
THE CIRCLE. By Dave Eggers. (Knopf/McSweeney’s, $27.95.) In a disturbing not-too-distant future, human existence flows through the portal of a company that gives Eggers’s novel its title.
CLAIRE OF THE SEA LIGHT. By Edwidge Danticat. (Knopf, $25.95.) Danticat’s novel is less about a Haitian girl who disappears on her birthday than about the heart of a magical seaside village.
THE COLOR MASTER: Stories. By Aimee Bender. (Doubleday, $25.95.) Physical objects help Bender’s characters grasp an overwhelming world.
A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA. By Anthony Marra. (Hogarth, $26.) Odds against survival are high for the characters of Marra’s extraordinary first novel, set in war-torn Chechnya.
THE DINNER. By Herman Koch. Translated by Sam Garrett. (Hogarth, $24.) In this clever, dark Dutch novel, two couples dine out under the cloud of a terrible crime committed by their teenage sons.
DIRTY LOVE. By Andre Dubus III. (Norton, $25.95.) Four linked stories expose their characters’ bottomless needs and stubborn weaknesses.
DISSIDENT GARDENS. By Jonathan Lethem. (Doubleday, $27.95.) Spanning 80 years and three generations, Lethem’s novel realistically portrays an enchanted — or disenchanted — garden of American leftists in Queens.
DOCTOR SLEEP. By Stephen King. (Scribner, $30.) Now grown up, Danny, the boy with psycho-intuitive powers in “The Shining,” helps another threatened magic child in a novel that shares the virtues of King’s best work.
DUPLEX. By Kathryn Davis. (Graywolf, $24.) A schoolteacher takes an unusual lover in this astonishing, double-hinged novel set in a fantastical suburbia.
THE END OF THE POINT. By Elizabeth Graver. (Harper, $25.99.) A summer house on the Massachusetts coast both shelters and isolates the wealthy family in Graver’s eloquent multigenerational novel.
THE FLAMETHROWERS. By Rachel Kushner. (Scribner, $26.99.) In Kushner’s frequently dazzling second novel, an impressionable artist navigates the volatile worlds of New York and Rome in the 1970s.
THE GOLDFINCH. By Donna Tartt. (Little, Brown, $30.) The “Goldfinch” of the title of Tartt’s smartly written Dickensian novel is a painting smuggled through the early years of a boy’s life — his prize, his guilt and his burden.
THE GOOD LORD BIRD. By James McBride. (Riverhead, $27.95.) McBride’s romp of a novel, the 2013 National Book Award winner, is narrated by a freed slave boy who passes as a girl. It’s a risky portrait of the radical abolitionist John Brown in which irreverence becomes a new form of homage.
A GUIDE TO BEING BORN: Stories. By Ramona Ausubel. (Riverhead, $26.95.) Ausubel’s fantastical collection traces a cycle of transformation: from love to conception to gestation to birth.
HALF THE KINGDOM. By Lore Segal. (Melville House, $23.95.) In Segal’s darkly comic novel, dementia becomes contagious at a Manhattan hospital.
I WANT TO SHOW YOU MORE: Stories. By Jamie Quatro. (Grove, $24.) Quatro’s strange, thrilling and disarmingly honest first collection draws from a pool of resonant themes (Christianity, marital infidelity, cancer, running) in agile recombinations.
THE IMPOSSIBLE LIVES OF GRETA WELLS. By Andrew Sean Greer. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $26.99.) A distraught woman inhabits different selves across the 20th century in Greer’s elegiac novel.
THE INFATUATIONS. By Javier Marías. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. (Knopf, $26.95.) Amid a proliferation of alternative perspectives, Marías’s novel explores its female narrator’s relationship with the widow and the best friend of a murdered man.
THE INTERESTINGS. By Meg Wolitzer. (Riverhead, $27.95.) Wolitzer’s enveloping novel offers a fresh take on the theme of self-invention, with a heroine who asks herself whether the ambitious men and women in her circle have inaccurately defined success.
LIFE AFTER LIFE. By Kate Atkinson. (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown, $27.99.) Atkinson’s heroine, born in 1910, keeps dying and dying again, as she experiences the alternate courses her destiny might have taken.
LOCAL SOULS: Novellas. By Allan Gurganus. (Liveright, $25.95.) This triptych, set in Gurganus’s familiar Falls, N.C., showcases the increasing universality of his imaginative powers.
LONGBOURN. By Jo Baker. (Knopf, $25.95.) Baker’s charming novel offers an affecting look at the world of “Pride and Prejudice” from the point of view of the Bennets’ servants’ hall.
LOVE, DISHONOR, MARRY, DIE, CHERISH, PERISH. By David Rakoff. (Doubleday, $26.95.) Rakoff completed his novel-in-couplets, whose characters live the title’s verbs, just before his death in 2012.
THE LOWLAND. By Jhumpa Lahiri. (Knopf, $27.95.) After his radical brother is killed, an Indian scientist brings his widow to join him in America in Lahiri’s efficiently written novel.
THE LUMINARIES. By Eleanor Catton. (Little, Brown, $27.) In her Booker Prize winner, a love story and mystery set in New Zealand, Catton has built a lively parody of a 19th-century novel, while creating something utterly new for the 21st.
MADDADDAM. By Margaret Atwood. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $27.95.) The survivors of “Oryx and Crake” and “The Year of the Flood” await a final showdown, in a trilogy’s concluding entry.
A MARKER TO MEASURE DRIFT. By Alexander Maksik. (Knopf, $24.95.) Maksik’s forceful novel illuminates the life of a Liberian woman who flees her troubled past to seek refuge on an Aegean island.
METAPHYSICAL DOG. By Frank Bidart. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24.) To immerse oneself in these poems is to enter a crowd of unusual characters: artistic geniuses, violent misfits, dramatic self-accusers (including the poet himself).
OUR ANDROMEDA. By Brenda Shaughnessy. (Copper Canyon, paper, $16.) In these emotionally charged and gorgeously constructed poems, Shaughnessy imagines a world without a child’s pain.
SCHRODER. By Amity Gaige. (Twelve, $21.99.) In Gaige’s scenic novel, a man with a long-established false identity goes on the run with his 6-year-old daughter.
THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS. By Elizabeth Gilbert. (Viking, $28.95.) In this winning novel by the author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” a botanist’s hunger for explanations carries her through the better part of Darwin’s century, and to Tahiti.
SOMEONE. By Alice McDermott. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) Through scattered recollections, this novel sifts the significance of an ordinary life.
THE SON. By Philipp Meyer. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $27.99.) Members of a Texas clan grope their way from the ordeals of the frontier to celebrity culture’s absurdities in this masterly multigenerational saga.
THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING. By Juan Gabriel Vásquez. Translated by Anne McLean. (Riverhead, $27.95.) This gripping Colombian novel, built on the country’s tragic history with the drug trade, meditates on love, fate and death.
SUBMERGENCE. By J. M. Ledgard. (Coffee House, paper, $15.95.) This hard-edged, well-written novel involves a terrorist hostage-taking and a perilous deep-sea dive.
SUBTLE BODIES. By Norman Rush. (Knopf, $26.95.) Amid dark humor both mournful and absurd, former classmates converge on the hilltop estate of a friend who has died in a freak accident.
TENTH OF DECEMBER: Stories. By George Saunders. (Random House, $26.) Saunders’s relentless humor and beatific generosity of spirit keep his highly moral tales from succumbing to life’s darker aspects.
THE TWELVE TRIBES OF HATTIE. By Ayana Mathis. (Knopf, $24.95.) Mathis’s deeply felt first novel works at the rough edges of history, within a brutal and poetic allegory of a black family beset by tribulations after the Great Migration to the North.
THE TWO HOTEL FRANCFORTS. By David Leavitt. (Bloomsbury, $25.) In Leavitt’s atmospheric novel of 1940 Lisbon, as two couples await passage to New York, the husbands embark on an affair.
THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT. By Amy Tan. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $29.99.) This wrenching novel by the author of “The Joy Luck Club” follows mother and daughter courtesans over four decades.
WANT NOT. By Jonathan Miles. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.) Linking disparate characters and story threads, Miles’s novel explores varieties of waste and decay in a consumer world.
WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES. By Karen Joy Fowler. (Marian Wood/Putnam, $26.95.) This surreptitiously smart novel’s big reveal slyly recalls a tabloid headline: “Girl and Chimp Twinned at Birth in Psychological Experiment.”
WE NEED NEW NAMES. By NoViolet Bulawayo. (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown, $25.) A Zimbabwean moves to Detroit in Bulawayo’s striking first novel.
WOKE UP LONELY. By Fiona Maazel. (Graywolf, $26.) Maazel’s restlessly antic novel examines the concurrent urges for solitude and intimacy.
THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS. By Claire Messud. (Knopf, $25.95.) Messud’s ingenious, disquieting novel of outsize conflicts tells the story of a thwarted artist who finds herself bewitched by a boy and his parents.
AFTER THE MUSIC STOPPED: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead. By Alan S. Blinder. (Penguin Press, $29.95.) The former Fed vice chairman says confidence would have returned faster with better government communication about policy.
THE AMERICAN WAY OF POVERTY: How the Other Half Still Lives. By Sasha Abramsky. (Nation Books, $26.99.) This ambitious study, based on Abramsky’s travels around the country meeting the poor, both describes and prescribes.
THE BARBAROUS YEARS. The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675. By Bernard Bailyn. (Knopf, $35.) A noted Harvard historian looks at the chaotic decades between Jamestown and King Philip’s War.
THE BILLIONAIRE’S APPRENTICE: The Rise of the Indian-American Elite and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge Fund. By Anita Raghavan. (Business Plus, $29.) Indian-Americans populate every aspect of this meticulously reported true-life business thriller.
THE BLOOD TELEGRAM: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide. By Gary J. Bass. (Knopf, $30.) Bass reveals the sordid White House diplomacy that attended the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.
BOOK OF AGES: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. By Jill Lepore. (Knopf, $27.95.) Ben Franklin’s sister bore 12 children and mostly led a life of hardship, but the two corresponded constantly.
THE BOY DETECTIVE: A New York Childhood. By Roger Rosenblatt. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $19.99.) In his memoir, Rosenblatt recalls being a boy learning to see, and to live, in the city he scrutinizes.
THE BULLY PULPIT: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. By Doris Kearns Goodwin. (Simon & Schuster, $40.) Historical parallels in Goodwin’s latest time machine implicitly ask us to look at our own age.
THE CANCER CHRONICLES: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery. By George Johnson. (Knopf, $27.95.) Johnson’s fascinating look at cancer reveals certain profound truths about life itself.
CATASTROPHE 1914: Europe Goes to War. By Max Hastings. (Knopf, $35.) This excellent chronicle of World War I’s first months by a British military historian dispels some popular myths.
COMMAND AND CONTROL: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. By Eric Schlosser. (Penguin Press, $36.) A disquieting but riveting examination of nuclear risk.
COUNTRY GIRL: A Memoir. By Edna O’Brien. (Little, Brown, $27.99.) O’Brien reflects on a fraught and distinguished life, from the restraints of her Irish childhood to literary stardom.
DAYS OF FIRE: Bush and Cheney in the White House. By Peter Baker. (Doubleday, $35.) Baker’s treatment of the George W. Bush administration is haunted by the question of who was in charge.
ECSTATIC NATION: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877. By Brenda Wineapple. (Harper, $35.) A masterly Civil War-era history, full of foiled schemes, misfired plans and less-than-happy endings.
EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. By Jung Chang. (Knopf, $30.) Chang portrays Cixi as a proto-feminist and reformer in this authoritative account.
THE FARAWAY NEARBY. By Rebecca Solnit. (Viking, $25.95.) Digressive essays, loosely about storytelling, reflect a difficult year in Solnit’s life.
FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital. By Sheri Fink. (Crown, $27.) The case of a surgeon suspected of euthanizing patients during the Katrina disaster.
GOING CLEAR: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. By Lawrence Wright. (Knopf, $28.95.) The author of “The Looming Tower” takes a calm and neutral stance toward Scientology, but makes clear it’s like no other church on earth.
THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945. By Rick Atkinson. (Holt, $40.) The final volume of Atkinson’s monumental war trilogy shows that the road to Berlin was far from smooth.
THE HEIR APPARENT: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince. By Jane Ridley. (Random House, $35.) He was vain, gluttonous, promiscuous and none too bright, but “Bertie” emerges as an appealing character in Ridley’s superb book.
A HOUSE IN THE SKY. By Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. (Scribner, $27.) A searing memoir of a young woman’s brutal kidnapping in Somalia.
JONATHAN SWIFT: His Life and His World. By Leo Damrosch. (Yale University, $35.) A commanding biography by a Harvard professor.
KNOCKING ON HEAVEN’S DOOR: The Path to a Better Way of Death. By Katy Butler. (Scribner, $25.) Butler’s study of the flaws in end-of-life care mixes personal narrative and tough reporting.
LAWRENCE IN ARABIA: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East. By Scott Anderson. (Doubleday, $28.95.) By contextualizing T. E. Lawrence, Anderson is able to address modern themes like oil, jihad and the Arab-Jewish conflict.
LEAN IN: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. By Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell. (Knopf, $24.95.) The lesson conveyed loud and clear by the Facebook executive is that women should step forward and not doubt their ability to combine work and family.
LOST GIRLS: An Unsolved American Mystery. By Robert Kolker. (Harper, $25.99.) Cases of troubled young Internet prostitutes murdered on Long Island add up to a nuanced look at prostitution today.
MADNESS, RACK, AND HONEY: Collected Lectures. By Mary Ruefle. (Wave Books, paper, $25.) The poet muses knowingly and merrily on language, writing and speaking sentences that last lifetimes.
MANSON: The Life and Times of Charles Manson. By Jeff Guinn. (Simon & Schuster, $27.50.) Guinn’s tour de force examines Manson’s rise and fall, the 1960s music industry and the decade’s bizarre ambience.
MARGARET FULLER: A New American Life. By Megan Marshall. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.) Fuller’s extensive intellectual accomplishments are set in contrast with her romantic disappointments.
MEN WE REAPED: A Memoir. By Jesmyn Ward. (Bloomsbury, $26.) A raw, beautiful elegy for Ward’s brother and four male friends, who died young in Mississippi between 2000 and 2004.
MISS ANNE IN HARLEM: The White Women of the Black Renaissance. By Carla Kaplan. (Harper, $28.99.) A remarkable look at the white women who sought a place in the Harlem Renaissance.
MY BELOVED WORLD. By Sonia Sotomayor.(Knopf, $27.95.) Mostly skirting her legal views, the Supreme Court justice’s memoir reveals much about her family, school and years at Princeton.
MY PROMISED LAND: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. By Ari Shavit. (Spiegel & Grau, $28.) Shavit, a columnist for Haaretz, expresses both solidarity with and criticism of his countrymen in this important and powerful book.
PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR: An Adventure. By Artemis Cooper. (New York Review Books, $30.) The British wayfarer and travel writer is the subject of Cooper’s affectionate, informed biography.
THE RIDDLE OF THE LABYRINTH: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code. By Margalit Fox. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $27.99.)Focusing on an unheralded but heroic Brooklyn classics professor, Fox turns the decipherment of Linear B into a detective story.
THE SKIES BELONG TO US: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking. By Brendan I. Koerner. (Crown, $26.) Refusing to make ’60s avatars of the unlikely couple behind a 1972 skyjacking, Koerner finds a deeper truth about the nature of extremism.
THE SLEEPWALKERS: How Europe Went to War in 1914. By Christopher Clark. (Harper, $29.99.) A Cambridge professor offers a thoroughly comprehensible account of the polarization of a continent, without fixing guilt on one leader or nation.
THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD: And How They Got That Way. By Amanda Ripley. (Simon & Schuster, $28.) A look at countries that are outeducating us — Finland, South Korea, Poland — through the eyes of American high school students abroad.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. By David Finkel. (Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) Finkel tracks soldiers struggling to navigate postwar life, especially the psychologically wounded.
THE THIRD COAST: When Chicago Built the American Dream. By Thomas Dyja. (Penguin Press, $29.95.) This robust cultural history weaves together the stories of the artists, styles and ideas that developed in Chicago before and after World War II.
THIS TOWN: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital. By Mark Leibovich. (Blue Rider, $27.95.) An entertaining and deeply troubling view of Washington.
THOSE ANGRY DAYS: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941. By Lynne Olson. (Random House, $30.) The savage political dispute between Roosevelt and the isolationist movement, presented in spellbinding detail.
TO SAVE EVERYTHING, CLICK HERE: The Folly of Technological Solutionism. By Evgeny Morozov. (PublicAffairs, $28.99.) Digital-age transparency may threaten the spirit of democracy, Morozov warns.
TO THE END OF JUNE: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care. By Cris Beam. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.) Beam’s wrenching study is a triumph of narrative reporting and storytelling.
UNTHINKABLE: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy. By Kenneth M. Pollack. (Simon & Schuster, $30.) The Mideast expert makes the case for living with a nuclear Iran and trying to contain it.
THE UNWINDING: An Inner History of the New America. By George Packer. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) With a nod to John Dos Passos, Packer offers a gripping narrative survey of today’s hard times; the 2013 National Book Award winner for nonfiction.
THE WAR THAT ENDED PEACE: The Road to 1914. By Margaret MacMillan. (Random House, $35.) Why did the peace fail, a Canadian historian asks, and she offers superb portraits of the men who took Europe to war in the summer of 1914.
WAVE. By Sonali Deraniyagala. (Knopf, $24.) Deraniyagala’s unforgettable account of her struggle to carry on living after her husband, sons and parents were killed in the 2004 tsunami isn’t only as unsparing as they come, but also defiantly imbued with light.
WILD ONES: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America. By Jon Mooallem. (Penguin Press, $27.95.) Mooallem explores the haphazard nature of our efforts to protect endangered species.
YEAR ZERO: A History of 1945. By Ian Buruma. (Penguin Press, $29.95.) This lively history shows how the Good War turned out badly for many people and splendidly for others less deserving.