War and peace

By JOHN FREEMAN  |  January 2, 2006

Short-story fans won’t feel left out this winter as Deborah Eisenberg returns to form with Twilight of the Superheroes (FSG, February 2) and so does Antonya Nelson with Some Fun, (Scribner, March 21). Rebecca Brown might earn a few new fans with The Last Time I Saw You (City Lights, February 1), stories that read like the literary equivalent of yanking a tablecloth from a countertop without bringing the cutlery down with it.

Poetry
For the past few decades, some of Elizabeth Bishop’s work remained in several boxes at the special collections room at Vassar College. New Yorker poetry editor Alice Quinn has searched through 3500 pages of this material to create Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts and Fragments (FSG, March 7), which features poems from her youth so sparkling and lustrous, one feels the pang of her absence all over again.

Franz Wright publishes God’s Silence (Knopf, March 27), his first volume since winning the Pulitzer Prize several years ago. Major Jackson dribbles into the paint and scores with Hoops (Norton, March 3), the best verbal poetry on basketball (and other matters) since we heard Rabbit Angstrom bounce-bounce a ball on macadam in the opening of Rabbit, Run.

Non-fiction
Just as Rabbit was beginning to covet his first extramarital affair, America was tipping in to the civil-rights movement. Taylor Branch has chronicled this period for more than two decades. At Canaan’s Edge (Simon & Schuster, February 1) concludes his mammoth, three-volume “America in the King Years” with a narrative drenched in hope but bookended by assassination.

Precursors to this period can be found in the story of The Devil’s Own Work (Walker, January 10), Barnet Schecter’s lucid history of the draft riots that erupted during the Civil War. Richard Carwardine tells us what the Great Emancipator would have been thinking around this time in Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (Knopf, January 13).

If you think the Civil War was a hard time for Americans, check out Catherine Merridale’s Ivan’s War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939–1945 (Metropolitan, February 2), which reveals that Russians have top bragging rights when it comes to soldierly masochism. And life in Italy was no piece of cake either, as R.J.B. Bosworth shows in Mussolini’s Italy (Penguin Press, February 6), not to mention Kabul in the present day, which travel writer Ann Jones depicts in Kabul in Winter: Life without Peace in Afghanistan (Metropolitan, March 1)

January 27 marks the 250th year since Mozart’s birth, so Jane Glover’s Mozart’s Women (HarperCollins, January 3) is arriving just in time. And Tullio Kezich gives one of Italy’s great filmmakers a biography worthy of his genius, Federico Fellini: His Life and Work (Faber & Faber, March 14).

Italians worship filmmakers; we adore our hillbillies. It’s not such a bad thing, according to Jeff Biggers in The United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture and Enlightenment to America (Shoemaker & Hoard, January 1), but if Erik Reece’s Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness (Riverhead, February 2) is as true as it seems, strip mining will soon strip us of Appalachia.

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