New & Noteworthy, From Russian Satire to the Comet Apocalypse

Recent titles of interest:

THE EFFORT, by Claire Holroyde. (Grand Central, $28.) With a comet hurtling uncomfortably close to Earth, human life hangs in the balance. This novel follows two teams of scientists, one studying life in the Arctic and the other working to stave off calamity.

THE OCEAN HOUSE: Stories, by Mary Beth Hughes. (Atlantic Monthly Press, $26.) Hughes’s collection of linked stories, following various characters through a tragic vacation on the Jersey Shore and in the years thereafter, accrues a rich, novelistic sweep and leaves readers with a vertiginous sense of contingency.

W-3, by Bette Howland. (A Public Space, $26.) First published in 1974, this riveting memoir of breakdown is named for Ward 3, the psychiatric wing of the Chicago hospital where Howland was admitted after swallowing a bottle of pills. She describes her stay, and her state of mind, with an almost amused detachment.

A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life, by George Saunders. (Random House, $28.) Seven essays on stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Gogol; adapted from a class Saunders teaches at Syracuse University.

THE TOOL & THE BUTTERFLIES, by Dmitry Lipskerov. Translated by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler and Reilly Costigan. (Deep Vellum, paper, $16.95.) This Russian novel riffs on Gogol and on post-Soviet masculinity; its hero wakes up missing something more delicate than his nose.

What we’re reading:

The unnamed protagonist is a shy fourth grader who buys egg sandwiches just to be able to get a glimpse of the woman with electric blue eye shadow behind the counter in MS ICE SANDWICH, a wonderfully weird and charming novella by Mieko Kawakami, the author of “Breasts and Eggs.” In under 100 pages, “Ms Ice Sandwich” expertly captures the confusion of growing up. The fourth grader, who is friends with a film-obsessed girl who goes by the name Tutti-Frutti, counts his steps, acts out movie sequences and quietly draws in his grandmother’s room as she sleeps. It’s these introspective moments that make the novella glimmer. In the end, what is normal behavior, anyway? The pandemic broke open many of our assumptions about how to act in public, or even while alone. An interaction at a grocery store can be the highlight of the week.

—Kathleen Massara, senior staff editor,
Arts & Leisure

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