By Glen Pourciau (October)

Beginning a story by Glen Pourciau, the bizarre and quietly eccentric young writer whose first collection won this year's Iowa Short Fiction Award, is often not the most riveting of experiences: "It was Saturday afternoon, and my wife and I had decided to go to the mall to pick up a pair of pants I'd bought there and had altered." Like Raymond Carver, to whom he bears a superficial resemblance, Pourciau's hunting ground is the great welter of American suburbia. Yet he's not so much a realist as a subtle fantasist of the day-to-day whose stories suddenly shift to the level of nightmare. The way he imbues the most ordinary happenings with an uncanny and ineffable terror is reminiscent of Kafka, Bernhard, and Beckett. Iowa University Press, 120 pp., $16.

A good way to confuse Auden: Ashbery in Water Mill, New York, 1964
Photo by John Jonas Gruen/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
A good way to confuse Auden: Ashbery in Water Mill, New York, 1964

Lulu in Marrakech

By Diane Johnson (October)

Part thriller, part philosophical meditation on the nature of deception, Diane Johnson's new novel extends the tradition—stretching back to James, Wharton, and Hemingway—of books about naïve Americans being flummoxed by the representatives of older, more opaque foreign cultures. Lulu Sawyer, recently arrived in Morocco, has been tasked by the CIA to find out what she can about the connection between wealthy businessmen and Islamic terrorists. Naturally, this rubs certain people the wrong way, and things soon turn very nasty indeed. Dutton, 320 pp., $25.95.

Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun

By Wafaa Bilal and Kari Lydersen (October)

History simply refuses to leave some people alone. The Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal grew up under Saddam Hussein, survived two wars, was forced to live for periods at refugee camps in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and finally escaped to the U.S. in 1992 to study art. When his father and brother were killed during the latest U.S. invasion of his country, Bilal responded by creating the now infamous art piece Domestic Tension, in which the artist spent a month living in a Chicago gallery where Internet users could watch his day-to-day movements and, if they felt like it, take shots at him with a remote-controlled paint gun. By the end, more than 60,000 people had opened fire. Shoot an Iraqi—a name he initially considered for the installation—combines autobiographical narrative with a discussion of his work and its political implications. City Lights, 240 pp., $18.95.

A Mercy

By Toni Morrison (November)

Toni Morrison continues her excavation into the history of American race relations with this brief, tragic novel. Set in the colonial North of the 1680s, it tells the story of a young slave girl who's accepted by an Anglo-Dutch trader in payment for a bad debt. Knopf, 176 pp., $23.95.

Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles

By Pierre Bayard (November)

Just as the conversation generated by his last work—the wildly successful, not-as-frivolous-as-it-sounds How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read—is beginning to dry up, Pierre Bayard has furnished us with another piece of wry intellectual conjecture, namely, that things are not as elementary as Sherlock Holmes—or Arthur Conan Doyle—liked to think they were. His stated aim is to write what he calls "detective criticism," something that involves being "more rigorous than even the detectives in literature and the writers who create them, and thus to work out solutions that are more satisfying to the soul." Bloomsbury, 208 pp., $20.

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