Spring Guide: Wells Tower Offers A Strange Way To Squeeze A Dog

The dark menagerie of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness
By Adina Hoffman, April

This new biography of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali by Adina Hoffman, a trenchant critic living in Jerusalem, is subtitled A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century. Hoffman situates her subject's story in the larger framework of the region's recent and tortured history: Ali's childhood village was bombed in '48, leading to a brief exile in Lebanon, and then a return to Nazareth, where this self-educated, obscure poet still runs a souvenir shop that sells trinkets to tourists. Yale University Press, 480 pp., $27.50

Poems 1959–2009
By Frederick Seidel, April

Mind the drool on the gearshift.
Suzanne Bennett
Mind the drool on the gearshift.

Frederick Seidel, the dashing 73-year-old poet, has made an elegant subject out of himself these past 50 years, accessories very much included: Ducati bikes, the Carlyle Hotel, Diane Von Furstenberg. But beware—at the edges of the sumptuous comfort of Seidel's poems are both an excoriating loneliness and a pitiless eye. This book should cement a growing consensus that there are few poets writing in English as talented as he. "I spent most of my time not dying," Seidel wrote in 2006's Ooga-Booga. "That's what living is for." FSG, 352 pp., $30

Sag Harbor
By Colson Whitehead, April

Colson Whitehead grew up in New York City and would go out in the summer to the traditionally African-American enclave of Sag Harbor, at the East End of Long Island, where he'd run nerd-wild. This novel, his fourth, is his most autobiographical, though in the least sentimental way possible, populated as it is with Cinemax porn, New Coke, and D&D. "I never liked Holden Caulfield," he says in an entertaining online trailer for Sag Harbor. "I feel like if you'd just given him Prozac or an X-Box, it would've been a much shorter book." Doubleday, 288 pp., $24.95

The Shanghai Gesture
By Gary Indiana, April

This enormously playful seventh novel from Gary Indiana is a riff on Sax Rohmer's infamously effeminate and evil villain, Fu Manchu, and the two "medicament"-addicted Sherlock Holmes types who attempt to stop him. The sarcastic, unyielding fury that permeated last year's criticism collection Utopia's Debris is here, too, but sublimated: Narcolepsy, an astonishingly degraded Holiday Inn, and a ship called The Ardent Somdomite feature prominently. Two Dollar Radio, 224 pp., $15.50

Love and Obstacles
By Aleksandar Hemon, May

Like the protagonist of Aleksandar Hemon's The Lazarus Project (2008) and, indeed, like Hemon himself, a Bosnian-born writer famously stranded in Chicago on the eve of war in 1992 Yugoslavia, the narrator of Love and Obstacles is a man who can't go home. Though the gods of exile literature lurk—Conrad, Nabokov—Hemon's newest interlocking story collection is unified as much by his hero's wildly vulgar, incisive mind as by any pervasive sense of displacement. Riverhead, 224 pp., $25.95

The Naked Eye
By Yoko Tawada, May

The Tokyo-born Berlin resident Yoko Tawada wrote The Naked Eye in both Japanese and German, and it's her first full-length novel to be translated into English. In the book, a Vietnamese girl goes to East Berlin to present a paper in Russian about American imperialism and finds herself promptly kidnapped into Story of O­–reminiscent sexual slavery. She's eventually freed, sort of, and like Binx Bolling (or Vikar, the protagonist of Steve Erickson's Zeroville), escapes to the movies: Each chapter takes its title and theme from a different Catherine Deneuve film. New Directions, 256 pp., $13.95

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