Nox
By Anne Carson, April

Anne Carson's unusual new release mass-produces a replica of the fold-out art book the Canadian poet made in order to commemorate the death of her brother. Despite the collection's personal focus, Carson still expresses her propensity for weaving classical themes into her work, basing this series on the Roman poet Catullus's elegy to his brother's cremains. New Directions, 192 pp., $29.95

Parrot & Olivier in America
By Peter Carey, April

A different kind of feminist: Despentes
Careme
A different kind of feminist: Despentes

Carey, long fascinated with etching the lives of misfits and frauds in spirited prose, has practically hogged the Booker Prize, winning twice in the same decade for Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang. For P & O, he sets Olivier, his parody of Alexis de Tocqueville, on a snobby trek through early America, accompanied by a manservant named Parrot, alternating between their contradictory perspectives in another astonishing feat of literary ventriloquism. Knopf, 400 pp., $26.95

A Great Unrecorded History
By Wendy Moffat, May

The Secret Livesof Somerset Maugham
By Selina Hastings, May

Some English professor ought to teach a course called "Gay Literature" and include only canonical writers: Proust, Henry James, Thomas Mann, the Greeks. Prominent on that syllabus would be E.M. Forster and W. Somerset Maugham, and once Moffat's and Hastings's new biographies arrive, we will have the goods on these closeted scribes and their vastly different approaches to coming out posthumously. Forster wrote the gay book Maurice, and though he stipulated that it be published after his death, he deliberately preserved archival material that would later out him, predicting that homosexuality would one day gain acceptance. The more paranoid Maugham destroyed his personal papers and asked friends to burn his letters. "Ironically," writes Hastings, "Maugham's request . . . ensured not only that they were kept but that most were sold for very large sums to American universities." Hastings takes advantage of the Maugham estate's newfound glasnost to report not only on the author's personal life, but his involvement in British espionage. Moffat meticulously turns primary sources into a novelistic account of Forster's untold story. Moffat: FSG, 416 pp., $32.50; Hastings: Random House, 640 pp., $35

What Becomes
By A.L. Kennedy, April

After Day, Kennedy's bleak, prizewinning novel, the acclaimed chronicler of dysfunctional relationships serves up a story collection of lively yet heartbreaking and introspective pieces with sharp, minimal focus. One concerns a dad as he leaves his kids, another's about a cranky shopkeeper, a third follows a new widow's big adjustments. Short and bittersweet. Knopf, 224 pp., $24.95 

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