Spring Guide 2012: Granta Eyes the African Short Story

Continental rift

'Slow Lightning'
By Eduardo C. Corral

Carl Phillips has taken over as judge of the recently deossified Yale Series of Younger Poets. His first selection is Slow Lightning by gay Mexican American Corral, who can squish twisted issues of sexuality and racial identity into gleaming fables like this one: "In high school I worked as a bag boy. To prevent shoplifting my boss had me follow the Mexicans and the Native Americans around the grocery store. I was slightly troubled by this. So I only followed the handsome men." Yale University Press, 96 pp., $18

'When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man'
Nick Dybek

Bye-bye tradition: Novelist-editor Helon Habila
Jide Alakija
Bye-bye tradition: Novelist-editor Helon Habila

Only a few father-and-son writers have ever equaled each other in accomplishment and influence: Kingsley and Martin Amis, Alexandre Dumas pére et fils, maybe a couple of Waughs. Now Nick Dybek, son of Stuart and graduate of his alma mater, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, has cast his literary DNA into the ring. His first novel tells the tale of a boy, not knowing if he can measure up to the adventure stories and myths Dad brought back from Alaska, who reluctantly takes over his father's fleet of crab boats. Perhaps Dybek the younger has some stuff to work out? Riverhead, 320 pp., $26.95

'The Flying Machine Book: Build and Launch 35 Rockets,Gliders, Helicopters, Boomerangs, and More'
Bobby Mercer

Mercer, author of how-to books like Quarterback Dad: A Play-by-Play Guide to Tackling Your New Baby and How Do You Light a Fart?, increases his taste level without growing up at all with this instruction manual for building "rockets, gliders, boomerangs, launchers, and helicopters" out of low-cost materials. The book promises to emphasize the scientific angle, stressing the connection between making a cannon that shoots grapes out of a toilet-paper tube and aviation technology. Way to justify your kid's rowdy behavior. Not to mention yours. Chicago Review Press, 208 pp., $14.95

'The Newlyweds'
By Nell Freudenberger

Freudenberger's career—her rise from The New Yorker copy department to 20 Under 40; her PEN, Whiting, Guggenheim, and NYT Notable Book awards; and her extensive travel experience—seems to echo both the charmed life and the wanderlust of W. Somerset Maugham. In this second novel, like The Dissident (2006), in which she gave voice to a Chinese performance artist, she again channels a character from Asia, this time a Bangladeshi woman named Amina Mazid who comes to Rochester, New York, to pursue a burgeoning Internet romance. That's a new one—a novel in which Rochester has more romantic pull than Asia. Knopf, 352 pp., $25.95

'The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity'
Bruce Hood

In The Self Illusion, cognitive scientist Hood, a fellow at institutions like Harvard, Cambridge, and MIT, makes the bold claim that the self does not exist. Like many other phenomena, it is a construct that fluctuates based on social context. Therefore, social media have the power to change our concept of identity at a rapid pace. For Hood's sake, one can only assume that he made his audacious claim after the publisher made out the check. Otherwise, whom would they make it out to? Oxford University Press, 368 pp., $29.95

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