March 2013: Books for Humanists; A New Work by Nabokov, Auster and Coetzee, Blake Bailey’s Next, and More

Auster, Paul & J.M. Coetzee. Here and Now: Letters (2008–2011). Viking. Mar. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9780670026661. $27.95. LETTERS
Can you imagine a conversation between these two great writers, the sharp, cerebral Auster and the Novel prize–winning Coetzee? Here is a conversation, a collection of the correspondence they began shortly after meeting in 2008. Like all writers, they talk about books but even more about sports and fatherhood, film festivals and incest, philosophy and politics and love. Your literati will definitely want.

Bailey, Blake. Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson. Knopf. Mar. 2013. 512p. ISBN 9780307273581. $30; eISBN 9780307962201. BIOGRAPHY
Charles Jackson’s largely autobiographical The Lost Weekend, an unbending depiction of alcoholic excess by a likely closeted gay man in mid-20th century America, is considered by many the watershed work on addiction in American literature. (It was also the basis for the Academy Award–winning film.) Here, National Book Critics Circle Award winner Bailey frames the whole of the novelist’s life, from a sojourn in Europe as a TB patient to his friendship with everyone from Thomas Mann to Judy Garland. An intriguing history, lost on us no more.

Nabokov, Vladimir. The Tragedy of Mister Morn. Knopf. Mar. 2013. 192p. ISBN 9780307960818. $26. DRAMA
Here’s a work you likely haven’t heard of, even if you are a huge fan of Lolita and Pnin. Written in verse in the winter of 1923–24, before Nabokov had shot through the firmament, this five-act play was never published in his lifetime and finally appeared in a Russian literary journal in 1997. This is its first showing in English. The protagonist is a king whose love for the wife of an exiled revolutionary leads to tragedy. Gobble it up, literature fans, and note this tidbit: translator Anastasia Tolstoy (with Thomas Karshan) is the great-great-great granddaughter of Lev Tolstoy.

Sexton, John with Thomas Oliphant & Peter J. Schwartz. Baseball as a Road to God. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). Mar. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781592407545. $27.50. SPORTS\
President of New York University, Sexton teaches a hugely popular course on baseball as a means to something deeper. For him, bottom-of-the-ninth home runs embody faith, hope, and the glimmer of something transcendent. Former Boston Globe columnist Oliphant has been a regular participant, while Forbes reporter Schwartz was the course’s first student. Now that’s inspiring!

Taussig, Hal. A New New Testament: A Reinvented Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts. Houghton Harcourt. 576p. ISBN 9780547792101. $32. RELIGION
A professor of biblical literature at Union Theological Seminary in New York and of early Christianity at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Pennsylvania, Taussig surely has the wherewithal to present this new New Testament, which includes ten recently discovered books and considerable commentary. Over the last two decades, he’s been seen on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and in the pages of People chatting up his beliefs, so you know he’s accessible. With a 50,000-copy first printing; interest and maybe a little controversy.


Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.