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9 New Books We Recommend This Week


APARTMENT, by Teddy Wayne. (Bloomsbury, $26.) Wayne’s new novel, set in the mid-1990s, is about a volatile friendship between two men in Columbia University’s creative writing M.F.A. program. Wayne rigorously draws out their dance of attraction and repulsion: Will they kill each other? Sleep together? Or just make passive-aggressive comments about each other’s writing? Wayne is “a veteran writer,” Andrew Martin writes in his review, who “knows that we know what he’s doing” by “asking the reader to cut through numerous layers of prophylactic irony — the unnamed narrator protecting himself, as an insecure aspiring writer; the author operating within the limited skill set of his narrator — to access some deeper emotional truth about these characters. It’s to Wayne’s credit that he often succeeds.”

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY, by Thomas Piketty. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. (Belknap/Harvard University, $39.95.) Seven years after the publication of his best-selling “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” Piketty returns with a global overview to understand some of the most pressing economic and social issues of our time. Reviewing it, Paul Krugman writes that the book advances “the outline of a grand theory of inequality, which might be described as Marx on his head. In Marxian dogma, a society’s class structure is determined by underlying, impersonal forces, technology and the modes of production that technology dictates. Piketty, however, sees inequality as a social phenomenon, driven by human institutions. Institutional change, in turn, reflects the ideology that dominates society: ‘Inequality is neither economic nor technological; it is ideological and political.’”

SCRATCHED: A Memoir of Perfectionism, by Elizabeth Tallent. (Harper/HarperCollins, $28.99.) For most of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, Tallent was considered one of the foremost practitioners of the short story. Then she went silent. In this memoir, she approaches the mysteries in her own story with the same astute but elliptical precision she applies to her fictional characters. “We learn about the particulars of her life without fully understanding how she became the person she presents herself as being,” Daphne Merkin writes in her review. “This central blurriness in the midst of hypercharged description, furthered by a non-chronological structure, is both fascinating and confounding. It is also, I think, exactly the tantalizingly elusive effect Tallent intends.”

ROMANCE IN MARSEILLES, by Claude McKay. (Penguin Classics, paper, $16.) This vividly imagined, slyly political novel by a star of the Harlem Renaissance, features a boisterous, multicultural cast including a black stowaway who gains a windfall from a shipping company after he suffers severe frostbite onboard, has both legs amputated and sues. “Above all,” Brent Hayes Edwards writes in his review, “McKay seems to be struck by the inherent irony” of his hero’s predicament, which he casts as “a metaphor for the broader ironies of race in a racist world: the ‘enormous tragic joke’ that the amputation of Lafala’s legs leads to a financial windfall and thus to a sort of mobility. In this respect, as well as with its (even today) startling sexual frankness, what is remarkable about McKay’s fiction is its rejection of sentimentality of any stripe.”

THESE GHOSTS ARE FAMILY, by Maisy Card. (Simon & Schuster, $26.) This rich, ambitious debut novel zigzags back and forth in time to tell the nonlinear family saga of Stanford Solomon, a dying 69-year-old Jamaican man living in Harlem who has a dark secret. Our reviewer, Mia Alvar, writes that the closer you look at the “family tree reproduced in the book’s front matter, the more compelling it becomes, as much for its gaps as for the names and dates. … Card’s ghosts bracingly remind us that no family history is comprehensive, that some riddles of ancestry and heritage persist beyond this lifetime.”

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