The Story of a Marriage, Andrew Sean Greer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). An African American woman wrestles with her husband’s mysterious past when a white man shows up on her doorstep—and reveals that he was once the husband’s lover. Set in 1950’s San Francisco, Greer’s novel is a kind of Sophie’s Choice filtered through the lens of Douglas Sirk. Greer keeps the melodrama at bay in an evocative portrait of postwar life, largely on the strength of the wife’s first-person narrative voice. What emerges through the eyes of its wary, observant protagonist is an original snapshot of black life chafing against an America on the verge of its next revolution.
Mother of Sorrows, Richard McCann ((Vintage). Richard McCann serves up a volume of inter-connected short stories that read like insightful memoir. The author’s gentle, generous voice infuses this depiction of the lives of two coming-of-age gay brothers torn between love and loathing for a mother too preoccupied with her own myriad losses. What results is a Rorschach not only of homosexuality in America, but of the families from which we all emerge slightly battered, anxious to shuck the dysfunctional legacies of parents ill-equipped to deal with a shifting world, or the independent inner lives of their offspring.
Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood, Mark Harris (Penguin). Harris dissects the five films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar of 1967. This deceptively simple structure doesn’t begin to hint at the depths this author unearths as he charts the highs, lows, and near-derailments as Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Doolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night race toward the Big Night. Fueled by a cast of moguls, movie royalty and especially, the brilliant young turks nipping at their heels, this is a reeling portrait of art, commerce, caprice, and how a handful of films pulled the movie business kicking and screaming into a new era. A triumph.