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Critics were quick to describe Auster’s Invisible, a quaternary tale that told a contiguous narrative across a multitude of voices and authors, as a mere exercise i9781627794466n textual irony, lacking readability and substance. Here, the author has greater success as he returns to the four-part literary form with the coming-of-age story of Archibald Ferguson. Set in the 20th century, this novel chronicles Archibald’s maturation through four possible, yet divergent, life paths. Family fortunes, careers, and hometowns shift and change as Archibald’s life unfolds across each metaphorical fork in the road. However, one constant remains: his love for Amy Schneiderman. By interweaving each chapter into a single narrative and playing with metafiction, Auster winks at the multitude of universes contained within a single story and slyly presents the reader with essentially four drafts of a novel in progress. VERDICT Fusing the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics with the bildungsroman literary genre, Auster illuminates how the discrete moments in one’s life form the plot points of a sprawling narrative, rife with possibility.

Los Angeles in the 1970s: Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine

Both the Watts riots and the death of Meredith Hunter at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival signified an end to a 1960s, California-style counterculture based on peace, love,41mdfweby4l and happiness. The succeeding decade would become synonymous with smog, congestion, and crime, until the resurgence of Los Angeles on a global stage at the 1984 Olympics. In this collection of essays, Kukoff (Children of the Canyon) reclaims the seemingly lost decade of L.A.’s history through the voices of those who labored in obscurity in its stretches of concrete and streetlights. From actor/producer Del Zamora’s piece detailing the importance of the Brown Berets and the Chicano movement to Doors drummer John Densmore reflecting on the importance of the band’s L.A. Woman billboard at the entrance to Laurel Canyon, this collection captures the diversity, creativity, and ever-present weirdness that continues to define La-La Land. VERDICT Below a hazy L.A. sunset, Kukoff peels back the Hollywood façade and shows a city thriving with creativity and revolutionary action under a Nixon presidency.

Being Elvis

Beyond his music and movies, Elvis remains with us on postage stamps and coffee mugs.41rnkf5v4l-_sx327_bo1204203200_ Here, Connolly (Stardust Memories: Talking About My Generation; John Lennon 1940–1980) explores how a young boy from Tupelo captured the hearts and eyes of the world yet ultimately died depressed and alone in a Memphis mansion. Unlike most Elvis biographies, Connolly’s focuses almost exclusively on the lucrative and tortured relationship between Elvis and “Colonel” Tom Parker. Though not exempting Elvis from responsibility, the author centralizes this relationship as the fulcrum upon which the performer miraculously rose and precipitously fell. VERDICT Though not as comprehensive as Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley and Careless Love, this biographical sketch is more intimate than most written about the King of Rock and Roll. This latest addition to the Elvis literature contextualizes its subject with more empathy than celebrity.

The Signal Flame

In his debut novel, Sojourn, Krivák introduced Jozef Vinich, a young soldier coming of age in the trenches of World War I. Here, the story begins in the early 1970s with Vinich’s death in the small Pennsylvania mountain town where he built both a carthe-signal-flame-9781501126376_hreer and family. His grandson, Bo, is left behind to care for his widowed mother and tend to his grandfather’s mill and property. Along with the land, Bo also inherits the generational feud between his family and the Youngers that ultimately led to the death of his father. It’s a dispute recently complicated by his brother, who is now missing in action in Vietnam, impregnating Ruth Younger, the daughter of his father’s killer. Though buckling under the weight of grief and family expectations, Bo ultimately finds reconciliation and closure through the darkest of family tragedies. VERDICT With studied language and a strong sense of place, Krivák elucidates how family structures and narratives fractured, maintained, and evolved between World War I and the Vietnam War.

Huck Out West

Hemingway once said that all modern American literature owes a debt to the The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This latest from Coover (The Burnist Day of Wrath; Ghost Town), one of the most prolific remixers of America’s tall tales, fables, and myths, is both a tribute and a fitting postscript to Mark Twain’s canonical work. In the vernacular and dialect of Twain, the narrative reintroduces readers to51vlodrdbel-_sx326_bo1204203200_ Huck a few years into his adventuring in the Territories, boss of it all and searching for freedom beyond civilization. Tom has returned east to become a fancy lawyer, after a few years spent with Huck in the Pony Express. Alone on the plains, Huck alternates between friend and foe with cattle rustlers, prospectors, and the Lakota. Through all of these experiences, he begins to question his ethos of freedom over friendship. However, at his lowest point, Huck is reunited with Tom only to discover that sometimes not even friendship can mitigate the loneliness of the human condition. VERDICT With the humor and wit of Twain, Coover punctures the American myth of Manifest Destiny and the fantastical tales we create to avoid understanding and empathy.