Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Briefly Noted

Judas, by Amos Oz, translated from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). In this novel of nineteen-sixties Jerusalem, Shmuel Ash, lovelorn graduate student and lukewarm socialist, abandons his thesis ("Jewish Views of Jesus") to care for a frail, elderly Zionist living in a funereal villa. There he meets a cynical beauty who lost both father and husband in the mid-century wars, backroom and battlefield, that defined the contours of Israeli statehood. The novel has a clear message; as Shmuel says, "All the power in the world cannot transform someone who hates you into someone who likes you." But Oz tempers this didactic edge by making Shmuel a hapless figure--with walking stick, inhalers, and baby-powdered beard--unimpressive to the aristocratic recluses he's stumbled among.

The Terranauts, by T. C. Boyle (Ecco). The Terranauts of the title are the inhabitants of E2, an airtight, simulated-Earth environment--a test run for colonizing other planets in the face of ecological catastrophe on Earth. E2 and its inhabitants are closely monitored, but a pregnancy upsets the supervisor's calculations. Despite the sci-fi premise, Boyle works toward an intimate portrayal of the contingencies of character, shifting perspectives among the father-to-be, the mother-to-be, and the mother's bitter frenemy on the outside. With many of the characters literally under glass, our attention is directed from the future of humanity toward human behavior as it is now.

A House Full of Females, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (Knopf ). …

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