The Museum Of Innocence
by Orhan Pamuk
Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk describes The Museum of Innocence as a love story that "doesn't put love on a pedestal." His first novel since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006 is about one man's obsession with a beautiful young woman — and the museum collection he dedicates to the affair that derailed his life. Set in Istanbul in the 1970s and 1980s, the novel focuses on "love in a semi-repressed society, where communication between men and women is limited, where sex outside of marriage — especially before marriage — is also a taboo," Pamuk tells NPR's Robert Siegel.
560 pages, $15.95, Vintage
A Good Fall
by Ha Jin
Ha Jin, who came to the United States from his native China in 1984, won a National Book Award in 1999 for his novel Waiting. A Good Fall, his first book of short fiction since 2000's The Bridegroom, gathers 12 stories set mostly in the Chinese immigrant community of Flushing, N.Y. Inhabited by the most recent Chinese arrivals, it's a vibrant place that's also home to a lot of Koreans and European immigrants. In considering many generational perspectives in characters who are trying to discover their place in America, Jin shows how the new world can collide with the old in ways as slight and yet somehow tethered as the Internet.
256 pages, $15, Vintage
by Philip Roth
As NPR reviewer Heller McAlpin wrote in November 2009, Philip Roth's 13th book, The Humbling, is about an aging actor who loses his touch and retreats from his work, only to enter into an intense (and explicitly described) affair with a significantly younger lesbian. The Guardian condemned it as "scandalous frippery" (as perhaps only The Guardian would do), but other evaluations have been more positive, crediting the book for being provocative and thoughtful. Roth's story may be brief at 160 pages — more a novella than a novel — but he hasn't lost the ability to drive discussion.
160 pages, $14.95, Vintage
A Life Of Louis Armstrong
by Terry Teachout
Jazz icon Louis Armstrong didn't just leave behind a treasure-trove of musical recordings. He also documented hundreds of his private conversations on tape. Those recordings served as the basis for Terry Teachout's biography of the legendary musician, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong. Teachout, who played jazz professionally before becoming a full-time writer, is the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal and the chief culture critic of Commentary.
496 pages, $16.95, Mariner Books
A Fiery Peace In A Cold War
Bernard Schriever And The Ultimate Weapon
by Neil Sheehan
Twenty years after releasing his landmark account of the Vietnam War, A Bright Shining Lie, Sheehan is back with a new book, A Fiery Peace in a Cold War. It tells the story of the Cold War through the eyes of Air Force Gen. Bernard Schriever. Recruited to head up America's intercontinental ballistic missile program during the dangerously unstable early years of the Cold War, he was a quiet man who virtually created the concept of mutual assured destruction to keep the U.S. and Soviet Union balanced against each other.
576 pages, $16.95, Vintage
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also writes the Follow the Reader blog about digital publishing issues.
Turkish novelist and Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk describes his latest work as a love story that "doesn't put love on a pedestal." Instead, The Museum of Innocence is about one man's obsession with a beautiful young woman — and the museum collection he dedicates to the affair that derailed his life.
Set in Istanbul in the 1970s and 1980s, the novel focuses on the subtle ways people communicate love — including glances, silences and cherished mementos.
"This is love in a semirepressed society, where communication between men and women is limited, where sex outside of marriage — especially before marriage — is also a taboo," Pamuk tells Robert Siegel.
Pamuk began collecting the objects that his protagonist Kemal would save before he even began writing the novel. And, in an unusual instance of literature melding into real life, he plans to display those objects in an actual "Museum of Innocence," which he hopes to open in Istanbul in July 2010.
The idea for the museum came, in part, from the author's visits to small collections around the world. Pamuk says he's always been attracted to small museums and the "melancholy" that seems to permeate them.
"I like the feeling that you are out of the modern times, and the feeling that there was investment to preserve the past, but now no one is inside except sleepy museum guards," he explains. "That makes me feel the ephemeral side of human life. That makes me understand our vanities."
As for the museum he plans to open, he says, "I hope it will be a melancholy place, but of course, with some humor as well — just like the novel."
The Museum of Innocence is the author's first novel since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. Pamuk says the prize has made him a more responsible writer:
"Now that I have more readers, I want to write even better. ... I'm a more busy man, but my love of literature is as alive as ever. The Nobel Prize was not a pension for me; it just came in the middle of my career."