Burgess Unabridged (Walker and Company)
Originally published in 1914, this slim volume collects words invented by a nearly forgotten, but incredibly witty, American humorist. An affectionate forward penned by Garrett Park's Paul Dickson (author of Slang: The Topical Dictionary of Americanisms) provides some needed context that places Burgess in the company of Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain and points out that some of his humor, however playful, would be considered sexist today. The book is subtitled A Classic Dictionary of Words You Have Always Needed, and a few of Burgess's made-up words eventually became part of the language. Blurb, for instance, is a Burgess invention. He defined it as "a flamboyant advertisement, an inspired testimonial" and claimed that "on the jacket of the latest fiction, we find the blurb." One of the blurbs for this new edition of Burgess's dictionary calls it "a word book any word lover will love." That endorsement comes from a man who knows his words well—The New York Times' crossword editor Will Shortz.
The Life You Longed For (Touchstone)
Fischer examines the complexities of motherhood from unusual angles that shed insight onto the emotional complexities of parenthood. The former UMBC writing instructor crafts understated and sophisticated prose that, at times, cozies up to elegance and serves her story well. In this achingly real novel, Grace is the mother of three children—including 3-year-old Jack, who suffers from a little-known illness that's killing him. Although Grace is vigilant about Jack's care (or perhaps because of that vigilance), someone in Grace's sphere suspects her of making Jack sick and reports those suspicions to the authorities. The Department of Social Services investigates Grace for Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, a rare disorder that causes a mother to deliberately sicken an otherwise healthy child. Grace reels from the accusation, and, as she searches for answers and grapples with the fallout, we see and feel a mother's vulnerability. Fischer wisely doesn't dwell on the science of the disorders she writes about, opting instead to connect them to the insecurities and mortality we all face. Like Susan Griffin at her best, she explores the interconnectedness of magic and loss, of mystery and meaning, in everyday life.
Ruth Krauss and Marc Simont
The Backward Day (New York Review of Books)
One of the latest titles in the New York Review of Books' fabulously retro children's collection, this book, written by Baltimore native Ruth Krauss and first published in 1950, is both amusing and attractive. Krauss captures a young child's fondness for putting a playful spin on everyday reality. In her world, parents play along good-naturedly and the whole exercise is nothing short of endearing. Simont's illustrations further underscore those qualities.