Morrison, llosa, Franzen pen spring titles

Sunday , March 11, 2012 - 7:51 AM

Carolyn Kellogg

It may be impossible for an author to achieve more acclaim than Toni Morrison, now 81, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993.

Her work is "characterized by visionary force and poetic import," the Nobel Committee wrote, and we'll get more of it May 8, when her 10th novel is published. "Home" is the story of an angry African-American veteran of the Korean War who returns unhappily to the Georgia community where he was raised.

She's not the only Nobel Prize winner returning to shelves. "The Dream of the Celt," the first novel by Mario Vargas Llosa since his 2010 Nobel win, arrives in June. It tells the story of Irish nationalist Roger Casement, a human rights campaigner executed in 1916.

Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford also returns in May. Ford's "Canada," set in the early 1960s, tells of a teenage boy unmoored by his parents' arrest for robbery who eventually makes his way to Saskatchewan. Amid a stunning landscape, it is, the publisher promises, a story "of revenge and violent retribution."

Something like that hits film screens this month when the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best-selling young adult novel "The Hunger Games" arrives. For the next, best entry into the crowded future-dystopia teen novel genre, look for "Starters" by Lissa Price.

Coming-of-age stories have often provided fertile literary ground; Lauren Groff mines the topic this month in "Arcadia." It's rural New York in the 1970s, and young Bit is a son growing up in an idealistic, imperfect commune. It shares a literary lightness with "The Beginner's Goodbye," the latest novel from best-selling author Anne Tyler, in which a longtime spouse's death is not the end you'd expect.

Tyler's book arrives April 3, the same day as Joseph Wambaugh's "Harbor Nocturne," a mystery that stars a seedy corner of San Pedro with appearances by the author's "Hollywood Station" crew. It's also the release date for "Driven" by James Sallis, a sequel to "Drive," which was given the feature film treatment starring Ryan Gosling last year.

Hari Kunzru's incisive intellect is at play in "Gods Without Men," a novel about a boy missing in the Southern California desert and his parents' search for him, which is also about chaos and trickery and belief.

Novelist Jonathan Franzen ("Freedom") takes a turn toward nonfiction with a collection of essays, "Farther Away," out April 24; regular readers of the New Yorker will find some of them familiar.

Not to be missed is the latest from biographer Robert Caro, who has a National Book Award and two Pulitzer Prizes on his shelf. This spring sees the publication of the fourth volume of his monumental biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. Coming May 8, "The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson" encompasses Johnson's battle with John F. Kennedy for the 1960 Democratic nomination, his tenure as vice president, and his ascension to the presidency after JFK's assassination. If Johnson's story stopped here, it would have a happy ending.

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