New Yiddish books for Yiddish readers

Written by By Heather Mallick, CNN

A surprise appearance in Grand Central Terminal draws a crowd as “Oleanna” sparks off the station’s ceiling with the garlands and bunting.

This scene from ” Oleanna ” has inspired actor Matt Damon to perform in the scene at Grand Central Terminal . But to those who have read John Irving’s 2002 crime drama, real life isn’t nearly as dramatic.

In this imagining of “Oleanna ” by New York artist-turned-author Heather Mallick, the accused woman, Carlotta Walls LaNier, shares her messy feelings about what happened just before the crime. But the narrative is clearly Mallick’s own adaptation of the novel, and it’s her macabre vision that ties the story together.

A Christmas gift for a crime-loving person

The crown jewel of Mallick’s 2013 anthology, “I Was Stranded,” is “Carnivale.” It takes a fictionalized look at mobster Frank Costello’s vicious sexual blackmail of Christie Brinkley. In this tale, an older Christie is still lusting after Costello, even though his actions are clearly illegal.

This Christmas, the editor of “I Was Stranded,” Colleen Brady, recommends giving this story to someone who loves crime fiction, and whose initials include the words “Carnivale.”

Brady says Mallick’s effort to remind readers that sex before murder is illegal is a point to bring home to even those who don’t already know the details of this brutal scene. This book will be the gift that keeps on giving, and the cops will come looking for Costello all over again.

A night by the fireplace

Reading “To Jupiter” by Daniyal Mueenuddin is a romantic read that’s perfect for anyone who wants to celebrate Mueenuddin’s literary achievement with a date.

Fictionistic skill never takes a holiday in Mueenuddin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which focuses on a Nigerian woman’s upcoming marriage to a successful businessman in the UK. Mueenuddin honors her characters’ thwarted hopes and their desire to live happily ever after. The book is written with quiet elegance.

“I prefer to think of her as my South American wife,” says Mueenuddin, describing her character in the novel. “She’s older, with a darker complexion, and is thoughtful and gentle. And it takes great confidence to marry yourself. She’s confident, and fearless.”

To Jupiter. A novel about marriage. A romantic Christmas gift for anyone who wants to celebrate this accomplished author’s literary achievement with a date.

A kitchen

Authors love to contribute novel-inspired recipes to their Facebook-magazine Christmas-issue cookbooks — this year’s crop includes “In the Kitchen with Alain de Botton” and “Alain de Botton’s Picks” — but food rarely gets the creative treatment it deserves in Mallick’s novels. In “To Jupiter,” Mueenuddin transforms this technique into a descriptive, visual feast for the eyes.

Mueenuddin’s kitchen is not a vacation from his characters’ troubles — Mueenuddin gets a little taste of that himself with the narrator. But at her wit’s end, Mueenuddin’s personia becomes pure, everyday, human joy that gives her time to escape the trials and tribulations of her wife, lover and friend.

A hub of conspiracy

In “The Devil in Tennessee,” Mallick relates a rural ghost story and dramatizes the mind games of genteel Southern Ann Arbor in 1939. This story is layered with irony, repetition and social criticism. As a character mentions, there is just something wrong about the tragic demise of her husband, and with that, the message is made clear.

This story will challenge those who enjoy a sturdy historical fiction, but Mallick’s intent is to challenge the typical reader to consider his or her own prejudices and preconceptions about the past. The characterization of people in this world makes it harder to dismiss the truth.

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