Locos, by Felipe Alfau (Vintage, $8.95). First published in 1936 in a small print run, this dizzying novel was rediscovered by Dalkey Archive press and brought out by them to considerable critical acclaim. Like Nabokov's Pale Fire and Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds, Locos twists and turns in on itself, leading the reader into a funhouse where he is at once delighted and bedazzled: The main, supposedly "real," characters compose stories about imaginary characters who magically start to lead lives independent of what their creators imagine. The chapters themselves tell wondrous tales, of murder, incest, suicide, of a woman who lived for death, of a man whom no one ever noticed, of a slave who transforms himself into a Spanish hidalgo. Supporting all these mysteries, riddles and marvels is a supple, English style remarkable in a 26-year-old emigre from Spain. One last wonder: Felipe Alfau still lives, pushing 90, in New York City. Sadly, he wrote only one other novel, Chromos, similar to Locos, which was published last year.
The Medusa Frequency, by Russell Hoban (Atlantic Monthly, $8.95). Not many writers are equally acclaimed as writers for pre-schoolers, middle readers, young adults and grown-ups, but Russell Hoban has written superb books for each of these ages. His career divides roughly between the picture books he wrote in America (the Frances stories being the best known) and the five adult novels he has brought out so far after moving to Britain. These all share a quirky, eccentric humor, whether relating a quiet love affair in Turtle Diary or the phantasmagorical encounters with death in Kleinzeit. Riddley Walker, however, remains his masterpiece -- a vision of a post-holocaust world, set down in language as pitted, broken and numinous as a stone-age relic. The Medusa Frequency is nearly as rich, but here fantastic images rather than skewed language dominate, as Hoban reworks elements of the Orpheus myth in the surreal adventures of a dried-up writer in search of his long-lost beloved.
Orientations, by Pierre Boulez (Harvard, $14.95; cloth, $33.50). Is there something about composing music that carries over into writing sentences? Seemingly, half the major 20th-century composers also excel at what Dryden called "the other harmony of prose." Think of Virgil Thomson and Ned Rorem, just for starters. Still, Pierre Boulez seems to be exceptional in that his writings have long been polemical extensions of his own practice and, like his music, are cerebral, demanding and very serious. Here are essays on musical analysis, interpretations of major classics ("Pierrot Lunaire," "Wozzeck"), and tributes to admired figures like T.W. Adorno and Edgar Varese. Expect no Gallic froth, no can-can lightheartedness from the stern figure that stares out from the cover of this book. But the essays inside are those of a major musical thinker.
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, edited by Peter Clayton and Martin Price (Routledge, $12.95). Everyone's heard of the Seven Wonders of the World, but who can actually name them all? In this illustrated survey, some seven scholars describe each of the classic wonders -- from the Great Pyramid at Giza and The Hanging Gardens of Babylon to The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and The Colossus of Rhodes -- and present the archeological evidence for their presumed eminence. The introduction relates the general history of the Seven, which seem to have gotten their start, not too surprisingly, with Herodotus.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery: His Life and Times, by Curtis Cate (Paragon House, $14.95). Like T.E. Lawrence and Andre Malraux, Saint-Exupery was both a superb writer and a genuinely heroic man of action. His novels range from the stark Night-Flight, set in South America, to the classic children's fantasy, The Little Prince. Most of Saint-Exupery's professional life was spent in and around airplanes and few writers have ever described more authentically the early, adventurous days of commercial flying. Appropriately, Saint-Ex disappeared during the Second World War while on a mission over North Africa.
You're Smokin' Now, Mr. Butts!: A Doonesbury Book, by G.B. Trudeau (Andrews and McMeel, $6.95). Anyone studying contemporary social history could do a lot worse than build up a collection of all the Doonesbury cartoon albums, Think how far we've gone since those halcyon days when Joanie first landed at Walden commune: the various misadventures of Uncle Duke, the increasingly overt social and political commentary of today. This latest album shoots barbs at Donald Trump, chronicles the slow dying of AIDS patient Andy, and follows the relentless compromises forced upon Mike as he works for various advertising accounts.
MYSTERIES AND THRILLERS
A Stone of the Heart, by John Brady (Penguin, $3.95). A Trinity College, Dublin, undergraduate is brutally murdered, and Detective Sgt. Matt Minogue of the Garda investigates. Minogue encounters deception and false leads which lead him in time to shadowy terrorists and IRA arms-dealers. The result is an entirely satisfactory police procedural, long on Joycean atmosphere and every page celebrating the Irish gift for the striking phrase.
After Dark, My Sweet, by Jim Thompson (Vintage, $7.95). One version of the pastoral myth invests working-class men and women with natures more passionate, earthy and elemental than those of more "sophisticated" white-collar types. Perhaps this is why, in an era of yuppie chic and high-tech decadence, that the film noir and the roman noir have been making such a comeback. Maybe too we love these steamy tales of adulterous passion, scams and double-crosses because they mirror, with brutal candor, the cooler betrayals practiced in air-conditioned offices. Of all the grand masters of this gritty genre -- from Cornell Woolrich, James M. Cain and David Goodis to Chester Himes and Charles Willeford -- perhaps the most admired is Jim Thompson. This novel shows him near his best (his best is The Killer Inside Me), as it relates the downward spiral of the mildy psychotic William "Kid" Collins when he meets a crooked dame named Fay.