Our colleagues at Salon are used to hearing us complain that there are just too many books being published these days. "It wouldn't be so bad if they were any good," we typically moan as we rip open the 1,000th Jiffy mailer amid a cloud of the grayish paper-pulp fluff that's used for padding. And sure enough, it's another book explaining how to communicate psychically with your Rottweiler or glean management tips from the Mahabharata, or else it's a novel about three girlhood friends who leave their exclusive boarding school to find money, intrigue and passion in the glamorous world of -- give us a break -- publishing.
You know that maxim about being careful what you wish for? Well, this spring we got it. May and June are positively resplendent with exciting new works of literary fiction, from writers old, new and vaguely familiar. And while we're not exactly complaining, we were a bit stumped about how to cover all of it until we hit upon the idea of dedicating one week of Salon Books coverage to this year's dazzling crop of novels and short-story collections. We've picked five books to spotlight this week. However, the five we've picked are far from the only gems you'll find in your bookstore at the moment. (One much-anticipated May novel, Jayne Anne Phillips' "Motherkind," will be showcased in Salon's Mothers Who Think site on Friday.) We selected these titles -- somewhat arbitrarily, we confess -- from a field that already includes new books by Edna O'Brien, Jane Smiley, Saul Bellow, Francine Prose, Jim Crace and Diane Johnson, and that will soon offer new works by Russell Banks, Sherman Alexie, Evan S. Connell, Elizabeth Gilbert, Tony Earley and Richard Powers. And that's all within two months! Our heads are spinning, our eyes are bleary, but our long-grousing readerly selves are finally satisfied.