What to read in May

The latest from Margaret Atwood and Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, a comic portrait of male narcissism and more in the month's best fiction.

Published May 27, 2003 7:00PM (EDT)

It's been 18 years since "The Handmaid's Tale," and while Margaret Atwood fans have had their hands full with her historical dramas and devastating, dead-on portraits of female cruelty, chances are they'll be eager for the novelist's return to futuristic fiction. "Oryx and Crake" isn't one of Atwood's best, but it's one of May's most promising acts. (And hopefully, the novel will help while away these lingering, oddly cold spring days until summer finally comes.)

Atwood's ominous tale of genetic engineering is as dark as May gets. We also recommend Thomas Berger's 22nd book, "Best Friends," a social comedy about a friendship gone sour and the inevitable outstanding debts two pals have to pay. A collection of delicate stories set in Venice, Italy, from newcomer Jane Turner Rylands, turns out to be surprisingly satisfying. And perhaps one of the month's biggest hits, "Getting Mother's Body" -- yes, as in corpse, only this one supposedly has jewels buried with it -- comes from "Topdog/ Underdog" playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.

Our first pick: In Margaret Atwood's latest, her hero is the last man on earth

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