October Publications

Ten previously unpublished stories by Hanif Kureishi, British bad-boy novelist and screenwriter, are packaged with the paperback reprint of his provocative novel Intimacy in a volume clunkily titled Intimacy: A Novel and Midnight All Day: Stories. Though slightly less personal than the novel, which raised hackles with its portrait of a self-involved man who walks out on his wife and two young sons, the stories are cut from the same cloth. In "That Was Then," a man in a comfortable domestic situation agrees to meet with an ex-flame; both ponder how and why people exchange ragged excitement for stability. "Morning in the Bowl of Night" snaps a depressing shot of a man joining his estranged family for Christmas, to the dismay of his pregnant girlfriend. While Kureishi's protagonists are not exactly role models, his stories offer brutally honest insights into failed romance. This volume is being released to coincide with the publication of Kureishi's new novel, Gabriel's Gift. (Scribner, $13 paper 336p ISBN 0-7432-1714-4)

The Woodcutter's Christmas is a modern holiday story set apart from the sentimental pack by Brad Kessler's (Lick Creek) fine prose and Dona Ann McAdams's beautiful black-and-white photos of abandoned Christmas trees on New York City streets. The woodcutter is a lonely farmer who sells his trees in Manhattan, until one year he is struck by how quickly the trees are discarded. On an impulse, he collects as many of them as he can from the sidewalks and loads them into his truck. But before he leaves, he meets a mysterious homeless woman who will change his life. (Council Oak, $14.95 54p ISBN 1-57178-105-6)

Two garden-loving editors—Charles Dean and Clyde Wachsberger—selected the 24 stories and poems gathered in Of Leaf and Flower, a slim, idiosyncratic collection of plant-themed material. A good number of "heirlooms," as they put it, are included: stories like Saki's "The Occasional Garden," Kate Chopin's "Ripe Figs" and Robert Graves's "Earth to Earth," as well as poems by William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost and James Schuyler. Among the more contemporary writers and poets represented are Amy Clampitt, Billy Collins, Kathleen Raine and Mark Doty. Twelve black-and-white sumi paintings of plants from the editors' garden round out this charming offering. (Persea, $21.95 192p ISBN 0-89255-269-7)

The 59-year-old wife of a dying concert cellist falls in love with a woman half her age in Light, Coming Back, a stately, elegiac tale of passion and regret by first-time novelist Ann Wadsworth. Mercedes Medina has lived a comfortable life full of beautiful things, but she only realizes what it has lacked when she meets Lennie, a restless gardener with a tendency to drift into trouble. When Mercedes's husband dies and Lennie abandons her, Mercedes must come to terms with her guilt and distress. This is a thoughtful, modest and moving debut. (Alyson, $24.95 320p ISBN 1-55583-633-X)

A Muskogee Creek boy in Oklahoma learns to accept his homosexuality in Craig Womack's Drowning in Fire. Quiet and effeminate, Josh Henneha suffers the cruel barbs of other boys as well as his own religious guilt. He draws strength from his heritage, which he discovers through dreams, hallucinations and the stories of his great-aunt Lucy. A boyhood crush on his friend Jimmy grows into something deeper and more complicated as the years pass. The novel is a compelling account of sexual awakening and a glimpse into the mind of a young man torn between two cultures. (Univ. of Arizona, $35 280p ISBN 0-8165-2167-0; paper $17.95 -2164-9)

Michelle Richmond examines the lives of four Alabama sisters as they grow up and drift away from home in The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress, a collection that received the AWP Award for Short Fiction. Gracie (who narrates many of the 19 loosely connected stories) returns home after dumping her Bruce Springsteen—obsessed boyfriend; Baby develops a strange relationship with an upstairs neighbor while her husband is away; and Darlene confirms her mother's worst fear by coming out of the closet. Richmond's writing is perceptive and heartfelt, her subjects at once edgy and familiar. This is a winning debut. (Univ. of Massachusetts, $24.95 176p ISBN 1-55849-315-8)