Shelf Life

A Great Blue Heron, photographed by Thomas Mark Szelog. A Great Blue Heron, photographed by Thomas Mark Szelog. (''By a Maine River'')
By Jan Gardner
December 7, 2008
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Honors and editions
As J.M.G. Le Clézio accepts the Nobel Prize in Literature in Stockholm Wednesday, the writer, known as France's "nomad novelist," will attract a new audience.

A handful of his novels have been translated into English, including two under the imprint of New England publishers. In 1993 David R. Godine published an English translation of "The Prospector," about a privileged young man on the island of Mauritius whose idyllic existence is shattered by the death of his father. In May Godine plans to publish a translation of "Desert," which the Swedish Academy praised for its "magnificent images of a lost culture in the North African desert contrasted with a depiction of Europe seen through the eyes of unwanted immigrants."

Curbstone Press published an English translation of "Wandering Star," about two young girls caught up in the turmoil of the Middle East, in 2004.

Le Clézio, who has lived in Nigeria and Panama, now resides mainly in New Mexico.

In memoriam
The late Grace Paley will be honored with reminiscences and readings at 7 p.m. Thursday at Pierre Menard Gallery, in Harvard Square. More than a dozen fellow writers and political activists will share their memories of Paley's homemade soups, her grit, and her joy.

Bids for a good cause
Works by Kiki Smith, Michael Mazur, and other artists - including some that incorporate the writings of local children and teenagers - will be auctioned off Friday. The sale, at Robert Klein Gallery, 38 Newbury St., from 6 to 8 p.m., will benefit 826 Boston's writing and tutoring programs. Details at www.826bos

Bound to please
Three books in particular from the past year might sit well with the Red Sox fan, nature lover, and couch potato on your gift list. The fast-paced mystery "Green Monster," by Rick Shefchik (Poisoned Pen), wraps an extortion plot around the 2004 World Series. "By a Maine River: A Year of Looking Closely," by Thomas Mark Szelog and Lee Ann Szelog (Down East), is packed with striking photographs of flora and fauna outside the couple's log cabin. In "The Idler's Glossary" (Biblioasis), Joshua Glenn and Mark Kingwell offer a lighthearted defense of lolling about.

Case of the curious poet
A clever new chapbook of poems about Nancy Drew penetrates the sleuth's sunny outlook and wonders "What if?" In "Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth" (Cervená Barva), poet Kathleen Aguero of Cambridge imagines Drew longing to graduate to bigger mysteries, like the aurora borealis, or desperate for a change of career altogether. In other poems, Drew's love interest, Ned, turns criminal; her father, Carson, boasts about his style of parenting; and live-in housekeeper Hannah Gruen demands her due.

Coming out

  • "No Limits: The Will to Succeed," by Michael Phelps (Free Press)

  • "The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found," by Mary Beard (Belknap/Harvard University)

  • "Michelle Obama: First Lady of Hope," by Elizabeth Lightfoot (Lyons)

    Pick of the week
    Christopher Castellani, author of "The Saint of Lost Things" and director of Grub Street, recommends "Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain," by Kirsten Menger-Anderson (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill): "Tracing 12 generations of doctors as they seek a cure for pain and madness, these linked stories masterfully combine the fascinating and utterly strange history of medicine with a colorful history of New York City. The characters are vivid and unforgettable; Menger-Anderson's sensibility is wholly original."

    Jan Gardner can be reached at

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