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Annalisa Quinn

Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.

Quinn studied English and Classics at Georgetown University and holds an M.Phil in Classical Greek from the University of Cambridge, where she was a Cambridge Trust scholar.

Odysseus was the man of many minds and many ways, according to his Homeric epithets. And among the many minds of Odysseus, there's room for a space queen.

Odyssia is warlike, merciless, "witchjack and wanderer," "starminded," '"wolfclever," "lightspeed," a "wolfwitch." Written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Christian Ward, ODY-C is a beautifully colored space Odyssey, both graphic and novel, which makes Homer new.

Two brown girls from North London council estates want to be dancers. In the same dance class, the same shade of nut-brown, they are "two iron filings drawn to a magnet," friends before they speak. One, Tracey, is a natural dancer: intuitive, genius, even. The other, the narrator of Swing Time, is talented in another direction: She is an observer, a wallflower given structure by stronger, surer women around her. Unnamed, unsure, neither black nor white, the narrator is fittingly indistinct in this brilliant novel about the illusions of identity.

From the ground, flying is a wonderfully loose metaphor — for freedom and speed and ambition, for superhuman ease and laborless achievement. But Fran Wilde's Bone Universe series makes flying a fatal and real technical science. It isn't magic, but a controlled harnessing of something terrifyingly strong: the wind. The taut violence of flight — catching gusts, snapping wings, shaving the air — is the best and most real part of the novels. Not a broomstick whoosh or the effortless flutter of a superhero's cape, but groaning joints, deadly winds, an awful void below.

"Every path that leads to new victories is lined with crosses of the dead," wrote one early practitioner of proto-lobotomies. Luke Dittrich's new book asks: How many lives does a medical breakthrough cost? "By the middle of the twentieth century," Dittrich writes, "the breaking of human brains was intentional, premeditated, clinical." But were "all those asylums, all those lesions, all those broken men and women," worth what we now know about the human brain?