Literary Heavyweights Take Swing: McEwan, Foer, Ishiguro, Gray

‘Tis the season for budding talent-just ask Jonathan Safran Foer, whose second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Houghton Mifflin), can’t be far off and won’t be quietly received: The adoring profile in the Feb. 27 New York Times Magazine raised the curtain on a month of raves for the 28-year-old author of Everything Is Illuminated (2002). If there’s anyone out there bold enough to doubt that Mr. Foer deserves every penny of the $1 million advance he snagged for the new book, if anyone’s muttering that he’s only a bright kid with an eye for catchy literary gimmicks, just remind them that his debut sold more than 100,000 copies in hardcover.

Who’s the international voice of British fiction? Ian McEwan, of course. That’s what the Brits discovered last month when the U.K. publication of his new novel, Saturday (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), was announced on the 10 o’clock news. (Imagine Peter Jennings hailing Philip Roth’s latest with a solemn three-minute spot, complete with mini-interview and action shots of the author strolling the streets of Weequahic.) Mr. McEwan, fresh from the trans-Atlantic triumph of Atonement (2002), has squeezed the events of his new novel (his ninth) into a single day-it’s a tight fit, but he’s a pro with the cleanest style in the business.

Meanwhile, there’s no moss gathering on Bob Dylan. Last year he finally published Chronicles, Vol. 1, the first installment of his memoirs, and Christopher Ricks did his damnedest to install him in the poet’s pantheon with Dylan’s Visions of Sin. Now here comes Greil Marcus, beloved dean of rock critics, with Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads (PublicAffairs), the “biography” of a 40-year-old song that still asks with undiminished intensity the key question: “How does it feel?”

History buffs rejoice! Interest-rate guru James Grant brings us John Adams: Party of One (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Stacy Schiff, who won a Pulitzer for her biography of Véra Nabokov, follows up with a founding father’s Parisian adventures, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (Holt); and Time essayist Lance Morrow chips in with The Best Year of Their Lives: Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon in 1948-Learning the Secrets of Power (Basic).

In April, just in time for opening day, comes Jonathan Mahler’s wide-ranging Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The Yankees won the series, the lights went out, Son of Sam stalked the streets, Studio 54 banished the night-and it all happened right here.

Kazuo Ishiguro, the British novelist who delighted readers everywhere with The Remains of the Day (1989)-and bewildered them with his next two books-returns to form with Never Let Me Go (Knopf). William T. Vollmann doesn’t do short: His nonfiction opus on violence, Rising Up and Rising Down (2003), ran to seven volumes. His new novel, Europe Central (Viking), is 832 pages long-and broad enough to include Germany, Russia and the accumulated horrors of World War II on the Eastern front.

Remember James Salter? Author of A Sport and a Pastime (1967), the all-time-best highbrow porn (or, in The New York Times’ more reverent phrase, “tour de force of erotic realism”)? Well, he’s back with Last Night (Knopf ), a slim, elegant collection of 10 short stories.

This May, it’s a safe bet that David McCullough will scale the best-seller lists with 1776 (Simon and Schuster), his eighth book. So far, he’s won a pair of Pulitzers and a pair of National Book Awards-do they give Nobel Prizes in Americana? Media junkies should prepare for the gossip-fest of the year: Francine du Plessix Gray’s Them: A Memoir of Parents (Penguin Press), her diptych portrait of her mother, fashion icon Tatiana du Plessix, and her stepfather, Condé Nast titan Alexander Liberman. James Frey serves up My Friend Leonard (Riverhead), his sequel to A Million Little Pieces (2003), a much-hyped memoir of addiction and detox. Esquire’s literary editor, Adrienne Miller, makes her debut with The Coast of Akron (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a 400-page family saga that stretches from London in the 70′s to the here and now-if Ohio is your idea of here.

And did I mention that Jonathan Safran Foer got married? His 30-year-old wife, Nicole Krauss, is publishing her second novel, The History of Love (Norton). He’ll be coming home from his book tour just as she sets out on hers.