Our Tip Sheet on Current Reading

The Observer’s own John Heilpern, laid low two weeks ago by a bout of illness, received good news to speed his recovery: His John Osborne: The Many Lives of the Angry Young Man (Knopf, $35) has been named the Theatre Book of the Year in England, an annual prize given out by the Society for Theatre Research. (Having Daniel Radcliffe—Harry Potter himself—present the award adds a touch of magic, don’t you think?) To celebrate, here’s a brief excerpt from a letter Osborne fired off to William Shawn after the New Yorker editor published a little play by Osborne’s ex-wife, Penelope Gilliatt, that was, as Mr. Heilpern points out, a “thinly veiled” spousal satire: “Have you lost your bleeding marbles, you poor old cock?” wrote an enraged Osborne. “Are you all feeling unwell over there, we ask ourselves? Or is the New Yorker, like the famed Oozlem bird that flew in ever diminishing circles, about to disappear up its once glossy sphincter?”

It’s been getting raves all around—from Colm Tóibín in The New York Review of Books, from Charles Kaiser in The Washington Post, from Stacey D’Erasmo in The New York Times Book Review (there’s a pattern there, having to do with sexual orientation)—but the ultimate praise for André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name (FSG, $23) came from Michael Cunningham, who introduced Mr. Aciman when the latter read at the 92nd St. Y: “Wouldn’t you know that the best gay novel I’ve read in many years would be written by a guy with a wife and three children?”

A Shakespeare scholar in love? The late A.D. Nuttall, in his posthumous Shakespeare the Thinker (Yale, $30), works hard to hear the “moral music” in King Lear, particularly in the unutterably bleak final scene. Keeping an eye on Cordelia, who’s “haloed by a certain light that never leaves her,” he detects a flicker of transcendence: “At the end of the play we are not sure that Cordelia is in heaven, but unless we are entirely brutalized, we do feel that we have glimpsed, beyond the chaotic horror, something of the infinite sweetness that we cannot fully comprehend.”

Our Tip Sheet on Current Reading