Books: Five Auspicious, Artful and Amusing Debuts

First novelists range effortlessly from 17th century Paris to contemporary Philadelphia


Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield turned a perceptive innocence against a world that was out to steal their childhoods. But it has long been assumed that they used up the territories of the rural backwater and the prep school. Padgett Powell's twelve-year-old Simons Manigault is proof that they did not. He is in fact one of the most engaging fictional small fry ever to cry thief: sly, pungent, lyric, funny, and unlikely to be forgotten when literary-prize committees gather later...

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