David Foster Wallace's unfinished novel tops our new-release picks for April 12, 2011

Categories: Lists

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If most authors leave an unfinished novel lying around, it doesn't really mean anything. It's usually unfinished because at best it's crap and at worst, unreadable. There have been exceptions: Kafka left behind The Castle, Chaucer left The Canterbury Tales unfinished, and Mark Twain's Mysterious Stranger was pieced together from three different versions. If we can trust anyone to give us an experience posthumously that's still worth reading, it'd be David Foster Wallace. If that doesn't excite you, worry not, we've got plenty of other worthwhile fragments of entertainment to buy this week, including the first real biography of Yuri Gagarin, a collection of classic films and more.

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5. Starman: The Truth Behind of the Legend of Yuri Gagarin, by Jamie Doran, Piers Bizony
Starman tells the story of Yuri Gagarin (who happens to be featured on the Google logo today), the first person to venture into space. It was originally published in Russia, but to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Gagarin's epic flight into the unknown, it's finally getting an English-language release. This is the only book to go deeper than Gagarin's epic 108-minute space flight, including his mysterious death, his dissolution with the Russian government and his early life. Through Gagarin's story, we get an incredibly revealing look into the Soviet space program, which, despite the end of the Cold War, we know very little about.

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4. Tracy and Hepburn: The Definitive Collection
How do seven classic films packaged together with cartoons, commentary, shorts and other special features sound? If you're a fan of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, it probably sounds like you need to request the rest of the week off from work so you can delve into some of the greatest films to ever grace the silver screen. Included in the package are Woman of the Year, Without Love, State of the Union, Adam's Rib, Pat and Mike, Desk Set and, of course, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. The collection details two of the best actors in history working together in some of the greatest films ever made.

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3. Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes HD (Xbox Live Arcade, PSN)
When Clash of Heroes was released for the Nintendo DS two years ago, it showed audiences that in-depth strategy games didn't need to be an inclusive world inhabited by ubër-nerds and number-crunchers. The premise of a deep, involving game that's accessible to nearly everyone has been tried a million times, but Clash of Heroes was one of very few titles to ever get it right. Combining elements from the RPG and strategy worlds with classic, casual color matching, this game will not only eat up your time, but it'll also force you to think critically about every move you make.

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2. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki
Generally speaking, when Americans think of manga, they envision children fighting robotic dragons while driving a flying car through a rainbow-tornado in a futuristic city. That's not always the case, and more often that not, manga is a platform for telling deeply personal stories. Case in point: Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a semi-autobiographical account of Mizuki's final weeks in the Japanese infantry at the end of World War II. It wasn't a pretty time: Soldiers were told they could either trudge deeper beyond enemy lines in what were essentially suicide missions or return home and face execution. Mizuki tackles this topic with the wherewithal of someone who was deeply involved and understood the consequences on both ends.

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1. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
When David Foster Wallace took his own life, in 2008, he left behind a manuscript for an unfinished book, The Pale King, in a place where he knew his wife would find it. Although the book is far from finished, Wallace is one of very few authors who can deliver an unfinished novel that is still better than 99 percent of what is being published today. As far as plot is concerned, this one wanders aimlessly (as Wallace is wont to do) through a tale that manages to creep awkwardly across the meta-line as a mock memoir involving both David Foster Wallace the author and David F. Wallace. It's tangled, difficult to follow and nearly impossible to understand completely, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.

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