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President Joe Biden is set to announce strict new testing, masking and distancing requirements for federal employees who can't - or won't - sh…

In Maggie Nelson’s “Bluets,” her 2009 collection of poems on grief and loss, loneliness is “solitude with a problem.” Which is a useful way of understanding loneliness. Being alone and feeling lonely are not always the same thing. Except, of course, it’s complicated. Emily Dickinson wondered: Was loneliness “the maker of the soul”? Or its “seal”? Does loneliness define you? Or exacerbate ...

NONFICTION: Essays celebrate the joy and connections to be found in the deep woods. "Within These Woods" by Timothy Goodwin; Riverfeet Press (242 pages, $16) ——— Timothy Goodwin, an associate professor of education at Bemidji State University, might have kept the brief, gemlike essays that make up "Within These Woods" to himself. They might have become a private journal, or the contents of a ...

GRAPHIC NOVEL: Kristen Radtke explores the need for human attachment and the terror of its absence. "Seek You" by Kristen Radtke; Pantheon (352 pages, $30) ——— In Jim Shepard's recent bio-noir "Phase Six," a character mockingly defines loneliness as "solitude with self-pity thrown in." That line's chilly dismissiveness would not play well in Kristen Radtke's immersive, novelistic and intensely ...

FICTION: When a gay couple are murdered, their fathers — one Black, one white — look for justice. "Razorblade Tears" by S.A. Cosby; Flatiron Books (336 pages, $26.99) ——— Several times while I was reading S.A. Cosby's stunningly poignant and brutally profound novel "Razorblade Tears," William Faulkner's short story "Barn Burning" came to mind. Faulkner's story is about class conflict in the ...

FICTION: In the 1950s, a young editor finds himself at the center of a fiendish literary plot. "The Vixen" by Francine Prose; Harper (336 pages, $26.99) ——— Some authors want to have it both ways: Write a potboiler, but frame it as a respectable "literary" novel about someone writing a potboiler. With "The Vixen," Francine Prose adds one more layer: The potboiler being edited by her ...

"Phase Six" by Jim Shepard; Alfred A. Knopf (256 pages, $25.95) ——— The other day, my husband took in the latest COVID-19 statistics and wondered: What if this were a really big one? Someone less grounded in history and science and, well, reality, might say, Huh? This isn't big? That someone, however, is not Jim Shepard, who's clearly been thinking along these lines, and probably well before ...

'The Guide' By Peter Heller Peter Heller’s riveting thriller is set in the American wilderness, but the threats gathering around Jack, the young fishing guide of the title, come from man, not nature. Jack has been hired by a fishing club in Colorado that caters to wealthy clients. His job: Carry gear, find trout, chat up guests and do whatever he can to make them happy. But after he arrives at ...

'The Other Passenger' By Louise Candlish Every day, a group of commuters booze at the bar on a Thames ferry as they shuttle back and forth to their jobs in London. This little group is connected “by [their] childlessness” and their “freedom to put [themselves] before everyone else.” They’re self-indulgent and narcissistic. They’re Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, Ross and Rachel if Gillian Flynn or ...

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