The stories in César Aira’s The Musical Brain (New Directions, $30) can be divided into two categories: There are the affectionate tales of growing up in provincial Argentina, gently fictionalized and narrated with precision. And then there are the fantastical scenarios told in the manner of Jorge Luis Borges, such as an account of “God’s Tea Party” or of a café filled with expert paper folders. Although the latter tales don’t always have the courage of their convictions, the autobiographical sketches are winning, capturing the surreal haze of childhood memories. This is a fresh, intriguing branch of Latin American literature, warmer than Borges, less pulpy than Bolaño and without the sentimentality of the Boom writers; it’s absolutely worth investigating.
Recommended by Chris Molnar of the Writer’s Block Book Shop, 1020 Fremont St., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon-Sat, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.