TUESDAY

Aimee Bender’s new novel, An Invisible Sign of My Own, has been praised as a work of linguistic grace and wit, but I found its most compelling metaphor to belong to a character: Mr. Jones, who wears wax numbers around his neck to indicate his mood. No one seems to notice except Mona, the book’s math teacher protagonist. When a student shows up in class with one of Jones’ numbers, Mona worries: “I couldn’t stand to think of it gone, of him waking up and feeling exactly precisely 42 and not being able to locate his mood and searching and searching but finding only 41 or 43, neither of which was quite right, not quite right at all, and having to drop down into the thirties, having to settle for something lower because he couldn’t announce it exactly.” But this paragon of empathy has what you might call intimacy issues: When she gets close to a guy, she feels the need to cleanse herself—by eating soap. Maybe Bender’s got a thing for nonverbal communication—you can’t argue that these actions are hard to interpret. Or maybe she’s met a Mona or two in her day. Ask her when she reads from and signs copies of An Invisible Sign at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 1200 F St. NW. Free. (202) 347-3686. (Caroline Schweiter)

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