We get Wideman pondering deaths in his own family. What we get, in the end, is a book unlike any other, the work of an American master working at peak form late in a long and magnificent career. Bill Happiness by Aminatta Forna: A novel about what happens when an expert on the habits of foxes and an expert on the trauma of refugees meet in London, one that Paul Yoon raved about it in his Year in Reading: The Nobel Prize winner's latest arrives in translation from the extraordinary Edith Grossman. Two women married to very affluent men are having a lesbian affair, and one of their husbands, Enrique, is being blackmailed.
While this may not be his best work, it will keep readers reading all the way. Sometimes truth is more fascinating than fiction. Yurchyshyn's father was a banker who died in Ukraine in a car "accident" that was possibly a hit when she was 16, and years later, though not many, her mother succumbed to alcoholism. Yurchyshyn's tale is one of curiosity and discovery; it's also an inquiry into grief and numbness. Year in Reading alum and author of The Oracle of Stamboul explores the history of Cairo's Ben Ezra Synagogue site of the famous Cairo Geniza document trove discovered in the nineteenth century through the story of its generations of Muslim watchmen as gleaned by their modern-day, Berkeley-dwelling scion.
Rabih Alameddine calls it "a beautiful, richly textured novel, ambitious and delicately crafted This is an atmospheric novel of betrayal and ardent allegiance to ideology and political choices. His decision leads to the family having to flee the country and for them to have to make a decision: Chigozie Memento Park by Mark Sarvas: Memento Park is about art, history, Jewishness, fathers and sons: Famously, Kenyan author Ngugi wrote his Gikuyu novel Devil on the Cross while serving out a prison sentence.
And he did it on toilet paper, no less. Twenty-something artist Andrea ran away from the Midwest to Portland to escape the expectation to be a mother and create a life for herself as a queer artist. Then, confused and hurt by a break-up, she hooked up with a man—and ended up having his child.
Her follow up to The Interestings , The Female Persuasion centers around Greer Kadetsky, who is a freshman in college when she meets Faith Frank, an inspiring feminist icon who ignites Greer's passions. As the starred review in Publisher's Weekly says, this novel explores, "what it is to both embrace womanhood and suffer because of it. Claire The Recovering by Leslie Jamison: The bestselling author of The Empathy Exams brings us The Recovering, which explores addiction and recovery in America, in particular the stories we tell ourselves about addiction. Jamison also examines the relationship many well-known writers and artists had with addiction, including Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday, Raymond Carver, David Foster Wallace, and more.
Is Sittenfeld a serious literary novelist who dabbles in chick lit? Is she a writer of frothy beach reads who happens to have an MFA from Iowa? Michael Varina by Charles Frazier: Something to think about. From the waiting room of a French fertility clinic, a young woman revisits the stories of generations of her Iranian ancestors culminating in her parents, who brought her to France when she was This French hit, published in English by Europa Editions, is called "a rich, irreverent, kaleidoscopic novel of real originality and power" by Alexander Maksik.
A debut collection of stories exploring black identity and middle-class life in so-called "post-racial" America, with storylines ranging from gun violence and depression to lighter matters like a passive-aggressive fight between the mothers of school kids. Until last year, Babitz was an obscure writer who chronicled hedonistic Los Angeles in the s and s. She is the five books of memoir and fiction she left behind for young women, freshly moved to Los Angeles, to find. And, of course, the Chateau Marmont.
Ten years removed from her debut, Crosley takes on issues ranging from the pressures of fertility, to swingers, to confronting her own fame. Give this to Barnes: In his 13th novel, a college student named Paul spends a lazy summer at a tennis club, where he meets a middle-aged woman with two daughters around his age. Soon enough, the two are having an affair, and a flash-forward to a much-older Paul makes clear it upended their lives. Tom McCallister…is a man! Although high school English teacher Anna Crawford is quickly exonerated after being named a suspect in a campus shooting, she nevertheless suffers intense scrutiny in the wake of the tragedy.
If only Anthony Minghella were still with us to make the movie. If you periodically spend afternoons sitting around wondering when you will get to read something new by DeWitt, this is your season. In May we get 13 stories from the brilliant writer who brought us The Last Samurai— one of the best books of this or any millennium—and the evilly good Lightning Rods.
In this collection DeWitt will evidently apply her mordant virtuosity to territory ranging from statistics to publishing. Four years since publishing his last novel, Palahniuk returns in the era of fake news, obvious government corruption, and widespread despair. Last Stories by William Trevor: Prior to his death in November , Trevor told a friend that the book he was working on would be called Last Stories. That is this book—the last we will ever have from the Irish author. Six of the 10 stories included here have never been published before, and what preview would be sufficient?
Complications ensue when one of the Mems, Dolores Extract 1, begins to make and form her own memories. All the cool moms of literary twitter including Edan! Janet The Ensemble by Aja Gabel: A novel about art and friendship and the fraught world of accomplished musicians—four young friends who comprise a string quartet. Mat Johnson said Gabel's novel "deserves a standing ovation. The Lost Empress is as ambitious as his first, a page doorstopper that takes on both football and the criminal justice system.
The novel has a large cast, but centers on two characters: New York-bred writer Brinkley and Year in Reading alum delivers this anticipated debut story collection. Anne The Pisces by Melissa Broder: You may know Broder because of her incredible So Sad Today tweets. D student in love with a Californian merman. The student, Lucy, has a breakdown after nine years of grad school, which compels her Angeleno sister to invite her to dogsit at her place.
On the beach, a merman appears, and Lucy embarks on a romance that seems impossible. It's true Cusk is a chronicler of the domestic: That novel, a gargantuan epic set in post-independence India in the s, was a multi-family saga built around the pursuit of a suitable husband in a world of arranged marriages. Though best-known for A Suitable Boy, the versatile Seth has produced novels, poetry, opera, a verse novel, a travel book, and a memoir.
Bill Florida by Lauren Groff: Set in Oakland, Orange's novel describes the disparate lives that come together for the Oakland Powwow and what happens to them when they get there. You might think I'm exaggerating but this book is so revolutionary—evolutionary—that Native American literature will never be the same. Oh, just influencing a generation of novelists from his perch at The New Yorker, where his dissecting reviews also functioned as miniature writing seminars.
He also penned a writing manual, How Fiction Works. This third novel from the acclaimed author of The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House interlaces the story of an art gallery director whose friends are succumbing to the AIDS epidemic in s Chicago with a mother struggling to find her estranged daughter 30 years later in contemporary Paris.
With the new Good Trouble, the Netherland author now has a full collection, comprised of 11 off-kilter, unsettling stories. A family chronicle, workplace drama, and love story rolled into one, Li's debut chronicles the universe of the Beijing Duck House restaurant of Rockville, Md. Lorrie Moore raves, "her narratives are complex, mysterious, moving, and surprising. In her much anticipated memoir SICK, Khakpour chronicles her arduous experience with illness, specifically late-stage Lyme disease.
Examining the intersection of social media and intimacy, the commercial and the corporeal, the theme of Hodson's essay collection is how we are pushed and pulled by our desire. I am in awe of Celt's mastery as a prose stylist and storyteller; I can't stop thinking about this amazing book. While the claim is no less true despite the ease with which it is repeatedly made, the framing of what this mantle means is less frequently explored, and has somewhat problematic origins.
The underlying assumption that both its affirmers and detractors leave largely unexplored however, is the question of what exactly the avant-garde means to contemporary literature, where it is to be found, what defines it, and whether or not it is even possible. The real, albeit incidental insight that emerged in the aftermath of the essay, was that its proposed solutions betrayed a genuine need born out of something endemic, something we are all actually desperate for —— a coherent framing of contemporary literary conflict and an authentic mode of resistance to a increasingly corporate literary monoculture.
If Remainder represented the abandonment of the pure and sacred self against the apparatus of a long held tradition of realism, then Satin Island seeks to reveal how such distinctions are ultimately meaningless. Satin Island takes on a lot within the space of its covers. Indeed, for a novel that is fewer than pages, it is remarkably dense and polysemous —— at times it seems to accomplish more in this space than many much larger novels achieve in triple the length.
This time McCarthy concerns himself directly with manifestos, and the manifesto here is on perhaps the greatest subject of all: The Contemporary —— which is to say, the Postmodern whatever that means. Like Franz Kafka and Thomas Pynchon before him, McCarthy maintains an interest in hidden networks and bottomless bureaucracies that baffle common sense and intuition. As usual, McCarthy remains comically oblique about the presumed details of plot and character, though our protagonist, known only as U.
It advised cities how to brand and re-brand themselves; regions how to elaborate and frame regenerative strategies; governments how to narrate their policy agendas —— to the press, the public and, not least, themselves. We dealt, as Peyman liked to say, in narratives. Below them, hordes of people -- thousands, tens of thousands -- labored, moving around like ants, their circuits forming patterns on the sand; patterns that, in their amalgam, coalesced into one larger, more coherent pattern, just as the meandering, bowing, divagating stretches of a river delta do when seen from high enough above.
In addition to many others, this vision belongs to U. When collected, they reveal how the corporate superstructure or supra-structure can become a lattice through which one can view all human activity, and diagram that activity into a single coherent narrative. After all, anthropology, in its most ambitious form, is essentially totalitarian, seeking to explain all human behavior —— not simply to diagnose what prompts that behavior, but to find a grid through which it can be connected and codified.
In short, everything that appears distinct and separate is actually a different version of the same thing. In The Gift , Marcel Mauss was convinced that however foreign and irrational the trade practices of primitive societies appeared to westerners, the most sophisticated and advanced industrial economies rested on the same integral logic of exchange.
This is also the dream of the modern corporation, is it not?: If this is the dream, than the Koob-Sassen Project is its manifesto. Historically the novel and the manifesto have been the two delivery systems for the avant-garde. While the latter hopes to goad the former into existence by commanding a switch in consciousness, the novel creates consciousness on its own terms and for its own sake. Manifestos are inherently arrogant and utopian by nature, seeking to explain the whole of their time and replace the miserable, vulgar past with an exalted vision of the future.
Often bound to hard ideologies, like fascism and communism, it is no surprise that the early 20th century was the heyday of the form F. To regard the manifesto as something that serves an art form is to slightly misunderstand its usefulness. As a genre it is essentially self-satisfying, always benefitting its loyal disciples more than the form as a whole. A high ideal of the avant-garde would be a Heideggerian one —— to erupt a new form of consciousness out of a kind of nothingness, and to hurl ourselves through that consciousness which we are scarcely prepared for and desperate to understand, ahead of which only oblivion lies.
McCarthy himself has spoken about the reusable, or recreational avant-garde —— the kind of experimentalism that beats ahead by reaching back into tradition and appropriating old forms to the standard of our time, sometimes subverting that tradition, sometimes disrupting it violently, sometimes remaining faithful to its origins. This seems to be the avant-garde that McCarthy is most interested in both disrupting and verifying, and providing a fictional framework in which both its braggadocio and its necessity can co-exist.
In Satin Island, the battleground of this vision of the avant-garde is the modern bureaucracy, that node of systemic knowledge, that endless vista of departments, branches, and research. Through this, the novel immerses itself in the vertiginous and ever-expanding matrix of networked human experience. Blanchot and Robbe-Grillet are obvious influences on McCarthy, but McCarthy himself seems to work more out of the left brain, or perhaps more appropriately, the gut. More often than not, Satin Island operates in the open and imaginative spaces that one would sooner associate with Kafka.
Indeed, for all his continental headiness, McCarthy thinks like a novelist better than pretty much anyone, with an acute sense of irony and negative capability thoroughly worked into his characters and not just his theoretical schemas. But where his post-war ancestors believed that form, language, and other aesthetic techniques could be used as tools to overthrow existing orders, McCarthy has seen if only by virtue of hindsight that the mainstream coopted this hope of the avant-garde long ago. The Long Last Stop Nostalgic for eras that have yet to begin, the other side of the avant-garde is equally concerned with the end of institutions.
Postmodernism, as Frederick Jameson reminds us, is concerned with the end of things: As both McCarthy and Iyer seem to understand, this is the reality in which the manifesto, and its literary counterpart, the avant-garde novel, has to exist, if it is to exist at all. It could also be the thesis statement for the Koob-Sassen Project. The corporation is at the forefront of the avant-garde, the central engine of appropriation, which is to say, that if the modern avant-garde exists in any form, it is in appropriation, only in what can be hijacked and redeployed.
At one point U. Here, the engine appropriation appears in disquietingly familiar terms: On another occasion, in one of U. Can one eschew popular trends in favor of niche cultures, like the American hipster, without also being a slave to that niche? The overriding fear here, is what Theodor W. Adorno warned us about long ago: And fearing the prospect genuine redemption, U. This is the monocultural dead end, the existential equivalent of Coke or Pepsi? And still further into the literary conversation: To think of the avant-garde this way is to treat it as a mere genre in the cafeteria of literary identity; both are the same kind of unfreedom, different forms of the same essential meaninglessness.
The irony inherent in this misplaced sense of independence is exactly what lies underneath U. To visit Staten Island —— actually go there —— would have been profoundly meaningless. What would it, in reality have solved or resolved? What space would I have discovered there, and for what concrete purpose? And so I found myself, as I waded back through the relentless stream of people, struggling just to stay in the same place, suspended between two types of meaninglessness.
So what are we to take away from this? While the ending of the novel is depressingly bleak, suggesting a perennial void, there is a muted resilience that underscores its very effort, something beyond what the manifesto with all its dogmatic prescriptions could ever hope to achieve.
At the risk of sounding formulaic, taking on the idea of what the avant-garde means seems to be the truest path forward for the avant-garde. Satin Island is a successful work of the contemporary avant-garde, I submit, because it does exactly this. However you wish to group the terms, McCarthy remains one of the few novelists we have who consistently challenges our conceptions of what the novel is for and what it can achieve, even if it never quite succeeds, as the end of Satin Island would suggest. But maybe it does succeed. It succeeds, like the Koob-Sassen Project, even when it attempts to fail, and is always failing even when it appears to have succeeded, with one always elegantly contained in the other.
Maybe this ambiguity is the not-so-sexy virtue to abide by. Freedom however we choose to define it in art will always go, as Rosa Luxemberg once said, to the one who thinks differently. Literature has always been a project of the self, a project out of which new forms of consciousness can be forged, and the self is not a supermarket, even when the rest of the world feels like one. As the corporation has coopted the tenets of the avant-garde, so too should the avant-garde wherever it is to be found take back the language of corporations and use its own grammar against it.
I still like to believe if only because I have to what Walter Benjamin said; that a writer can either dissolve an order or found a new one. Today however, the dictum seems slightly different: Nothing can come of nothing. I did something in that would throw a wrench into anyone's reading: I bought a bookstore. Selling books, as I wasn't surprised to find, doesn't leave much time for reading them.
Also, it meant I became -- not for the first time, but never so publicly, on such a daily basis -- a professional reader, as many of us are lucky to end up being in one way or another, as teachers or editors or researchers or some other line of work that corrals your attention from the luxury of polymorphous curiosity into something more traditionally productive, in my case trying to keep up with some of the new releases I might be able to share with my customers. So, early in the year, my reading shifted back from personal to pro, but there were good books on both sides of the divide.
And aside from a few favorites see below , what I find myself remembering as vivid reading experiences are not consistently excellent books like Marilynne Robinson's Lila , Ben Lerner's I remember, with delight, the first half of Anthony Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds -- "Finally reading Trollope," I told everyone, or, rather, tweeted. I was delighted too with the first half of Joseph O'Neill's The Dog and the voice he captured, as companionable as Netherland's but more chilling like P.
Wodehouse telling a J. Ballard story , even if for me that voice never grew into a full book. I admired and enjoyed Farther and Wilder , Blake Bailey's biography of Charles Jackson, but I wondered if his subject was worth his talents until the final third -- usually the least interesting in any biography -- when Jackson's accumulated troubles, and his belated reckoning with them, made his life profoundly moving.
In Manny Farber terms, it plays a white elephant game rather than a termite one: It's the kind of book that wins awards, and in this case deservedly so. I also loved Michael Winter's Minister Without Portfolio , a much more termite-ish book after it gets beyond an early Big Event and settles into working out the everyday morality of rural life in a reticent romance I was startled to realize reminded me of Kitty and Levin's in Anna Karenina.
Merritt Tierce's debut, Love Me Back , more or less tore my scalp off. She tells the story of a single mom waitressing her way up the service-industry ladder to a high-end Dallas steakhouse, with disarming amounts of sex and drugs along the way, and strips it of any success -- or redemption -- story arcs. Desire and discipline and self-destruction are constant forces that ebb and flow and are by no means sated by the story's end. Peter Mountford's The Dismal Science is also about the always underserved topic of work: And lastly, the first book I read all year if the January 2 train ticket still inside is to be believed is the only one close to Flanagan's in my mind: It's both an excellent book and a jagged one.
Its jaggedness -- the resistance I felt when reading it, and the thing I feel obligated to warn about when I'm recommending it -- is its almost perverse formality. To someone schooled in the hi-lo tendencies of our time, Ledgard's elevated style is a provocation; I'm not sure there's a contraction in the entire book, for instance, aside from a few in dialogue. And the characters in his dual storyline, who connect for a few days at a quietly luxurious hotel on the French coast, have an equal sense of exceptional cultivation.
They think of life in terms of centuries: I find myself wanting to make fun of Submergence, to goof on its gravity and on Ledgard himself, whose author bio describes him as "a thinker on risk and technology in emerging economies" , but the thing is, I can't.
He pulls it off, and earns every bit of profundity he claims. And it's the thinking in centuries that does it: I often don't care about the ends of novels, and I can't tell you what finally happened in many of the ones I love most, but there are some endings that, in the process of tying things up, open up an abyss of meaning that's almost unbearable.
This is one of them. More from A Year in Reading Don't miss: A Year in Reading , , , , , , , , The good stuff: The Millions' Notable articles The motherlode: The Millions' Books and Reviews Like what you see? Lists , Notable Articles. All three books are winning impressive advance praise. Scroll down and get started. California by Edan Lepucki: Bill Morris made his literary debut 20 years ago with Motor City , a novel set amid the rich history of s Detroit. Since then, he's pursued various other interests, writing a novel set in Bangkok and contributing frequently to The Millions as a staff writer.
But as anyone who follows Bill's essays can tell you, his hometown is rarely far from his mind. Now, with the Motor City much in the news, he returns to explore class, race, bloodshed and baseball in the s. Virgin Islands that traces the ambivalent history of its inhabitants during the course of the 20th century. Gould, who put the gawk in Gawker in the middle part of the last decade, turns to fiction with a debut novel that at times reads like a series of blog entries written in the third person. In the novel, two friends, Bev and Amy, are trying to make it as writers in New York when Bev gets pregnant.
The question of whether Bev should keep the baby, and what Amy should think about the fact that Bev is even considering it, turns the novel into a meditation on growing up in a world built for the young. Vollmann has over 30 years and damn near as many books earned a reputation as a wildly prolific novelist. Still, almost a decade has passed since his last full-length work of fiction, the National Book Award-winning Europe Central. Here, he offers what may have started as a suite of ghost stories… but is now another sprawling atlas of Vollmann's obsessions.
Stories of violence, romance, and cultural collision are held together by supernatural elements and by Vollmann's psychedelically sui generis prose. Cheshire makes huge leaps in time and space to bring us the story of Laudermilk's transformation into an adult estranged from his father and his faith. What he does instead is ghostwrite teen novels and uncover family secrets. Having written about ninjas, spies in their eighties and mechanical bees in his last two novels, Nick Harkaway is in a tough spot if he wants to top himself this time around.
The protagonist, a former British soldier, takes it upon himself to fight for his patch of the old empire. Born in Odessa and raised in Brighton Beach, she's been publishing essays and fiction in smart-set venues for a few years. Now she delivers her first novel, about two decades in the life of a Ukrainian family resettled in Russian-speaking Brooklyn. Murakami's previous novel, 1Q84 , was a sprawling, fantastical work. His latest is just the opposite: The novel has less magical strangeness than most Murakami books, and may be his most straightforward tale since Norwegian Wood.
Michael Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay: Then my ego exploded and I am still cleaning up the mess. Elizabeth The Kills by Richard House: House's vast tetralogy, at once a border-hopping thriller and a doorstopping experiment, was longlisted for last year's Man Booker Prize in the U. Taking as its backdrop the machinery of the global war on terror, it should be of equal interest on these shores.
Since , Richard Bausch has been pouring out novels and story collections that have brilliantly twinned the personal with the epic. His twelfth novel, Before, During, After, spins a love story between two ordinary people — Natasha, a lonely congressional aide, and Michael Faulk, an Episcopalian priest — whose affair and marriage are undone by epic events, one global, one personal.
As the novel unspools, Before and During prove to be no match for After. Possibly inspired by the ageless Black Like Me , Jess Row tells the story of Kelly Thorndike, a native Baltimorean who moves back to his hometown and discovers that an old friend has gotten surgery to change his race. At one time a skinny, white, Jewish man, Martin is now African-American, and he's kept his new identity secret from his friends and family.
Martin tells Kelly he wants to come clean, and the two become mired in a fractious, thought-provoking controversy. Augustus by John Williams: Interestingly, readers of both Stoner and Butcher's Crossing will here encounter an altogether new version of the John Williams they've come to know: It's a rare genius who can reinvent himself in his final work and earn high praise for doing so. Station Eleven is Millions staff writer Emily St. John Mandel's fourth novel, and if pre-publication buzz is any indication, it's her best, most ambitious work yet.
Post-apocalyptic tales are all the rage this season, but Mandel's intricate plotting and deftness with drawing character makes this novel of interlinked tales stand out as a beguiling read. Beginning with the onslaught of the deadly Georgian flu and the death of a famous actor onstage, and advancing twenty years into the future to a traveling troupe of Shakespearean actors who perform for the few remaining survivors, the novel sits with darkness while searching for the beauty in art and human connection.
People have been bragging about snagging this galley all summer, and for good reason: David Mitchell has evidently returned to his genre-, time-, and location-bending best with a novel that weaves the Iraq War with punk rock with immortal beings with the End Times. A thrill, either way. As Lena herself writes: I am not a married mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in self-actualization, sending hopeful dispatches from the front lines of that struggle. After her masterful handling of the haunted house story in The Little Stranger , Waters again taps into the narrative potential of domestic intrusion.
In , a cash-strapped widow and her spinster daughter living by themselves in a large London house let out rooms to a young couple. The novel promises to be a well-crafted, claustrophobic thriller. Ben Lerner follows the unexpected success of his superb first novel Leaving the Atocha Station with a book about a writer whose first novel is an unexpected success.
The suddenly successful narrator of Edan The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: This fall sees the publication of her second collection of short stories, set several centuries on from the novels that earned her those Bookers. These stories are Mantel at her observant best. William Finnegan is both a journalist's journalist and one of the New Yorker's most consistently engaging voices.
Over the years, he's written about everything from apartheid in South Africa to the broken economy at home Cold New World now looks prophetic. My favorite of his New Yorker pieces, though, is an insanely long memoir about surfing Part 1 ; Part 2 that, legend has it, was crashed into the magazine just before the arrival of Tina Brown as editor. Two decades on, Finnegan returns to this lifelong passion, at book length. With their ingenious blend of philosophical dialogue and vaudevillian verve, Iyer's trilogy, Spurious , Dogma and Exodus , earned a cult following.
It should serve as an ideal introduction to his work.
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Robinson for a Better World. His latest is a collection of stories written over the past fifteen years, each of which was published in the New Yorker. Having built a reputation for critical savagery following the hatchet he sank into a pair of Alix Ohlin books in the Times in , Giraldi puts his own neck on the line with this literary thriller set in a remote Alaskan village where wolves are eating children.
For years now the Buzzfeed LGBT editor has been lighting it up at his day job, and also on Twitter, with a ferocity befitting his name. Now, after earning praise from D. Powell and after winning a NYC-based Literary Death Match bout , Jones will use his debut collection to prominently display his poetry chops. The Mafia plus the Torah makes for a darkly funny and suspenseful morality tale.
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The man can spin a good yarn. Pieces by these writers, and several more, are included here. According to letters and accounts from the time, around women disguised themselves as men to fight in the Civil War. It tells the story of Constance Thompson, a farm wife who leaves her husband behind, calls herself Ash and fights for the Union.
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Neverhome is both a story about the harrowing life of a cross-dressing soldier, and an investigation into the mysterious circumstances that led her there. His new book is a memoir about his year in Iraq, and about the aftermath of that experience. Turner also makes a leap of conceptual identification, attempting to imagine the conflict through the experience of the Iraqi other. Robertson's stories — often told from the perspectives of outsiders, often concerned with the mysteries of love and family, set in places ranging from the Canadian suburbs to Marseilles — have earned her a considerable following in her native Canada.
Following on the heels of the acclaimed The Free World , Bezmozgis's second novel is about 24 hours in the life of Baruch Kotler, a disgraced Israeli politician who meets the Soviet-era spy who denounced him decades earlier. It follows Johanna Morrigan, who at 14 decides to start life over as Dolly Wilde.
When Biss became a mother, she began looking into the topic of vaccination. What she had assumed would be a few hours of personal research turned into a fascination, and the result is a sweeping work that considers the concept of immunity, the history of vaccination — a practice that sometimes seems to function as a lightning rod for our most paranoid fears about the chemical-laden modern world in which we find ourselves, but that has its roots in centuries-old folk medicine — and the ways in which we're interconnected, with meditations on writers ranging from Voltaire to Bram Stoker.
William Gibson fans rejoice, for his first novel in four years is upon us. The novel follows an army veteran with futuristic nerve damage wrought during his time in a futuristic kill squad. You can watch him read the first two pages here.
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John Ames — who was abandoned as a toddler and raised by a drifter. You can read an excerpt over here. Dan by Joanna Ruocco: Joanna Ruocco's kaleidoscopic fictions have been likened to Donald Barthelme's for their dark humor and uncanny occurrences that revel in wordplay. Her stories "map the unmappable wrinkles of the mind," says Laird Hunt, and by bridging disparate ideas creates a synesthesia. In Dan, Ruocco's latest novel, the character Melba Zuzzo finds herself in a rut while living in a male-dominated town in the foothills of a mountain.
What ensues is a "slapstick parable" that according to her publisher, Dorothy Project, evokes both the "unabashed campiness of Thomas Pynchon" and the capacious imagination of Raymond Roussel. I can't think of a better one I've read this century. Anne Some Luck by Jane Smiley: Still best known for her Pulitzer-winner A Thousand Acres , Smiley returns to Iowa farm country in this ambitious family saga set in the first half of the 20th century.
Some Luck is the first installment in a trilogy spanning years in the lives of the Langdon family, starting from its rural Iowa roots in and following the clan as its five children spread out across America in a time of epochal change. The second volume, Early Warning, is due in spring , with the final volume, which brings the story up to December 31, , set to appear next fall. Michael Reunion by Hannah Pittard: In Pittard's second novel — her first was 's The Fates Will Find Their Way , lauded here and just about everywhere else — a failed screenwriter on the verge of divorce agrees to join her family for a reunion in Atlanta after her estranged father commits suicide.
It's a nuanced and intriguing study of family and love, money and debt, failure and success, starring one of the most likable flawed narrators to come along in some time. Six years ago Chicago-based author Jac Jemc started a blog to track the rejection letters she received. Bingham award; it depicts a husband's obsession with recalling memories of his wife who disappeared five years earlier. Blake Butler deploys words like chemicals that merge into phrases, coalescing in alternate existences, with familiar worlds distorted.
A portrait of American violence, told through the minds of a Manson-like cult figure and the policeman responsible for figuring him out, while tracking a trail of violence and descent into psychosis. In Steinke's new novel, a coming-of-age story set in early's Virginia, twelve-year-old Jesse's family is on the brink of collapse: When her father was a pastor, Jesse felt that they were a part of something — "We were at the center of what I thought of as THE HOLY, and our every move had weight and meaning" — but they've drifted into a life of vertiginous weightlessness.
In Quick Kills, the narrator is a young girl who finds herself on the other side of the camera, the exploited subject of a predatory photographer: I see the fear clearly even in the blurred snapshot. They're also publishing a new collection, featuring three uncollected pieces along with older examples of his work, that spans the length of his career.
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Farah is back with another trilogy after his acclaimed Blood in the Sun series. Once again, he explores identity, obligation, family ties, and how politics can interrupt it all. After Bella's brother is killed by Somali extremists, she has to give up her life as a famous fashion photographer and raise his children as if they were her own. Yet when the children's mother returns, Bella must decide what matters more — her family or herself. In an interview last fall , Johnson described his new novel as "kind of a spy story with what we might call serious intentions, on the order of Graham Greene.
I was gleeful to learn that Frank Bascombe will return to us after eight years and the threat of oblivion. At a reading in April, Ford reintroduced Bascombe as a year-old Jersey-dweller ruminating on his former home, tipped on its side by Hurricane Sandy. Let Me Be Frank With You will comprise four novellas, each narrated with, undoubtedly, that unmistakable Bascombe verve.
After the high hilarity of her satirical early work, Lydia Millet reached new emotional depths in her last three novels. This new novel, concerning the discovery of mermaids and the ensuing scramble to cash in, looks to achieve a new kind of synthesis. Like his other novels, Twilight promises to be a wormhole into strange times. Beneath the quiet poetry of Ha Jin's sentences is a searing novelistic ambition; in A Map of Betrayal, the story of a double-agent in the CIA, he explores a half-century of entanglements between China and the U.
The premise of Toews's sixth novel, released to critical acclaim in Canada earlier this year, is simple and devastating: She's a wildly successful and in-demand concert pianist, but she longs for self-annihilation. It's a premise that could easily be grindingly unbearable, but Toews is a writer of considerable subtlety and grace, with a gift for bringing flashes of lightness, even humor, to the darkest of tales. If our guide to Alice Munro wasn't enough, Family Furnishings will feature 25 of her best stories from the past 19 years. It's the first anthology of her work since Selected Stories and should fill the Munro oeuvre for both lifelong fans and those who found her after her Nobel Prize win last year.
Despite her larger-than-life reputation now, these stories remind us what makes Munro one of the best short story writers in the first place — her ability to illuminate quotidian problems and intimacies in small-town Canada. In Charles D'Ambrosio published an essay collection, Orphans , with a small press, and the book won a devoted following. The entire print run consisted of 3, copies, but all of them, D'Ambrosio writes in his introduction to Loitering, managed to find their way into the hands of readers, "a solace to me like the thought of home.
Salinger to the idea of home. Emily Why Religion is Immoral: Since his death from cancer in , Christopher Hitchens has refused to leave the party. One of the most significant German-language novelists of her generation, Erpenbeck follows up the celebrated novel Visitation with a heady conceit located somewhere between Cloud Atlas and Groundhog Day. The End of Days follows a single character, born early in the 20th Century, to five different deaths: In each case, her life illuminates the broader history of Europe, which remains ever in the background, dying its own deaths.
His novel, Serena , will reach theaters later this year, and star Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The territory might be familiar, but this poet-novelist always delivers. Thirteen years after it was published, My Misspent Youth holds up as a perennially interesting book of essays, not to mention the final word on being young and broke in New York.
In her new collection, Meghan Daum looks at a host of modern anxieties, including the modern wedding industry, Joni Mitchell and the habits of digital natives. Ludmila Ulitskaya only began writing novels after her scientific credentials were revoked for translating a banned novel. The Russian author's commitments to art, activism, and speaking her mind have led her to become one of Russia's most popular living authors. These same concerns guide her fiction, too — called smart, prickly, and with harsh wit — and in this, her latest novel, The Big Green Tent, is no exception.
When a poet, a pianist, and a photographer try to transcend oppression in post-Stalinist Russia, their ultimate destinies are far darker than their author's. This is Saramago's so-called "lost work," which was written in the s, but rediscovered after the Nobel laureate's death in The novel features the interconnected stories of the residents of an apartment building in Lisbon in the s.
Sara Gerard's star is rising. This kind of intensity and boldness guide all of Gerard's work — whether concerning other writers, or her own bout with anorexia, addiction, and a stint jumping freight trains, and now in her first novel Binary Star. Binary Star interweaves astronomical research with a story about an unnamed anorexic who burns through her intensely dysfunctional life like a star burns fuel, never to be replenished.
Some travelers collect stories as much as souvenirs. In Cusk's latest novel, a woman writer travels to Greece to teach a creative writing workshop but learns just as much from the tales her fellow travelers tell her. As she listens, she weaves their stories into a narrative of loss, creativity, family life, and intimacy. To keep with the storytelling tradition, the Paris Review serialized the novel, but FSG will publish it for a full narrative experience. His latest appears just as unhinged. Characters re-appear, performing acts both virtuous and loathsome, in stories that are set mostly around Minneapolis but also roam to New York, Tuscany and Ethiopia.
Now Amelia has penned a compelling and funny memoir about becoming an adult and an artist — both in and out of the kitchen — that is sure to bring her even more devoted readers. Link aims to surprise, which makes her work absolutely pleasing. Laura van den Berg's fictions often unfurl just beyond the real, with their madcap mix of zany and dreamlike set-ups. Case in point, van den Berg's recent story collection, The Isle of Youth , was peopled by yacht thieves, a mother-daughter magician team, and newlyweds who survive a plane crash.
The Nobel Prize winner trains his eye on corruption and urbanization in modern day Lima in his latest novel. According to CityLab , "The story follows two parallel tales: As a matter of daily reality and to a degree previously unknown, we are faced with the experiences of others everywhere. This imposes new demands on consciences and nationalistic categories. Literature is not immune from such demands; one might even suggest, since we writers are concerned with reality and conscientiousness, that literature should be unusually interested in these demands.
This does not mean that a new artistic regime is upon us. Writers, in order to produce something truly worthwhile, must be ruled only by their deepest impulses, which can come from anywhere and lead in a million valuable directions. But it does seem that those who internalize the new world have every chance of writing something newly interesting.
But what happens when you lack a nationalistic category to call your own? This six-year mark has been an interesting one for me: Growing up all over the place makes you skilled at adapting, but it also makes you hungry to belong, something that in part motivates my writing: The experiences of others everywhere. Three of them generously responded: My questions and their responses are below.
Did any part of your decision to live overseas have to do with your writing? Foreignness is my natural state. I've never lived in any place where I was part of the ethnic majority. As a Malaysian Indian, I always, on some level, felt like an outsider. We were always told that the country didn't really want us; that we didn't really belong; that "there's nothing for us here;" that we, the younger generation, should try to leave and never move back. It's kept my eyes wide open. As for whether foreignness is a fertile state: Creativity comes from seeing things with an "outsider's" eyes.
Sometimes we talk about this as seeing things through a child's eyes -- I think they are related. So much of creativity is making familiar things strange and strange things familiar. You can really only do this if you keep thinking like an outsider. You don't necessarily have to leave, but if you don't, you have to find other ways to think like an outsider. Maybe "outsider" would be more apt. But that's because being in Singapore longer than a couple of weeks or so makes me profoundly depressed. I think the habitual takes up an enormous part of our consciousness. I feel my smallness in the face of extraordinarily deep histories.
Do those trips feed your writing? I have made a home in the United States, but it is not quite Home. I go back to Malaysia once or twice a year. Since I only write about Malaysia this may change one day, but until now, I have no desire to write about any other place , feeding my writing is a very large part of the reason I go home often. I don't go around explicitly looking for material or researching things, but everything in Malaysia feeds my writing. Every conversation, every car journey, every form I fill out, every queue I wait in, every newspaper article I read.
I've lived in France for nearly seven years, but no, it doesn't feel like "Home," and I don't expect it ever to feel like home -- not the outside world, anyway, beyond our front door. This is where I am comfortable expressing my emotions, making a mess literal and figurative , doing whatever I need to do. The inside of my house. I tend to have very localized homes now. Our apartment in Williamsburg feels like home, but New York doesn't yet.
And in some ways London has begun to feel foreign. I thrive on dislocation. I return to Canada for half the year usually; but home for me is the city where I was born, Vancouver, and which I left in Actually, for 10 years, I rarely went back at all. On the other hand, I felt extraordinarily at home in the many months I spent in Cambodia, and this is one of the reasons I kept returning there, and still do.
Similarly with Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Berlin. Did you grow up moving around quite a bit? From babyhood until I left in Malaysia in my mid-teens, I lived in Ipoh. My parents have lived in the same apartment for 38 years. I was fifteen years old when I had my first plane journey. We moved every couple years, but within Vancouver and its suburbs, and for financial reasons. My parents started out with a house of their own, but the mortgage was beyond their means.
We kept moving into smaller and smaller apartments. It was difficult but, at the same time, the city has so many pockets and neighborhoods in which I feel utterly at ease. Are any of your favorite writers similarly displaced? These days I feel like I don't have favorite writers, only favorite books. I would say that the writers by whom I was most influenced when I was first finding my feet Dickens, Rushdie in his earlier years, Peter Carey had a very strong sense of place; the way their understanding of geography and language and history and culture came through in their writing was much more important to me than whether they were expatriates or not.
I didn't think much about their biography. Now, I'm very interested in writing in dialect, and I'm reading a lot of Caribbean and African writers who've worked in literary "dialect" — and I find that many of these writers were the opposite of displaced — they seem to have such a strong sense of their roots. I am drawn to that, too, to people who make the decision never to move, to know a hundred square feet of earth like the back of their hand rather than wandering all over the planet. I am generally bored by immigration-to-the-West stories.
I tend to favor stories about identities that are fractured for reasons other than physical displacement. I can't really say why this is the case! There is something about being in-between, and the lack of certainty that comes with that, which appeals to me. Cees Nooteboom is a writer whose work has sustained me, intellectually, artistically, and emotionally.
I also feel this way about Shirley Hazzard. Aside from these thematic connections between us, I admire them most of all because I think they are both incredibly perceptive novelists who have an astonishing facility with language and story. Where is your creative work set? In the short story collection I am working on now, stories are set in: I've written plays set in: Always, so far, between Canada and elsewhere. I do a lot of my work in Berlin, but processing is slow for me, and I imagine Berlin will show up in my fiction in about a decade. Or is there something throbbing and unsolved about it for you?
It is a sentimental term for me, but not cloying. I am a big fan of genuine sentimentality, nostalgia, emotion -- sometimes I find that contemporary writers, especially in the West, approach everything with irony, question all of these elemental states that sometimes need to be felt more and questioned less, if you know what I mean.
That longing for "Home" is one of those states. I don't think it's something to be mocked or scorned. I don't thinking belonging in and of itself, or the desire to belong in some way, is irrelevant or outdated, and why should it be irrelevant or outdated to feel like you belong to a place? If you can belong in a subculture, a community, a relationship, then I think you can also belong in a place.
Though I said we always felt we didn't belong in Malaysia, I also have a sharp, painful longing for the Ipoh of the s. I think of it as my home, but it doesn't exist anymore. I long for the house of my childhood and for specific material objects that were the landmarks of my small world: I think I write from a place of longing for home, not from a place of discomfort with the notion. But I don't mean by this that it's okay to romanticize home.
I think you can long for something while still acknowledging its dark side, while still facing up to all that was painful or ugly or disappointing about it. It's difficult to define for me, but I think not in a problematic way. Or it means different things in different contexts. I like to think of home as a verb, something we keep re-creating.
This open-endedness is in keeping with the human condition. Human beings have always migrated, have always followed resources and food, have always kept pushing into unfamiliar territory. My discomfort comes from witnessing politically motivated and divisive policies that seek to elevate certain citizens above others, based on race, religion, class, or chauvinism of any kind.
I think this is when home becomes a political weapon, and the consequences are never good. The first half of delighted us with new books by the likes of George Saunders, Karen Russell, and Colum McCann, among many others. And if the last six months had many delights on offer for book lovers, the second half of the year can only be described as an invitation to gluttony.
And beyond those headliners there are many other tantalizing titles in the wings, including some from overseas and others from intriguing newcomers. Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda: Waldman recently weighed in for us on the centuries-old Richardson vs. Now, in her first novel, she expertly plays the former's psychological penetration off the latter's civic vision. The titular Nathaniel, one of Brooklyn's sad young literary men, seeks to navigate between his public ambitions and his private compulsions in a series of romantic encounters.
Those without area codes shouldn't let the milieu scare them off; questions of whether Nate can heed the difficult imperatives of the conscience—and of how Waldman will pull off a whole book from the man's point of view—keep the pages turning, while generating volumes of quotable insight, in the manner of The Marriage Plot. The mouse is Fin, an orphaned eleven-year old boy, and the city is Greenwich Village in the s. Under the guardianship of his glamorous half-sister, Lady, Fin gets to know both the city and his wild sister, and encounters situations that are a far cry from his Connecticut dairy farm upbringing.
Reflect upon your sordid graduate school days with a novel of the perverse master-student relationship and adulterous sex triangle. Later in the novel and in time, Regina reflects on this period in her life and the changes wrought by the intervening 15 years. Choi was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her second novel, American Woman.
The third novel from the winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award follows the lives and business ventures of five characters in Shanghai, each representing various—and at times dichotomous—social strata. The story year-old Luz Maria Castillo begins telling us from her room in a state institution is deceptively plainspoken: Color reproductions of the cards introduce each chapter, making the book, if not exactly Kindle-proof , then at least uncommonly handsome.
Garth The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth: Slightly disoriented by his newfound abilities to make money and bed women, Muller wryly observes his life as if he is that same awkward teenager trapped in a dream life. When he falls in love with Maya, a beautiful woman with a mysterious past, he must choose between the desire to emotionally and literally hack into it, or to trust his good fortune. Night Film by Marisha Pessl: Garth Cannonball by Joseph McElroy: Hell, he even did a Year in Reading.
The author of a string of heartbreaking novels about the strife-torn Caribbean nation of Haiti, including The Farming of Bones and The Dew Breaker , Danticat here tells the story of a young motherless girl whose poverty-stricken father considers giving her away a wealthier family. Linden will join the ranks of several talented literary writers that Little A has published since its launch in March — including A. Kennedy, Shawn Vestal, and Jenny Davidson. Sonya The Infatuations by Javier Marias: Each of his last few books with New Directions, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, set a new high-water mark—most recently, the mammoth trilogy Your Face Tomorrow.
And deservedly so, it would seem: Now get thee to a bookshop! Her next story collection comes out just three years after the publication of her bestselling novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake , and it looks like the book is a return to form for Bender.
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