I picked up My Sister’s Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles mostly because I couldn’t find a stand-alone version of the novel Two Serious Ladies. I guess it doesn’t hurt to have, y’know, all of her stuff (or really most of her stuff), but I’m not really a fan of omnibus editions. My interest in Two Serious Ladies was piqued by Ben Marcus, whom I interviewed by phone earlier this month (still transcribing that one; hope to run it in January). He spoke highly of the book and includes it on his writing syllabus.
I was pleasantly surprised when a copy of Emily Carroll’s issue of Frontier came in Friday’s mail. I tried to read it right away but a domestic chore intervened—which ended up working out better, really. I read it in bed by the light of my iPhone’s flashlight, which is exactly as god intended.
Publisher Youth in Decline’s blurb:
Our final issue of 2014 features an eerie and stunning original comic by Emily Carroll titled, “Ann by the Bed.” Experience the dreadful tale of Ann Herron’s bloody murder, and the awful legacy that persists today in Southern Ontario.
Full review forthcoming. Until then, check out Carroll’s excellent comics,“The Prince and the Sea,” and “His Face All Red.”
Bolaño’s Antwerp. Found it today at the bookstore. I was there picking up a book I’d ordered as a present for someone else. Honest.
Antwerp is Bolaño’s first novel and it’s not particularly great, but I didn’t own it up until now, and I guess I’m a completist nerd, and this New Directions clothbound edition is beautiful, so…
Matt Summell’s debut is Making Nice. Christine Schutt compares it to Barry Hannah and James Dickey. Keep meaning to dip into it. Publisher Henry Holt’s blurb:
A gut-punch of a debut about love, grief, and family; the arrival of a brilliant, infectious new voice for our age
In Matt Sumell’s blazing first book, our hero Alby flails wildly against the world around him—he punches his sister (she deserved it), “unprotectos” broads (they deserved it and liked it), gets drunk and picks fights (all deserved), defends defenseless creatures both large and small, and spews insults at children, slow drivers, old ladies, and every single surviving member of his family. In each of these stories Alby distills the anguish, the terror, the humor, and the strange grace—or lack of—he experiences in the aftermath of his mother’s death. Swirling at the center of Alby’s rage is a grief so big, so profound, it might swallow him whole. As he drinks, screws, and jokes his way through his pain and heartache, Alby’s anger, his kindness, and his capacity for good bubble up when he (and we) least expect it. Sumell delivers “a naked rendering of a heart sorting through its broken pieces to survive.*”
Making Nice is a powerful, full-steam-ahead ride that will keep you laughing even as you try to catch your breath; a new classic about love, loss, and the fine line between grappling through grief and fighting for (and with) the only family you’ve got.
Brian Catling’s historical-fantasy novel The Vorrh is getting a U.S. publication next year from Vintage. I’m thinking that the actual cover will be that image on the upperish-mid-left side of the back cover of the uncorrected proof I got. Vintage also send this neat little string-bound teaser that consists of Alan Moore’s gushing introduction to The Vorrh and an interview with Catling. The cover is one of Catlin’s paintings.
The Vorrh follows a brilliant cast of characters through a parallel Africa where fact, fiction, and fantasy collide. Tsungali, a native marksman conscripted by the colonial authorities–against whom he once led a revolt–is on the hunt for an English bowman named Williams. Williams has made it his mission to become the first human to traverse the Vorrh, a vast forest at the edge of the colonial city of Essenwald. The Vorrh is endless, eternal; a place of demons and angels. Sentient, oppressive, and magical, the Vorrh can bend time and wipe a person’s memory. Between the hunter and the hunted are Ishmael, a curious and noble Cyclops raised by Bakelite robots; the evil Dr. Hoffman, who punishes the son of a servant by surgically inverting his hands; and the slave owner MacLeish, who drives his workers to insanity, only to pay the ultimate price. Along with these fictional creations, Brian Catling mixes in historical figures, including surrealist Raymond Roussel and photographer and Edward Muybridge. In this author’s hands none of this seems exotic or fantastical. It all simply is.
Jon McNaught’s Dockwood. From Nobrow. It’s beautiful. Full review forthcoming.
This one looks pretty good: Viv Albertine’s memoir Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. U.S. publisher St. Martin’s Press’s blurb:
Viv Albertine is a pioneer. As lead guitarist and songwriter for the seminal band The Slits, she influenced a future generation of artists including Kurt Cobain and Carrie Brownstein. She formed a band with Sid Vicious and was there the night he met Nancy Spungeon. She tempted Johnny Thunders…toured America with the Clash…dated Mick Jones…and inspired the classic Clash anthem “Train in Vain.” But Albertine was no mere muse. In Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys., Albertine delivers a unique and unfiltered look at a traditionally male-dominated scene.
Her story is so much more than a music memoir. Albertine’s narrative is nothing less than a fierce correspondence from a life on the fringes of culture. The author recalls rebelling from conformity and patriarchal society ever since her days as an adolescent girl in the same London suburb of Muswell Hill where the Kinks formed. With brash honesty—and an unforgiving memory—Albertine writes of immersing herself into punk culture among the likes of the Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks. Of her devastation when the Slits broke up and her reinvention as a director and screenwriter. Or abortion, marriage, motherhood, and surviving cancer. Navigating infidelity and negotiating divorce. And launching her recent comeback as a solo artist with her debut album, The Vermilion Border.
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is a raw chronicle of music, fashion, love, sex, feminism, and more that connects the early days of punk to the Riot Grrl movement and beyond. But even more profoundly, Viv Albertine’s remarkable memoir is the story of an empowered woman staying true to herself and making it on her own in the modern world.
Emma Chapman’s novel How to Be a Good Wife is new in trade paperback from Picador. Their blurb:
Marta and Hector have been married for a long time. Through the good and bad; through raising a son and sending him off to life after college. So long, in fact, that Marta finds it difficult to remember her life before Hector. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife—as advised by a dog-eared manual given to her by Hector’s aloof mother on their wedding day.
But now, something is changing. Small things seem off. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye, elapsed moments that she can’t recall. Visions of a blonde girl in the darkness that only Marta can see. Perhaps she is starting to remember—or perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her. As Marta’s visions persist and her reality grows more disjointed, it’s unclear if the danger lies in the world around her, or in Marta herself. The girl is growing more real every day, and she wants something.
I took my daughter to the bookstore today—she has the day off school—and let her pick out almost as many books as she wanted. (She had trouble carrying more than six, so that’s where we stopped).
Meandering out, I spied this 1997 paperback printing of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (I love how UK trade paperback editions often seem blockier, denser, more squarish than US editions). Anyway, the book isn’t particular rare, even for a first edition, but I hadn’t seen it before (even a pic). I took a quick pic and walked away.
And then walked back of the copy of IJ after purchasing my daughter’s books—only to say to myself in a reasonable voice, No, you already own a copy, no, no, you don’t need another book, especially one you’ve already read, already own. So I walked out of the store with my daughter.
And then went back inside to buy it (or rather use my trade credit—swollen from unasked-for review copies of books I have no interest in—to acquire it).
I have no sentimental attachments to the ubiquitous beclouded-covered copy I bought a few years ago (purchased to replace a copy I did like (one with annotations, one I actually wished I still had) that I had lent to a friend who never read it or returned it (and then moved))—so maybe I’ll give it away or take it to my office or something.
James W. Hall’s Going Dark. Got a review copy last month and somehow got shoved to the bottom of another pile. Mea culpa. Publisher Macmillan’s blurb:
Earth Liberation Front is a loosely-knit national organization of radical environmental activists who take a “by any means necessary” approach to defending the planet. In the last decade, ELF has been responsible for almost a hundred million dollars in damage mainly through arson. The FBI ranks them, along with other eco-radicals, as the number one homegrown terrorist threat. And Flynn Moss—Thorn’s newly discovered son—appears to be among ELF’s members. “no-holds-barred action…A fine thriller on every level.” —Booklist Flynn has naively fallen in with an ELF cell in Miami, where he’s engaged in non-violent protest against one of Florida’s largest nuclear power plants. But soon Flynn uncovers another, darker plot among ELF operatives—one that involves a radioactive catastrophe rivaling Chernobyl or Fukushima. With a growing sense of dread about his involvement in such a scheme, Flynn summons Thorn to help him escape from Prince Key, the remote island off the shores of Miami where the ELF group is camped. But just as soon as Thorn leads the fight to save Flynn, he reaches a frightening realization: In order to protect his son, he must join the eco-terrorists and help them complete their deadly mission. And time is running out in Going Dark…
An Ecology of World Literature by Alexander Beercroft just showed up in today’s mail. Publisher Verso’s blurb:
What constitutes a nation’s literature? How do literatures of different countries interact with one another? In this groundbreaking study, Alexander Beecroft develops a new way of thinking about world literature. Drawing on a series of examples and case studies, the book ranges from ancient epic to the contemporary fiction of Roberto Bolaño and Amitav Ghosh.
Moving across literary ecologies of varying sizes, from small societies to the planet as a whole, the environments in which literary texts are produced and circulated, An Ecology of World Literature places in dialogue scholarly perspectives on ancient and modern, western and non-western texts, navigating literary study into new and uncharted territory.
There Was and There Was Not by Maline Toumani. Forthcoming from Metropolitan. Their blurb:
A young Armenian-American goes to Turkey in a “love thine enemy” experiment that becomes a transformative reflection on how we use—and abuse—our personal histories
Meline Toumani grew up in a close-knit Armenian community in New Jersey where Turkish restaurants were shunned and products made in Turkey were boycotted. The source of this enmity was the Armenian genocide of 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish government, and Turkey’s refusal to acknowledge it. A century onward, Armenian and Turkish lobbies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to convince governments, courts and scholars of their clashing versions of history.
Frustrated by her community’s all-consuming campaigns for genocide recognition, Toumani leaves a promising job at The New York Timesand moves to Istanbul. Instead of demonizing Turks, she sets out to understand them, and in a series of extraordinary encounters over the course of four years, she tries to talk about the Armenian issue, finding her way into conversations that are taboo and sometimes illegal. Along the way, we get a snapshot of Turkish society in the throes of change, and an intimate portrait of a writer coming to terms with the issues that drove her halfway across the world.
In this far-reaching quest, told with eloquence and power, Toumani probes universal questions: how to belong to a community without conforming to it, how to acknowledge a tragedy without exploiting it, and most importantly how to remember a genocide without perpetuating the kind of hatred that gave rise to it in the first place
I love it when parcels from Athens-based publisher Pilotless Press show up. The new one is Postlude by Haldon Lockly.
The blurb from Pilotless:
This is a story of the eye, or what the eye sees when it finally opens, though the story pretends to be a story about death (which is actually the case with every story ever written). To add to the confusion, this is also a story about death and about what comes after, although it pretends to be a story about the eye, or what it sees when it finally opens (which is actually the case with most of the stories ever written). If we must be exact, this is the story of a missed paycheck and what comes after, or the story of a man who doesn’t want to die, although he is already dead, or at any rate the story of a man whose eyes are closed and what it takes to open them.
Olivia Laing’s The Trip to Echo Spring got a lot of a buzz when it came out in hardback last year. It’s out in trade paperback now from Picador. Their blurb:
In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six extraordinary men: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver.
All six of these writers were alcoholics, and the subject of drinking surfaces in some of their finest work, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to A Moveable Feast. Often, they did their drinking together: Hemingway and Fitzgerald ricocheting through the cafés of Paris in the 1920s; Carver and Cheever speeding to the liquor store in Iowa in the icy winter of 1973.
Olivia Laing grew up in an alcoholic family herself. One spring, wanting to make sense of this ferocious, entangling disease, she took a journey across America that plunged her into the heart of these overlapping lives. As she travels from Cheever’s New York to Williams’s New Orleans, and from Hemingway’s Key West to Carver’s Port Angeles, she pieces together a topographical map of alcoholism, from the horrors of addiction to the miraculous possibilities of recovery.
Captivating and original, The Trip to Echo Spring strips away the myth of the alcoholic writer to reveal the terrible price creativity can exert.
You can read an excerpt here.
Not crazy about the claustrophobic cover.
Peter James’s Dead Man’s Time. Publisher’s blurb:
A vicious robbery at a secluded Brighton mansion leaves its elderly occupant dying. Millions of pounds’ worth of valuables have been stolen.
But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, heading the enquiry, rapidly learns, there is one priceless item of sentimental value that her powerful family cherish above all else. And they are fully prepared to take the law into their own hands, and will do anything – absolutely anything – to get it back.
Within days, Grace is racing against the clock, following a murderous trail that leads him from the shady antiques world of Brighton, across Europe, and all the way back to the New York waterfront gang struggles of 1922, chasing a killer driven by the force of one man’s greed and another man’s fury.
A reissue of the ninth novel in the multi-million copy bestselling Roy Grace series, from the #1 chart topper, Peter James
Stephen Collins’s The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is really really good. Full review forthcoming.
New from Verso Books, a collection of writings from philosopher Alain Badiou. Verso’s blurb:
The Age of the Poets revisits the age-old problem of the relation between literature and philosophy, arguing against both Plato and Heidegger’s famous arguments. Philosophy neither has to ban the poets from the republic nor abdicate its own powers to the sole benefit of poetry or art. Instead, it must declare the end of what Badiou names the “age of the poets,” which stretches from Hölderlin to Celan. Drawing on ideas from his first publication on the subject, “The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process,” Badiou offers an illuminating set of readings of contemporary French prose writers, giving us fascinating insights into the theory of the novel while also accounting for the specific position of literature between science and ideology.
More to come—but for now: Diagrams! (I will try to understand them in context):
Anthony Burgess’s 1974 novel Napoleon Symphony gets the trade paperback reissue treatment from Norton. Their blurb:
Anthony Burgess draws on his love of music and history in this novel he called “elephantine fun” to write.
A grand and affectionate tragicomic symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte that teases and reweaves Napoleon’s life into a pattern borrowed—in liberty, equality, and fraternity—from Beethoven’s Third “Eroica” Symphony, in this rich, exciting, bawdy, and funny novel Anthony Burgess has pulled out all the stops for a virtuoso performance that is literary, historical, and musical.