Ishmael Reed (Book acquired, 8.20.2015)

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I love love love the cover of this Ishmael Reed mass market paperback Bantam edition of The Free-Lance Pallbearers. image

Nabokov’s Strong Opinions (Book acquired, 7.30.2015–and an Iris Murdoch book I should’ve acquired)

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I picked up a hardback copy of Strong Opinions a few weeks back. I was browsing Nabokov titles as I was coming to the end of Pale Fire. I’ve shared some excerpts from this collection of interviews (&c.) and will likely share more.

I only know the specific date because I tweeted a pic of an Irish Murdoch novel I should’ve picked up while I was there.

Obsession Falls (Book acquired, some time in August, 2015)

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Christina Dodd’s novel Obsession Falls is new in hardback and ebook from Macmillan. Their blurb:

In Obsession Falls, New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd returns to the town of Virtue Falls, Washington-an idyllic place on the surface, but one that holds close its secrets…

When Taylor Summers witnesses the death threat to a young boy, she does the only thing she can do-she sacrifices herself to distract the killers. Her reward is a life in ruins, on the run in the wilderness, barely surviving a bitter winter and the even more bitter knowledge she has lost everything: her career, her reputation, her identity. She finds refuge in Virtue Falls, and there comes face to face with the knowledge that, to live her life again, she must enlist the help of the man who does not trust her to defeat the man who would destroy her.

She’s being hunted, but it’s time to turn the tables….

Edward St. Aubyn’s A Clue to the Exit (Book acquired, 8.17.2015)

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Edward St. Aubyn’s 2000 novel A Clue to the Exit is getting a U.S. paperback release from Picador. Their blurb—

Charlie Fairburn, successful screenwriter, ex-husband, and absent father, has been given six months to live. He resolves to stake half his fortune on a couple of turns of the roulette wheel and, to his agent’s disgust, to write a novel-about death. In the casino he meets his muse. Charlie grows as addicted to writing fiction as she is to gambling.

His novel is set on a train and involves a group of characters (familiar to readers of St. Aubyn’s earlier work) who are locked in a debate about the nature of consciousness. As this train gets stuck at Didcot, and Charlie gets more passionately entangled with the dangerous Angelique, A Clue to the Exitcomes to its startling climax. Exquisitely crafted, witty, and thoughtful, Edward St. Aubyn’s dazzling novel probes the very heart of being.

Quicksand (Book acquired, 8.10.2015 + bonus Bowie)

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Steve Toltz’s Quicksand is new in the States from Simon & Schuster. Their blurb:

A daring, brilliant new novel from Man Booker Prize finalist Steve Toltz, for fans of Dave Eggers, Martin Amis, and David Foster Wallace: a fearlessly funny, outrageously inventive dark comedy about two lifelong friends.

Liam is a struggling writer and a failing cop. Aldo, his best friend and muse, is a haplessly criminal entrepreneur with an uncanny knack for disaster. As Aldo’s luck worsens, Liam is inspired to base his next book on his best friend’s exponential misfortunes and hopeless quest to win back his one great love: his ex-wife, Stella. What begins as an attempt to make sense of Aldo’s mishaps spirals into a profound story of faith and friendship.

With the same originality and buoyancy that catapulted his first novel, A Fraction of the Whole, onto prize lists around the world—including shortlists for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award—Steve Toltz has created a rousing, hysterically funny but unapologetically dark satire about fate, faith, friendship, and the artist’s obligation to his muse. Sharp, witty, kinetic, and utterly engrossing, Quicksand is a subversive portrait of twenty-first-century society in all its hypocrisy and absurdity.

Bonus “Quicksand”—

New American Stories, a collection edited by Ben Marcus (Book acquired, 8.04.2015)

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New American Stories is an anthology out now in enormous paperback from Vintage. The collection was collected by collector Ben Marcus. An excerpt from his introduction:

Language is a drug, but a short story cannot be smoked. You can’t inject it. Stories don’t come bottled as a cream. You cannot have a story massaged into you by a bearish old man. You have to stare down a story until it wobbles, yields, then catapults into your face. And yet, as squirrely as they are to capture, stories are the ideal deranger. If they are well made, and you submit to them, they go in clean. Stories deliver their chemical disruption without the ashy hangover, the blacking out, the poison. They trigger pleasure, fear, fascination, love, confusion, desire, repulsion. Drugs get flushed from our systems, but not the best stories. Once they take hold, you couldn’t scrape them out with a knife. While working on this book, I started to think of a it as a medicine chest, filled with beguiling, volatile material, designed by the most gifted technicians. The potent story writers, to me, are the ones who deploy language as a kind of contraband, pumping it into us until we collapse on the floor, writhing, overwhelmed with feeling.

You actually can smoke a short story, but to do so is inadvisable.

I’ll be riffing on the book over the next few weeks with our Correspondent in Colorado, Mr. Ryan Chang.

Here’s the tracklist:

Said Sayrafiezadeh, Paranoia

Rebecca Lee,  Slatland

Jesse Ball, The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp, and Carr

Deborah Eisenberg, Some Other, Better Otto

Anthony Doerr, The Deep

Yiyun Li, A Man Like Him

George Saunders, Home

NoViolet Bulawayo, Shhh

Maureen McHugh, Special Economics

Sam Lipsyte, This Appointment Occurs in the Past

Lydia Davis, Men

Donald Antrim, Another Manhattan

Zadie Smith*, Meet the President!

Denis Johnson, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

Joy Williams, The Country

Christine Schutt, A Happy Rural Seat of Various View Lucinda’s Garden

Don DeLillo, Hammer and Sickle

Mathias Svalina, Play

Lucy Corin, Madmen

Mary Gaitskill, The Arms and Legs of the Lake

Wells Tower, Raw Water

Rachel Glaser, Pee on Water

Tao Lin, Love is a Thing on Sale for More Money than There Exists

Rebecca Curtis, The Toast

Robert Coover, Going for a Beer

Charles Yu, Standard Loneliness Package

Deb Olin Unferth, Wait Till You See Me Dance

Kyle Coma-Thompson, The Lucky Body

Rivka Galchen, The Lost Order

Donald Ray Pollack, Fish Sticks

Kelly Link, Valley of the Girls

Claire Vaye Watkins, The Diggings

*Isn’t she English? I guess it’s the stories that are American.

Nabokov/Hardwick/Lispector (Books acquired, 7.21.2015)

I picked up Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire on a weird whim. I mean, I quite literally passed by it in the bookshop I frequent; it was misshelved, or unshelved, really. Someone had left it in sci-fi, near the “Bs” (B-for-Ballard, if you must know). Pale Fire, eh? I thought. Can’t remember this one. Because I had never read it, somehow. An amazing novel, one I dove into after sampling a bit of Clarice Lispector’s Selected Cronicas (still sampling—this is one of those books that’s lovely to dip gently into between selections) and after failing to get through the first essay in Elizabeth Hardwick’s Seduction and Betrayal. Not sure if I can (should?) muster a “review” of Pale Fire, but it’s one of the better prepostmodern-postmodernist novels I’ve ever read—very very funny and a beautiful mindfuck.

The Girl Who Slept with God (Book acquired, 7.24.2015)

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Val Brelinski’s novel The Girl Who Slept with God is new in hardback this week from Penguin Random House. Their blurb:

Set in Arco, Idaho, in 1970, Val Brelinski’s powerfully affecting first novel tells the story of three sisters: young Frances, gregarious and strong-willed Jory, and moral-minded Grace. Their father, Oren, is a respected member of the community and science professor at the local college. Yet their mother’s depression and Grace’s religious fervor threaten the seemingly perfect family, whose world is upended when Grace returns from a missionary trip to Mexico and discovers she’s pregnant with—she believes—the child of God.

Distraught, Oren sends Jory and Grace to an isolated home at the edge of the town. There, they prepare for the much-awaited arrival of the baby while building a makeshift family that includes an elderly eccentric neighbor and a tattooed social outcast who drives an ice cream truck.

Penguin Classics’ reissue of Jean Lartéguy’s The Centurions (Book acquired, 7.27.2015)

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Although I’ve been having to turn down review copies left and right lately, Penguin Classics’ reissue of Jean Lartéguy’s 1960 novel The Centurions looked to promising to pass up. Lartéguy was a soldier and a journalist—and the English translator, Xan Fielding, was a Special Operations Executive agent in WW2 (among other things).

Penguin’s blurb:

The military cult classic with resonance to the wars in Iraq and Vietnam—now back in print

When The Centurions was first published in 1960, readers were riveted by the thrilling account of soldiers fighting for survival in hostile environments. They were equally transfixed by the chilling moral question the novel posed: how to fight when the “age of heroics is over.” As relevant today as it was half a century ago, The Centurions is a gripping military adventure, an extended symposium on waging war in a new global order, and an essential investigation of the ethics of counterinsurgency. Featuring a foreword by renowned military expert Robert D. Kaplan, this important wartime novel will again spark debate about controversial tactics in hot spots around the world.

Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace (Book acquired 7.21.2015)

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Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace is new from Columbia University Press. Their blurb:

The book Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will, published in 2010 by Columbia University Press, presented David Foster Wallace’s challenge to Richard Taylor’s argument for fatalism. In this anthology, notable philosophers engage directly with that work and assess Wallace’s reply to Taylor as well as other aspects of Wallace’s thought.

With an introduction by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert, this collection includes essays by William Hasker (Huntington University), Gila Sher (University of California, San Diego), Marcello Oreste Fiocco (University of California, Irvine), Daniel R. Kelly (Purdue University), Nathan Ballantyne (Fordham University), Justin Tosi (University of Arizona), and Maureen Eckert. These thinkers explore Wallace’s philosophical and literary work, illustrating remarkable ways in which his philosophical views influenced and were influenced by themes developed in his other writings, both fictional and nonfictional. Together with Fate, Time, and Language, this critical set unlocks key components of Wallace’s work and its traces in modern literature and thought.

Charmed Particles (Book acquired a few weeks back)

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Chrissy Kolaya’s novel Charmed Particles is forthcoming this fall from Dzanc. Their blurb:

Rural Nicolet, Illinois, is a city anchored between two opposing forces, a living history museum and a laboratory for experiments in high-energy particle physics. When the proposal to build a Superconducting Super Collider under the town sparks debate between the scientists and the locals, two families find themselves on opposite sides of the controversy that fractures the community, exposing deep cultural rifts between longtime friends.

Abhijat, a theoretical physicist from India now working at the National Accelerator Research Laboratory, has a sole obsession: the charm quark, a revolutionary particle and his springboard to international recognition. The search for answers to abstract questions blinds him to the burgeoning distance between him and his wife and daughter. Across town, Rose Winchester strives to raise her precocious daughter Lily, stitching together an unconventional marriage from the brief visits and astounding letters of her husband Randolph, the last great gentleman explorer.

Charmed Particles traces the collision of past and progress, science and tradition, and the unimagined elements that may arise in the aftermath.