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.
Mary Miley’s Silent Murders. Macmillan/Minotaur’s blurb:
Vaudeville actress Leah Randall took on her most daring role ever when she impersonated missing heiress Jessie Carr in order to claim Jessie’s inheritance inThe Impersonator. Now that the dust has settled around that tumultuous time in her life, Leah has adopted Jessie’s name as her own and moved to Hollywood, where she’s taken a modest but steady job in the silent film industry.
Jessie’s thrilled when Bruno Heilmann, a movie studio bigwig, invites her to a party. She’s even more delighted to run into a face from her past at that party. But the following day, Jessie learns that sometime in the wee hours of the morning both her old friend and Bruno Heilmann were brutally murdered. She’s devastated, but with her skill as an actress, access to the wardrobes and resources of a film studio, and a face not yet famous enough to be recognized, Jessie is uniquely positioned to dig into the circumstances surrounding these deaths. But will doing so put her own life directly in the path of a murderer?
Saving Simon by Jon Katz is new in hardback from Random House. Their blurb:
In this heartfelt, thoughtful, and inspiring memoir, New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz tells the story of his beloved rescue donkey, Simon, and the wondrous ways that animals make us wiser and kinder people.
In the spring of 2011, Jon Katz received a phone call that would challenge every idea he ever had about mercy and compassion. An animal control officer had found a neglected donkey on a farm in upstate New York, and she hoped that Jon and his wife, Maria, would be willing to adopt him. Jon wasn’t planning to add another animal to his home on Bedlam Farm, certainly not a very sick donkey. But the moment he saw the wrenching sight of Simon, he felt a powerful connection. Simon touched something very deep inside of him. Jon and Maria decided to take him in.
Simon’s recovery was far from easy. Weak and malnourished, he needed near constant care, but Jon was determined to help him heal. As Simon’s health improved, Jon would feed him by hand, read to him, take him on walks, even confide in him like an old and trusted friend. Then, miraculously, as if in reciprocation, Simon began to reveal to Jon the true meaning of compassion, the ways in which it can transform our lives and inspire us to take great risks.
This radically different perspective on kindness and empathy led Jon to a troubled border collie from Ireland in need of a home, a blind pony who had lived outside in a pasture for fifteen years, and a new farm for him and Maria. In the great tradition of heroes—from Don Quixote to Shrek—who faced the world in the company of their donkeys, Jon came to understand compassion and mercy in a new light, learning to open up “not just to Simon, not just to animals, but to the human experience. To love, to risk, to friendship.”
With grace, warmth, and keen emotional insight, Saving Simon plumbs the depths of the bonds we form with our animals, and the rewards of “living a more compassionate, considered, and meaningful life.”
The Haunting Ballad by Michael Nethercott. PW’s review:
Set in 1957, Nethercott’s diverting second Lee Plunkett mystery (after 2013’s The Séance Society) takes the Connecticut PI and his fiancée, Audrey Valish, to Greenwich Village. At the Cafe Mercutio, they witness an acrimonious dispute between two performers, “song-catcher” Lorraine Cobble and troubadour Byron Spires. When Lorraine apparently leaps to her death from the roof of her apartment building, her distraught cousin, Sally Joan Cobble, hires Lee to prove she didn’t commit suicide. Lee is the nominal detective, but the heavy lifting is done by wily Irishman Mr. O’Nelligan, who lends sage advice and guidance. Together, the duo approach Lorraine’s former housemates, such as “ghost chanter” Mrs. Pattinshell and 105-year-old Civil War vet Cornelius Boyle. Nethercott has fun with the bustling Bohemian atmosphere and Lee and Audrey’s awkward romance, but reserves the best lines for the exchanges between O’Nelligan and Lee as they close in on the unlikely culprit.
Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe is new in trade paperback next month from Random House. From James Orbesen’s review earlier this year in Bookslut:
Comprised of a number of essays, The Accidental Universe documents recent discoveries about our universe, the quest for a complete Standard Model of physics to explain, literally, everything, and the recently uncovered Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle” that grants subatomic particles their mass. This is balanced by Lightman’s reflections on human nature, our mutual condition, and our place in a vast cosmos beyond our reach. This creates an interesting tension that runs throughout the collection, beginning right at the beginning in the titular essay.
Lightman starts with that: “The history of science can, in fact, be viewed as the recasting of phenomena that were once accepted as ‘givens’ as phenomena that can now be understood in terms of fundamental causes and principles.”
Science peels away layers that obscure the truth at the heart of our universe. However, after centuries of constant triumph, scientists have run into a brick wall. For every new discovery, new questions arise that science may not also be able to answer. After affirming what science has done, he pulls away the table cloth: “According to the current thinking of many physicists, we are living in one of a vast number of universes. We are living in an accidental universe. We are living in a universe incalculable by science.”
The kind people at Random House sent me a trade paperback of Ben Marcus’s latest collection, Leaving the Sea. The trade paperback comes out in early October.
I actually read the book this summer, and enjoyed it, was frustrated by it, occasionally sickened by it, was enthralled by at least two stories (“The Loyalty Protocol” and “The Moors”), and found one story to be so terribly sad and distressing and horrifying that I hope to never read anything like it again, which is kind of a compliment (“Rollingwood”).
I jammed Leaving the Sea into a riff on stuff I wished I’d written about in the first half of 2014. This is what I wrote:
“Leaving the Sea, Ben Marcus: A weird and (thankfully) uneven collection that begins with New Yorkerish stories of a post-Lish stripe (like darker than Lipsyte stuff) and unravels (thankfully) into sketches and thought experiments and outright bizarre blips. Abjection, abjection, abjection. The final story ‘The Moors’ is a minor masterpiece.”
Read “On Not Growing Up” from the collection at Conjunctions. First paragraphs:
—HOW LONG HAVE YOU been a child?
—Who did you work with?
—Meyerowitz for the first phase: colic, teething, walking, talking. He taught me how to produce false prodigy markers and developmental reversals, to test the power in the room without speaking. I was encouraged to look beyond the tantrum and drastic mood migrations that depended on the environment, and if you know my work you have an idea what resulted. The rest is a hodgepodge, but I don’t advocate linear apprenticeships. A stint in the Bonn Residency. Fellowships at the Cleveland Place, then later a stage at Quebec Center. I entered that Appalachian Trail retreat in 1974, before Krenov revised it, but had to get helicoptered out. Probably my first infant crisis, before I knew to deliberately court interference. The debt to Meyerowitz is huge, obviously, if just for the innocence training. Probably I should have laid off after that, because now it’s all
—Unlearning as Kugler practices it? That radical?
—I skip the hostility to animals. I skip the forced submersion and the chelation flush. That’s proven to be a dead end. But Kugler is a walking contradiction in that respect, isn’t he? He keeps a horse barn.
He does twilight childishness, and now he’s suddenly opposing the Phoenix baby-talk crowd, who I think are not as threatening as he makes out.
—They’re not registered.