New in Trade Paperback from Picador (Books Acquired Some Time Last Month)


Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke is the second entry in a proposed trilogy about the opium trade. (The first was 2008’s Sea of Poppies). Here’s Picador’s blurb:

In Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies, the Ibis began its treacherous journey across the Indian Ocean, bound for the cane fields of Mauritius with a cargo of indentured servants. Now, in River of Smoke, the former slave ship flounders in the Bay of Bengal, caught in the midst of a deadly cyclone.  The storm also threatens the clipper ship Anahita, groaning with the largest consignment of opium ever to leave India for Canton. Meanwhile, the Redruth, a nursery ship, carries horticulturists determined to track down the priceless botanical treasures of China. All will converge in Canton’s Fanqui-town, or Foreign Enclave, a powder keg awaiting a spark to ignite the Opium Wars. A spectacular adventure, but also a bold indictment of global avarice, River of Smoke is a consuming historical novel with powerful contemporary resonance.


Jacques Strauss’s debut novel The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. got a good review from John Self, which is worth a read—Self does a marvelous job expressing the trepidation and wariness—and yes, prejudice—that some of us might have toward contemporary novels.

Here’s Picador’s blurb:

Above all, The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. is funny; both witty and ironic. Jack hates to be reminded that Susie “didn’t stay with us because she loved me … She stayed with us because it was her job.” The irony is that to stop her being their servant, to give her her freedom, he may end up having to do something terrible to her. Around all this cultural specificity, more general principles are touched on (“one could only conclude that humanity, rather than a ballast against the arbitrary, was … its very agent”) which feed back into the story.


Here are the epigraphs to Paul La Farge’s novel Luminous Airplanes, via the book’s site, which is worth checking out:

We hope it will not be unconsidered, that we find no open tract, or constant manduction in this Labyrinth; but are oft-times fain to wander in the America and untravelled parts of Truth.

— Thomas Browne

Nothing odd will do long.

— Samuel Johnson

Ein schönes Protokoll. Ein nie bevor gesehenes Protokoll.

— Werner Herzog

…but the path of what happened is so brightly lit that it places everything else more deeply in shadow.

— The 9/11 Commission Report

The truth, fellow UFOlogists, is that I have known precisely what I was doing all along. It is just that very few other people knew what I was doing.

— William L. Moore


— Hal Hartley