Monday, March 05, 2007

New Book Roundup: January/February 2007

We're into the thick of the huge Spring publishing season with these titles, so it's a long list. A few things I'm very excited about, especially the Tolstaya collection. I just this week read about her work in a book I the 2006 March/April roundup, Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer. Yeah, it can take a while to get to these books, but it's worth the effort.


Heyday by Kurt Andersen
Spy magazine co-founder's second novel, a historical romantic novel of ideas, is getting some of the best, most exciting reviews of the moment.

Remainder by Tom McCarthy
Fairly big buzz on the lit blog circuit for this twisty cerebral English novel--we'll soon see if it's hype. (I've had it on reserve forever at the library.) Definitely doesn't seem like a novel for the disposable thriller fans.

White Walls: The Collected Stories by Tatyana Tolstaya
NYRB is publishing a collection of the work (new and old) of Tolstoy's great-grandniece. I recently read some excellent passages of her work in Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer, and I look forward to checking this out.


The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander
Englander was celebrated for his short story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, and this is his long-awaited debut novel. It deals with "the disappeared" of Argentina.

Black Hats: A Novel of Wyatt Earp and Al Capone by Patrick Culhane
I think the subtitle says it all--sounds fun to me.

Napoleon's Pyramids by William Dietrich
Is it just me or are there too many "romps" in book reviews? Still, this historical thriller sounds promising.

The God of Spring by Arabella Edge
Historical novel about the painter Gericault and his work The Raft of the Medusa, this is yet another novel inspired by a particular painting (much like Susan Vreeland's forthcoming Luncheon of the Boating Party).

Imposture by Benjamin Markovits
Story of a doomed romance involving a 19C Byron impostor.

The Pesthouse by Jim Crace
Another prestigious author has caught apocalypse fever! This one is very well-reviewed and though compared (as it obviously would be) to McCarthy's latest is said to be easier to take. I'm officially intrigued.

Piercing by Ryu Murakami
Is this J-Horror? I really don't understand, but the evil cover art makes me laugh.

Dancing to Almendra by Mayra Montero
Nada by Carmen Laforet
Two Edith Grossman translations: the first, an intriguing thriller set in a pre-Castro Cuba that's garnering raves; the second, a 1945 Spanish Gothic that's considered a cult classic.

The Engagement by Georges Simenon
Latest Simenon translation from the invaluable NYRB.

Dead Horse by Walter Satterthwait
An edgy noir inspired by the life of a real pulp-era writer, Raoul Whitfield, who is suspected by some of murdering his wife--and, get this: Whitfield may also have been an inspiration for Hammet's The Thin Man.

Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
A bit like Carol Anshaw's Aquamarine (or the movie Sliding Doors), after a woman is tempted to cheat on her husband we get two versions of what could have happened. Shriver got some impressive buzz for his previous book (We Need to Talk About Kevin) but I'm not yet sure this well-reviewed novel is really my cup of tea.

Anxious Pleasures: A Novel after Kafka by Lance Olsen
Another twist on Kafka: this time The Metamorphosis gets the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern treatment, told from the point of view of supporting players.

Murder on the Celtic by Conrad Allen
Retro mystery set on a trans-Atlantic cruise circa 1910 includes the disappearance of passenger Arthur Conan Doyle's first edition copy of A Study in Scarlet. (I can't help it--any Holmes connection and they get my attention!)

The Sun Over Breda by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Lastest installment in the Capitan Alatriste series, soon to hit the big screen.

Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
"Superb" (Kirkus) thriller involving rare book dealers and a rumored lost Shakespeare play.

April in Paris by Michael Wallner
Story of a romance between a resistance fighter and a German SS translator during WWII in Paris--could be cliche-ridden stuff, but the reviews are strong so far.

The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, ed. by Henry Louis Gates and Hollis Robbins
The abolitionist classic, critiqued by James Baldwin among others, gets the annotated treatment by Gates and team. I'm very curious to read it for myself.

Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis
I've been meaning to check out Davis' work for a long time. I'm always ashamed when an author publishes new work before I get around to checking out their earlier work--how slow can I be?

Majestrum: A Tale of Henghis Hapthorn by Matthew Hughes
Hapthorn is a far-future Sherlock Holmes, the subject of several of Hughes' tales.

The Last Colony by John Scalzi
Rising SF star Scalzi's second sequel to Old Man's War. (He's also got a new writing guide out, see below under Literature.)

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Publishers Weekly says: "As absorbing on a second reading as it is on the first, this is the type of assured, rich first novel most writers can only dream of producing. The fantasy world has a new star."

Feast of Souls: Book One of the Magister Trilogy by C. S. Friedman
The first of a new trilogy set in a world in which magic can be performed only at a terrible cost.

More Noteworthy Fiction:
LJ loved Henry Grinberg's tale of a nasty Nazi-era conductor's rise to fame, Variations on the Beast. Good reviews for All Whom I Have Loved by Aharon Appelfeld, The Fate of Mice, stories by Susan Palwick, and esp. The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall which has impressive momentum, but although I'm interested in weird fiction, it just sounds stupid to me. Exile and the Kingdom by Albert Camus has had its first new English translation in 50 years. Angelica is another critical success for Arthur Phillips, a Victorian-set novel of psychological suspense. New work also from Haruki Murakami, After Dark, and Daniel Mason (author of The Piano Tuner, which I just learned about), A Far Country. Yet another historical thriller features Poe and his work in The Blackest Bird: A Novel of Murder in Nineteenth-Century New York by Joel Rose. Christopher Golden's new work of fantasy Borderkind, has been compared to Neil Gaiman, Charles De Lint and, a writer I don't know, Robert Holdstock. Also: New Orleans Noir ed. by Julie Smith has gotten some of the stronger reviews for that series. James Tiptree Award Anthology 3: Subversive Stories about Sex and Gender includes a new story by Ursula LeGuin.


All That Glittered: The Golden Age of Drama on Broadway, 1919-1959 by Ethan Mordden
Morddan changes focus from his histories of musicals by decade to this golden era of drama.

Life and Death of Classical Music: Featuring the 100 Best and 20 Worst Recordings Ever Made by Norman Lebrecht
A history of the recording age of classical music.

It's about That Time: Miles Davis on and off the Record by Richard Cook
A look at the life that refreshingly focuses on the work: 14 essential Davis albums.

The Dragon's Trail: The Biography of Raphael's Masterpiece by Joanna Pitman
I'm officially calling this a rising new trend--histories of individual books, songs and paintings.


The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books ed. by J. Peder Zane
I haven't seen any reviews yet, but it sounds like a great book to browse through and get some reading inspiration.

Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language by Seth Lerer
Not so much a history as a collection of essays, this still sounds very interesting. From a giant of the field.

John Donne: The Reformed Soul: A Biography by John Stubbs
John Osborne: The Many Lives of the Angry Young Man by John Heilpern
Life of Kingsley Amis by Zachary Leader
Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee
Several new literary biographies, including one on English poet Donne (a "swashbuckler"?), the Angry Young Man Osborne, and the author of Lucky Jim. The Lee is getting the most outstanding reviews, "[s]ure to be the standard work on Wharton for years to come." - Kirkus

Love, Life, Goethe: Lessons of the Imagination from the Great German Poet by John Armstrong
Some descriptions make this sound like a self-help book centered on Goethe, but I wonder if that's just literary-fearing marketing? Perhaps it's like de Botton's How Proust Can Change Your Life?

101 Best Scenes Ever Written by Barnaby Conrad
You're Not Fooling Anyone when You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing by John Scalzi
Two writing guides. The first sounds best as a good browse. The second one (I love the title!) is by up-and-coming Science Fiction author.

Words without Borders: The World through the Eyes of Writers: An Anthology ed. by Alane Salierno Mason et al.
An anthology of up-and-coming international writers introduced by some of the giants of world literature.

At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches by Susan Sontag
Collection of Sontag's later work, a book she was working on when she died. Includes several introductions to works of literature in translation.


Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic: The Construction of Penn Station and Its Tunnels by Jill Jonnes
This story of an impressive feat of engineering earns comparison to The Devil in the White City (the Burnham half, I assume, not the Holmes half) in the author's ability to make history come alive and keep the reader interested. Also compared to David McCullough's works on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal.

Hellenistic Age: A Short History by Peter Green
A compact classical history.

Wild Scots: Four Hundred Years of Highland History by Michael Fry
History of the Scottish highlands.

FDR by Jean Edward Smith
Sounds like the best FDR bio for general readers in a number of years, though you better start working out--it's 900 pages.

Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America 1919 by Ann Hagedorn
I had no idea that the post-WWI period was so troubled (or troubling)--my mental chronology just skips right to the Jazz Age after WWI. This history sounds extremely relevant to our own period.

What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War by Chandra Manning
A social history of the war, drawing on numerous primary sources, argues that as far as the people fighting it were concerned, the war was about slavery.


A Power Governments Cannot Suppress by Howard Zinn
Howard Zinn takes on the post-9/11 political landscape in this collection of essays, but rather than focus on Bush he spends time of lesser known and underappreciated facets of our history.

Freedom's Power: The True Force of Liberalism by Paul Starr
"Part political theory and part intellectual history, this book tracks the development of liberalism as the world's dominant political tradition and argues for its continued ascendancy as the best guarantor of individual rights and prosperity on the global stage." (PW)


Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier
Sounds like a lively guide to the fundamentals of science.

The Sixth Extinction: Journeys Among the Lost and Left Behind by Terry Glavin
We're in a period of massive extinctions, and this book ties those extinctions to losses of traditional ways of life around the globe. Sounds depressing if important.

Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston
A look at the rarefied ecosystems of the highest treetops.


Dog Years: A Memoir by Mark Doty
I can't believe a dog memoir has come along that actually appeals to me, but this one really does.

Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence
A surprisingly popular topic (well, it inspired a graphic novel, too, by Brian K. Vaughan).

Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World by Joan Druett
I love shipwreck stories, both true and fictional.

Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated Into What America Eats by Steve Ettlinger
If I hadn't read so many food books recently, I'd be jumping on this. Sounds very interesting.

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams
Wiki technology/approach seems like it represents a significant movement, perhaps even a paradigm shift--I definitely plan to look at this, at least. (Also, I just read about a short story called "Wikiworld" about democracy gone crazy in the anthology Fast Forward 1.)

Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity by Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King
When National Geographic published The Gospel of Judas last year, I wondered what Pagels would have to say.

More Noteworthy Nonfiction:
Lots of interesting new work, including: Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws' Bloody Reign by Stephan Talty (so soon after The Sack of Panama comes another book about Captain Morgan!); Havana: Autobiography of a City by Alfredo Estrada; Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben; Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge by Clinton Heylin; Thirst by Mary Oliver; Findings: Essays on the Natural and Unnatural World by Kathleen Jamie; Pushcart Book of Poetry: The Best Poems from Three Decades of the Pushcart Prize; I've Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad by Karolyn Smardz Frost; Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries-Old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop by John Marchese; Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham by Carolyn Brown; Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England by Lynne Olson; The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution by David O. Stewart is said to be second only to Catherine Drinker Bowen's Miracle at Philadelphia in terms of covering the writing of our (often-bruised) Constitution; How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman; Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande; The Door of No Return: Cape Coast Castle and the Slave Trade by William St Clair; Neck Deep and Other Predicaments by Ander Monson; A one-volume Tchaikovsky reduced from David Brown's four-volume study; Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches: And Other Answers to Bird Questions You Know You Want to Ask by Mike O'Connor and (very expensive) The Arts and Crafts Movement by Rosalind Blakesley.

Of Gay Interest:

Devil in Amber: A Lucifer Box Novel by Mark Gatiss
Sounds like a fun Bond-ish gay thriller.

The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue by Manuel Munoz
The young author of Zigzagger returns, more mature and confident, with more stories of (often gay) Mexican-Americans.

Also Noteworthy:
The IHOP Papers by Ali Liebegott, Consequences of Sin by Clare Langley-Hawthorne, the YA-ish My Side of the Story by Will Davies, Landing by Emma Donoghue, Hex: A Novel of Love Spells by Darieck Scott (explores black gay identity and the supernatural), Notebooks by Tennessee Williams, and Baby Love by Rebecca Walker, which sounds a bit like Dan Savage's The Kid only with less humor (and a public feud with her mother, Alice Walker). Also, reprints of 50s classics about lesbian life: We Walk Alone and We, Too, Must Loveby Ann Aldrich (pen name of Marijane Meaker).

Of Chicago Interest:

Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago's Cook County Public Defender's Office by Kevin Davis
Sounds like an excellent companion to Steve Bogira's Courtroom 302.

Stealing Lincoln's Body by Thomas J. Craughwell
The story of how several Chicago (ugh, of course!) counterfeiters attempted to steal Lincoln's remains in 1876.

Also Noteworthy:
Bruce Olds' novel The Moments Lost: A Midwest Pilgrim's Progress is based loosely on the life of a journalist who covered the Iroquois Theater fire. Beloved Chicago writer Sara Paretsky has a new memoir/writing guide, Writing in an Age of Silence.

Graphic Work:

The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar
A professor's daughter is romanced by a charming mummy in Victorian London.

God Save the Queen by Mike Carey and John Bolton
Teens, drugs, and…Queen of the faeries?

BLAB! Vol. 17 ed. by Monte Beauchamp
Latest in the venerable underground series includes a story about a French cheese-smuggling mouse and a Mark Landman piece that sounds interesting: he inserts his character into classic strips like Peanuts and Dick Tracy.

Glacial Period by Nicolas De Crecy
1000 years from now after a long glacial period, a group of archeologists (including a talking dog) come across the Louvre (which collaborated on this piece's creation).

Also Noteworthy:
Back in Bleck: Blecky Yuckerella Vol. 2 by Johnny Ryan, Pantheon High, Volume 1 by Paul Benjamin ("[I]magines all of the characters of the various world mythologies living together in one universe—and sending their children to the same high school in Los Angeles" (PW) - sounds cute), Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace 1955-1956 by Hank Ketcham (third volume in the anthology series), Popeye Vol. 1: "I Yam What I Yam" by E. C. Segar (first volume in the collected series--I had no idea Olive Oyl had a sibling named Castor!), and Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan, a look at Israeli life and the story of a missing father, from a major Israeli talent.



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