Saturday, September 08, 2007

New Book Roundup: July/August 2007

The July and August reviews, looking at works scheduled to hit stores between now and February '08, were skimpier on interesting fiction as far as I'm concerned, but as always there were some titles that hold promise. Edmund White's gay literature "renaissance" continues, but the highlights for me this time are quirky nonfiction books like the new Sims, Ackerman (and Ackerman), Sacks, Hirsch, Ross, Bayard, and Faludi.


Apollo's Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination by Michael Sims
Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body by Jennifer Ackerman
From the author of Adam's Navel (which a friend recommends) comes this look at various natural phenomena such as sunrises, clouds, wind, plants, etc. all organized around the theme of a single day. With abundant references to mythology and literature, this sounds wonderful. The Ackerman makes a natural companion. Which to read first?

Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure by Michael Chabon
Another awful cover design, but this Chabon book sounds more fun to me than anything since Kavalier and Clay. I may actually even read it!

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver W. Sacks
Sacks is one of my very favorite writers, and music is one of my favorite subjects to read about. Suffice to say I'm looking forward to this!


World Without End by Ken Follett
A sequel of sorts to Follett's bestselling historical novel The Pillars of the Earth (which, excuse me, I'd never heard of), and it sounds excellent, though it's a doorstopper.

The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett
Queen mania continues. This actually sounds amusing.

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Russo has won many fans (sorry, not me) with his sure senses of place and humor. (Is that zeugma?)

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
Latest from the author or Election and Little Children - coming soon to a theater near you?

The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
Latest from the great Andrea Barrett. I have to admit I'm more interested in her short fiction, but I'm willing to give this a try.

Lost Paradise by Cees Nooteboom
Dutch novelist Nooteboom has been quietly receiving some strong reviews for this novel. Another one of those translations that seems to fly under the radars of even most bloggers.

The Assistant by Robert Walser
I'm still not clear where this novel ranks in Walser's oeuvre, but he's a major writer and the book is getting some impressive attention.

The Best American Short Stories 2007 ed. by Stephen King
I'm hoping King's edition, like Chabon's, throws more genre fiction into the mix.

Faithful Lover by Massimo Bontempelli
A collection of the Italian writer's stories, described as being somewhere in the neighborhood (tourist destination?) of magic realism / surrealism. Booklist says they'll appeal to fantasy buffs.

Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work: Stories by Jason Brown
New England gothic? I think what hooked me was the reviewer who said an "inchoate evil is hard at work in each of the 11 stunning, loosely linked stories."

Like You'd Understand, Anyway: Stories by Jim Shepard
I admired the story "Love and Hydrogen," and I'm betting Shepard has some other tricks up his sleeves.

Baltimore, or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Vampires and the battlefields of WWI? This illustrated novel sounds fresh and innovative.

Now and Forever: Somewhere a Band Is Playing and Leviathan '99 by Ray Bradbury
The re-working of Moby Dick sounds interesting.

Winds of Marble Arch by Connie Willis
New collection from the much revered Willis.

Radio Freefall by Matthew Jarpe
Rock 'n Roll and Science Fiction. This almost sounds campy.

Halting State by Charles Stross
A SF thriller that starts with a bank robbery which occurs in cyberspace.

More Noteworthy Fiction:
Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel by Marie Phillips
If You Liked School, You'll Love Work by Irvine Welsh
Queen of Candesce: Book Two of Virga by Karl Schroeder
Lions at Lamb House by Edwin M. Yoder
Cion by Zakes Mda
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill



Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King by Foster Hirsch
A year or two ago I worked my way through all of Preminger's top films available on dvd. I can't wait to get my hands on this book and see what it can add to the experience. They're programming a series around this at the Music Box here in Chicago.

Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art ed. by Sebastian Peake et al
A volume devoted to the writer's work as an artist. Peake is, of course, best-known for his epic work of fantasy, Gormenghast.

Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films by Joseph Lanza
I've only recently become interested in Russell after seeing (and absolutely loving) Tommy. I'm really more interested in seeing more of his work before tackling a book on him, but this does sound like a good one.

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis
I'm not surprised to read reviews which say the creator of Snoopy was a troubled soul. I've always loved the strip (well, especially in its golden age), and beneath the comedy and zaniness there were always hints of depression and disillusionment. I loved the way he dealt with those emotions, and it would be interesting to read more about what was going on in his life.

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross
Ross, who reviews classical music for The New Yorker, is probably my favorite music writer, and I'm eager to get my hands on this book.

Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America by Jonathan Gould
An excellent starred signature review in PW got my interest by saying this bio sticks to the music first.

Broadway Babylon: Glamour, Glitz and Gossip on the Great White Way by Boze Hadleigh
Inspired by the 'classic' (that feels like a strange word to use for that book) Hollywood Babylon.

Buster Keaton: Interviews ed. by Kevin W. Sweeney
It would be interesting to see what film legend Keaton had to say about his careers.

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard
This book with its mildly scandalous title has become a surprise hit in France, and I'm betting it'll get its 15 minutes of fame in the U.S. It actually sounds fairly thoughtful (more so than you might think at first).

Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda
This sounds potentially very rewarding, at least as a browse for reading inspiration.

Why We Read What We Read: A Delightfully Opinionated Journey through Contemporary Bestsellers by John Heath and Lisa Adams
I'm almost afraid to read the conclusions Adams and Heath drew after scrutinizing the American bestseller charts.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A New Verse Translation by Simon Armitage
Yet another in the surprisingly popular trend of updated literary classics (after Beowulf, Illiad, Odyssey, etc.).

Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters by Jon L. Lellenberg
A celebrity in his day, he no doubt had some interesting correspondence. Among living authors, whose correspondence would you most like to read?

Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism by John Updike
Is it possible Updike will be celebrated more for his essays than his novels?

In a Cardboard Belt!: Essays Personal, Literary, and Savage by Joseph Epstein
Saw this in a bookstore, and it looks like the collection includes some interesting pieces (Edmund Wilson, Adler and Bloom, Auden, Proust, etc.).

Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle by Janet Todd
A look at the fiery heart of Romanticism's literary elite.

Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form by Helen Vendler
A "monumental" (PW) study of Yeats' poetry from a legendary critic. Vendler will lecture at the Art Institute in mid-October.

American Transcendentalism: A History by Philip F. Gura
One review declares, "possibly the best single volume on the Transcendentalists."

Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and de Gaulle by Paul Johnson
Something of a companion to Johnson's Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney.


Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post 9/11 America by Susan Faludi
It's about time someone of Faludi's stature set about challenging the macho hawk mentality of post-9/11 America. Yes, there have been dozens of books about the war and the administration, but I'm looking forward to this examination of our body politic's overall health and (ha) well-being.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
I'm predicting that this book will surprise the industry by selling better than they expect. No Logo was quite a phenomenon.

See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation by Thomas Geoghegan
Well, this is a fresh and overdue angle: the rise of lawsuits is due to conservative policies. So obvious it practically writes itself.

Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments by Alex Boese
They gave LSD to an elephant at the Lincoln Park Zoo in the 60s? And apparently the author has scads of other bizarre experiments from the history of science to dish out.


Roger Tory Peterson: A Biography by Douglas Carlson
An in-depth look at the conservationist and ornithologist.


The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman
Ackerman's latest tells the story of the director of the Warsaw Zoo, who sheltered Jews and Polish resisters. Sounds fascinating.

The Bible: A Biography (Books That Changed the World) by Karen Armstrong
The latest in the series of histories of landmark books comes up against the granddaddy of them all. Not sure what even Armstrong can do on the subject in under 200 pages, but it may be worth a look.

30: The Collapse of the Great American Newspaper ed. by Charles M. Madigan
I'm not a big fan of newspapers, with their conservative editorial pages, their tone which ranges from stuffy to bland and their piecemeal approach to news coverage, but I read them, and I can't imagine life without them. Clearly they're in decline, and it's a serious problem for our democracy.

The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) by Peter Sagal
This microgenre of books about people's bad behavior is becoming kind of a recurring guilty pleasure for me.

What Would Socrates Say?: Philosophers Tackle Questions about Love, Nothingness, and Everything Else by Alexander George
But would this sell t-shirts?

See You in a Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America by Logan Ward
The author decided on an experiment: to bring his family to live for a year only with technology that would have been available in 1900. Strong reviews.

Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories by Katha Pollitt
Memoirish collection of essays from the outstanding Nation columnist and poet.

More Noteworthy Nonfiction:
Digital Filmmaking by Mike Figgis
Flickipedia: Perfect Films for Every Occasion, Holiday, Mood, Ordeal, and Whim by Michael Atkinson and Laurel Shifrin
The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve: Close Up and Personal by Catherine Deneuve
Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis by Ed Sikov
Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005 by Robert Hass
Thomas Paine's Rights of Man by Christopher Hitchens
Books on Trial: Red Scare in the Heartland by Shirley A. Wiegand and Wayne A. Wiegand
Only As Good As Your Word: Writing Lessons from My Favorite Literary Gurus by Susan Shapiro
Paradoxia: A Predator's Diary by Lydia Lunch
1776: The Illustrated Edition by David McCullough
The Lion and the Unicorn: Gladstone vs. Disraeli by Richard Aldous
American Connections: The Founding Fathers. Networked. by James Burke
Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer by Shannon Brownlee
Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite by D. Michael Lindsay
God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America by Hanna Rosin
Head and Heart: American Christianities by Garry Wills
The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell by Rachel Herz
Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding by Scott Weidensaul

Of Gay Interest:

Now Voyagers by James McCourt
PW declares: Mawrdew Czgowchwz is "back in a brilliant form" in a sequel, an "astonishing piece of modernist legerdemain."

The Day I Stopped Being Pretty by Rodney Lofton
This gay-themed memoir sounds refreshingly frank, not just another case of Sedaris/Burroughs fluff.

Body and Blood by Michael Schiefelbein
Romance between two Catholic priests, getting unexpectedly decent reviews.

Dude, You’re a Fag by C. J. Pascoe
This study of the high school experiences of gay teens sounds intriguing. I hope it doesn't turn out to be dry and academic.

In the Meantime by Robin Lippincott
The story of three friends from the 30s to the present, with a focus on life in post-war NYC, this has garnered some strong reviews so far.

Also Noteworthy:
Alfred Douglass: A Poet's Life and His Finest Work by Caspar Wintermanns
Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated with Our Greatest President by Edward Steers (among other things, refutes the notion he was homosexual, which I never bought)
Butt Book
Changing Tides by Michael Thomas Ford
Longhorns by Victor J. Banis
Don't Say Anymore Darling by Fumi Yoshinaga

Of Chicago Interest:

Hiding Out by Jonathan Messinger
Stories from the editor of TimeOut Chicago's admirably independent books section. (I should add that Messinger is a friend of a friend.)
Touch and Go: A Memoir by Studs Terkel
Not long after I moved to Chicago I started hearing about Studs Terkel. "He's kind of a big deal around here," I was told by a friend. Rightly so.

Also Noteworthy:
Chicago Blues: A New Collection of Short Stories About the Real Windy City ed. by Libby Fischer Hellmann
My Maggie by Richard King
The Last Striptease by Michael Wiley
The Cubs: The Complete Story of Chicago Cubs Baseball by Glenn Stout et al.
Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet by Poetry editor Christian Wiman

Graphic Work:

Johnny Ryan's XXX Scumbag Party by Johnny Ryan
His work is scatalogical, juvenile and simple-minded, but in small doses I think it's funny. I like the way it references classic comics and subverts them into something obscene. Ever read Blecky Yuckerella?

Also Noteworthy:
The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming
I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks
The Best American Comics 2007 ed. by Chris Ware
Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories by Will Eisner



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