Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Book Roundup: July/August 2008

This is the latest I think I've ever posted a roundup. Life has been crazy, but reading must go on. In order for that to happen, we need good books to choose from. The reviews from July and August announced great bounties for the Fall. Here's what looked most tantalizing to yours truly.


Anathem by Neal Stephenson
I started reading Stephenson's latest in a bookstore and got drawn in quickly. This may be the first Stephenson doorstopper I actually attempt to read. And reviews have been excellent.

Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures by Bill Schutt
Now this title just appeals to the 12 year old in me, anticipating every gross-out detail. Just read the rave reviews for a taste!

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard
Bayard's latest historical adventure has master detective Vidocq investigating the whereabouts of Marie Antoinette's lost son in 1818 France.


2666 by Roberto Bolano
I've read that along with Savage Detectives this is Bolano's other great masterpiece. I've been sticking to his shorter work so far, but I'd like to tackle one of the biggies eventually.

The Little Book by Selden Edwards
Quirky time travel story that takes its American hero back to the Vienna of 1897, seems to be catching on with readers.

Chicago by Alaa Al Aswany
Seems like the author of The Yacoubian Building has got a good groundswell of interest going for his latest novel, a story of culture clash in post-9/11 Chicago.

Daphne by Justine Picardie
Inspired by Daphne du Maurier's fascination with the Brontes.

Sicilian Tragedee: A Novel by Ottavio Cappellani
A Sicilian-set "madcap comedy" that revolves around Shakespeare's work, and crazy lovers of various persuasions. Sounds fun.

Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam
Barbara Hoffert at Library Journal has good taste. She recommends this book. I ask no further questions.

A Week in October by Elizabeth Subercaseaux
Inventive Chilean novel of domestic subterfuge that plays with form. Booklist: "sublime."

Fault Lines by Nancy Huston
A bestseller in Europe, Huston's much-praised novel works its way back through the stories of four generations of a family ending with a WWII era shocker.

The Only Son by Stephane Audeguy
French novel that tells the story of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's older brother.

Esther's Inheritance by Sándor Márai
The works of Hungarian Márai (who died in California in 1989) have rather quietly been getting released to acclaim these last few years. One of these days I'm going to take the plunge and check him out.

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
Booker shortlisted, and it's probably not a bad idea to just pick up a book anytime you have no idea how to pronounce the author's name.

Victorine by Maude Hutchins
My Fantoms by Theophile Gautier
The Inverted World by Christopher Priest
Trio of promising reprints from NYRB: The Hutchins is a pre-sexual revolution (1959) tale of a young girl's sexual awakening; Gautier's is a collection of "impossible" fictions from a friend of Hugo and Baudelaire; then, a science fiction classic from the author of The Prestige? Sold!

The Mirror in the Well by Micheline Aharonian Marcom
A short novel that "explores the mysteries of sexual obsession." Booklist's star reviewer Donna Seaman compares her to Anais Nin, Annie Ernaux and Kate Braverman. (Hmm, now I have a couple more names to look up.)

The Glass of Time by Michael Cox
Sequel to The Meaning of Night.

Homage to Czerny: Studies in Virtuoso Technique by Gert Jonke
I admire Europeans for being able to do something interesting with novels in under 200 pages.

Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago
What would happen if one day people stopped dying? I've never read any Saramgo, but that still seems like a recognizably Saramago-esque conceit.

The New Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker
From the folks who produced the beautiful annotated Sherlock Holmes. Is that Santa's sled I hear?

Ghosts of Chicago by John McNally
I've seen nary a blurb about this new book anywhere, though the author's novel America's Report Card was a critical success. Who dropped the ball on this one?

Ant King: And Other Stories by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Songs of praise for this collection from Cory Doctorow and Booklist's Ray Olson. Reason enough to give this a try.

The Best of Lucius Shepard
Apparently Shepard is celebrated as a fine writer of dark fantasy, whatever that is. Sounds interesting.

Orcs by Stan Nicholls
But have you considered things from the Orc point of view? Hmm?

An Evil Guest by Gene Wolfe
This is a bewildering novel to sum up from reviews. It apparently belongs to every genre ever invented and is a mashup of period influences from most decades of the 20C. Sounds interesting, but I always wonder where a fiction crosses the line from interestingly weird to weirdness for its own sake, which is usually tedious. Hopefully Wolfe has figured all this out.

More Noteworthy Fiction:
Holding Pattern by Jeffery Renard Allen
Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman
Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi
The Great Weaver from Kashmir by Halladr Laxness
Given Day by Dennis Lehane
Knowledge of Hell by Antonio Lobo Antunes
Serena by Ron Rash


Have You Seen ... ?: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films by David Thomson
Mr. Thomson is some kind of super-crank. He's often insightful and always interesting (definitely worthwhile), but he can be wrong like nobody's business (see anything he's written about John Ford). Still, I'd love to see this book - I always think critics are at their best talking about what they love.

Patronizing the Arts by Marjorie Garber
What an interesting topic for Garber. If anyone can get to the heart of the perennial problem of the arts in America, I'll bet she can.

Scorsese by Ebert by Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert has long had a special affinity for Scorsese, so it's only fitting to see him publish a monograph on the topic.

John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman
Sounds like the first major bio of Lennon, that ne plus ultra of Beatleness.

Fear of Music: The Greatest 261 Albums Since Punk and Disco by Garry Mulholland
I like list books. Yes, I'm part of the problem, I know.

The Jazz Ear: Conversations over Music by Ben Ratliff
Gleanings from interviews with Jazz stars.

Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex ed. by Ellen Sussman
Four-Letter Words: And Other Secrets of a Crossword Insider by Michelle Arnot
In the former, various writers (including Antonya Nelson, Pagan Kennedy and Jonathan Ames) take on those four-letter words so near and dear to our ever-cursin' mouths. As for the latter, I come and go through crossword phases, but this sounds useful as well as interesting.

The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Book Publishers, Their Editors, and Authors by Al Silverman
Call me a nerd, but this sounds interesting. (And besides, you'd only be stating the obvious.)

One Secret Thing by Sharon Olds
Olds is wonderful. She's one of the few poets whose new books tempt me to check them out.

Frank O'Hara: Selected Poems
This new selection of O'Hara poems has gotten some very impressive write-ups.

The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English by Henry Hitchings
Righting the Mother Tongue : From Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling by David Wolman
In a review of the Hitchings, I learned that the word "pajamas" came from India, but it makes sense. Nifty. Imagine what I could learn from the full book? The Wolman promises to tell "the cockamamie story of English spelling." Ok. Yeah. Someone do, please explain this mess.

Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English by Mark Abley
And now that we know how we got to this point, what's next?

All Art Is Propaganda : Critical Essays by George Orwell
Facing Unpleasant Facts : Narrative Essays by George Orwell
Reissues of classic essays. "Such, Such Were the Joys" and "Confessions of a Book Reviewer" sound particularly good.

Alphabet Juice : The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Therof: Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences: With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory by
Even with a huge subtitle I'm still not sure what this is, but in this case maybe that's part of the fun.

Casanova: Actor Lover Priest Spy by Ian Kelly
Casanova had a stint as a librarian? Makes sense to me, actually. Books are famously erotic.

Madame de Stael: The First Modern Woman by Francine du Plessix Gray
Don't know why exactly, but this book sounds fascinating to me, and I'm no fan of biographies in general.

Profiles in Folly: History's Worst Decisions and Why They Went Wrong by Alan Axelrod
Sounds like the makings of some very fine Monty Python sketches. I just love titles like this.

Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799-1914 by Robert Gildea
Who can resist the story of those crazy French and their revolutions? Pas moi, that's for durned sure.

Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered by Peter S. Wells
The Dark Ages may not be such a bad place to visit after all, but I still wouldn't want to live there.

Old World, New World: Great Britain and America from the Beginning by Kathleen Burk
I still remember rolling my eyes and gently trying to explain things to my 6th grade deskmate who leaned over to me, confused, murmuring, "But I thought the British were our enemies?" If only this book had been handy.

The Opinion Makers: An Insider Reveals How Media Polls Distort Elections and Manipulate Democracy by David W. Moore
Everybody's working the refs these days, and who can blame them? They're lousy.

Taking on the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga
Kos does seem like one bright guy. He's given me hope on at least one recent occasion.

Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End... by Philip Plait
Forget the bad Hollywood versions, here's the scoop on all the Apocalypses we could be in for.

Planet Google: One Company's Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know by Randall Stross
Google scares me a little bit. You?

Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators by William Stolzenburg
Perhaps it's true what they say about it coming down to us, the rats, the pigeons and the roaches. The mosquitoes, the Jellyfish, hmm, who else would you invite to the party?

Numerati by Stephen Baker
Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters by Bill Tancer
Just what are they doing with all the data that companies' web sites are collecting from us online? Hmm? And just what are you neighbors up to online? I've seen that Mrs. Kravtiz's office light on pretty late across the street. Both these books sounds fascinating.

The Customer Is Always Wrong: The Retail Chroniclesed. by Jeff Martin
Sounds funny. Includes a piece by Jim DeRogatis.

The Big Necessity by Rose George
Eww. Gross.

Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
I wonder how often Sarah has to endure, "I'd like to buy a Vowell" jokes when signing books. And is it just me or does she have the smuggest author photo of any living writer? She's probably an ok person, though.

Counterknowledge by Damian Thompson
As far as I'm concerned, we need as many people attacking pseudonews and pseudolearning as are willing to take up the call.

More Noteworthy Nonfiction:
Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World by Sharon Waxman
Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life by Paul Mariani
We're Going to See the Beatles!: An Oral History of Beatlemania as Told by the Fans Who Were There by Garry Berman
Samuel Johnson: A Biography by Peter Martin
This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women ed. by Jay Allison, Dan Gediman
John Ashbery: Collected Poems 1956-1987 by John Ashbery
Versailles: A Biography of a Palace by Tony Spawforth
The Decline of Men: How the American Male Is Tuning Out, Giving Up, and Flipping Off His Future by Guy Garcia
Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O'Brien
The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril by Eugene Jarecki
World of Letters: Yale University Press, 1908-2008 by Nicholas A. Basbanes
Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933 ed. by Joan Simon and Brigitte Leal
Searching for Schindler: A Memoir by Thomas Keneally
Rock and Roll Cage Match: Music's Greatest Rivalries, Decided by Sean Manning
Fabergé's Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire by Toby Faber
There's a Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars, and the Rise and Fall of the '60s by Peter Doggett
Green, Inc. by Christine MacDonald
Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson by David S. Reynolds
Hollywood under Siege: Martin Scorsese, the Religious Right, and the Culture Wars by Thomas R. Lindlof
Master of Ceremonies: A Tale of Love, Murder, Rollerskates & Chippendales by David Henry Sterry
Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace
The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Book Publishers, Their Editors, and Authors by Al Silverman
Save the World on Your Own Time by Stanley Fish
Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life by Wynton Marsalis with Geoffrey C. Ward

Of Gay Interest:

Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel by Edmund White
I gather this is a briefer biography than White's Genet, but the match of subject and writer seems to have been made in publishing heaven.

Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder by Gyles Brandreth
Second installment in the mystery series, and critics are saying it's even better than the first.

Letters to a Stranger by Thomas James
Apparently this poet, who committed suicide at a young age 30 years ago, has a cult following.

What Can I Do When Everything's on Fire? : A Novel by Antonio Lobo Antunes
"Epic" story of a Lisbon drag queen.

Twisted Head : An Italian American Memoir by Carl Capotorto
Growing up gay in the Bronx in the 70s. One of the best book cover designs of the year.

Also Noteworthy:
Smile As They Bow by Nu Nu Yi
Master of Ceremonies: A Tale of Love, Murder, Rollerskates & Chippendales by David Henry Sterry
Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder by Gyles Brandreth
Dancing In The Low Country by James Villas
Half a Crown by Jo Walton
Only the Lonely by Gary Zebrun

Graphic Work:

Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! by Art Spiegelman
Reprint of acclaimed work from the late 70s. It's Spiegelman, people. You know you want it.

Good-Bye by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
PW made the enticing comment that this grandfather of Japanese alt-comics "reads as if Haruki Murakami decided to try his hand at Manga."

The Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle
Another reportorial graphic novel on life in Asia from Delisle.

Pocket Full of Rain: And Other Stories by Jason
Jason's got a fun light style, and I'd like to read more of his books.

Also Noteworthy:
Flight, Volume 5 by Kazu Kibuishi
A Treasury of 20th Century Murder: The Lindbergh Child - America's Hero and the Crime of the Century by Rick Geary

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