Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Book Roundup: November/December 2008

In this latest roundup of forthcoming books of interest, there aren't too many big names, which makes it an ideal time to take a chance on some lesser known and new writers. (Say, that'd make a nice new year's resolution, wouldn't it?) Finish up what you're reading now - there's lots more to look forward to.


Don't Cry by Mary Gaitskill
Gaitskill made her reputation with stories, and I for one can't wait to get my hands on this, her return to stories after the successful novel Veronica. Due out in March.

Asta in the Wings by Jan Elizabeth Watson
Great premise - two children whose mother has raised them to have an extremely distorted understanding of the world outside (that it's a dangerous wasteland) must come to grips with reality when she disappears. Fingers crossed as more reviews come in.

Garfield Minus Garfield by Jim Davis
An online snarkster posted Garfield strips minus the cat, so that his owner appears to be talking to himself - a strange "realistic" interpretation of the strip. Surprise! Creator Jim Davis approved, and now it's a book.


Drood by Dan Simmons
Simmons has created a complex thriller that imagines what could have led Dickens to write his last, unfinished novel. (Be warned: its as long as a Dickens novel.)

The Women by T.C. Boyle
I expect Boyle's latest, about Frank Lloyd Wright, could be one of his biggest successes yet. Reviews are excellent so far.

The Winner of Sorrow by Brian Lynch
A debut novel about the 18th-century English poet William Cowper. I wonder what the pros and cons are of taking up a minor historical figure as opposed to the usual legends like Shakespeare and Jane Austen for a historical novel. This one sounds quite good, as you'd expect from Dalkey.

Lowboy by John Wray
Wait, have I got this right? It's about a schizo teen who thinks he can save the world by getting laid?

The Seance by John Harwood
A neo-Victorian supernatural thriller that's being compared to Wilkie Collins and LeFanu. It seems all the recent interest in vampire stories has sent many readers and writers back to classic gothic, horror and ghost stories. What fun!

Spade & Archer: The Prequel to The Maltese Falcon by Joe Gores
I know what you're thinking, because I thought it, too: some lamewad wrote a prequel to The Maltese Falcon? But what reviews: "Gores has not only pulled off the Herculean task of writing a prequel to The Maltese Falcon but also created a rip-roaring yarn of his own that will please even the crustiest of Hammett devotees"; and "Gores, a far more virtuoso plotter than Hammett, keeps multiple pots boiling furiously while providing a pitch-perfect replica of his master's voice...."

The Republic of Vengeance: A Novel of Greece and Rome by Paul Waters
"In the tradition of Mary Renault, Steven Pressfield, and Robert Graves...," this kicks off a planned series.

Empty Mirror by J. Sydney Jones
Fin-de-siècle Vienna is the setting for this mystery that features Gustav Klimt, Krafft-Ebing and others in supporting roles. Warm, if not effusive, praise so far.

Book from the Sky by Robert Kelly
Story in which "a captured by a group of aliens who take him to a cave and...remove his...lungs and other internal organs to replace them with two gray squirrels, a live hawk, a shoe, and a variety of other bizarre objects." Well, I have to include a curiosity like that, don't I?

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
This Pakistan-centered collection's getting some strong attention so far, could be an early breakout of 2009.

San Francisco Noir 2: The Classics ed. by Peter Maravelis
Speaking of Hammett, here he rubs elbows with Bierce, London, Pronzini and Gores - among others.

Nothing Right by Antonya Nelson
One of the better regulars who contribute to the New Yorker, in my humble opinion.

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
I read the fun title story (an entertaining and occasionally gruesome tale of Vikings told in an informal dude-ish voice) in an anthology back in 2004. What else does Tower have up his sleeves?

Delicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories by Lauren Groff
Groff sounds like she has a wonderful imagination and covers a range of styles and genres in this collection.

The Living Dead ed. by John Joseph Adams
Poor zombies. Always in the shadow of those more popular, more glamorous and sophisticated vampires. Here's your moment to shine.

Future Missionaries of America by Matthew Vollmer
A first collection that Library Journal praised as a "rare and gratifying achievement" and compared to T.C.Boyle. Not a bad start.

Fast Ships, Black Sails ed. by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
Pirate stories, ahoy! From the scurvy likes of Kage Baker, Michael Moorcock, Garth Nix, Elizabeth Bear, and Naomi Novik. Arr.

The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling
New novel from "[o]ne of cyberpunk fiction's brightest stars," the title refers to maidens of Greek Architecture - their story updated for a world teetering on the edge of self-destruction.

Domino Men by Jonathan Barnes
A supernatural thriller that involves a Victorian era backstory and a Lovecraftian evil. Have heard mixed things about Barnes's first novel, but he seems like one to watch, at least.

Best American Fantasy 2008 ed. by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
Reviews aren't quite as good for the Vandermeer's Fantasy anthology, but all agree that there are some keepers here.

Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress
For me, SF usually needs a good hook. Here's one: "aliens arrive on the moon and announce that they must make amends for a grave injustice they caused the human race 10,000 years ago."

More Noteworthy Fiction:
As a Friend by Forrest Gander
Doghead by Morten Ramsland
Enclave by Kit Reed
Pictures at an Exhibition by Sara Houghteling
Woods and Waters Wild: The Collected Early Stories of Charles de Lint, Volume Three
Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
The Siege by Ismail Kadare
Body Surfing by Dale Peck
Dragon in Chains by Daniel Fox
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
Coventry: A Novel by Helen Martin Humphreys
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Museum of Human Beings by Colin Sargent
The Virgin of Solitude by Taghi Modarressi (Anne Tyler's late husband)
The Unknown Knowns by Jeffrey Rotter


Me, Cheeta: My Life in Hollywood by Cheeta the Chimp
Early responses to this book by the star of the Tarzan films and Doctor Doolittle (among others) have been highly enthusiastic.

The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn't Know You Need to Know About Making an Independent Film by Reed Martin
For a while it was a dream to rival that of writing "the great American novel." Glad to see there are still books being produced to help the dreamers.

Vanity Fair's Tales of Hollywood : Rebels, Reds, and Graduates and the Wild Stories Behind the Making of 13 Iconic Films ed. by Graydon Carter
Classics of the 50s through the 70s like Rebel Without a Cause, Sweet Smell of Success, All About Eve, and Midnight Cowboy receive fresh scrutiny in this collection of articles from the famed glossy-with-smarts.

Pictures from a Drawer: Prison and the Art of Portraiture by Bruce Jackson
Collection of prisoner id photos from a state prison farm the early 20th century. Not the kind of thing I usually include, but it sounds like it would be fascinating

Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers by John Broven
A look at the recording industry from the 40s to the 60s during the birth of rock - boy, does this sound fascinating.

Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age by Steve Knopper
I'm convinced that the publishing industry is (more slowly) headed for a similar fate, if it's not careful.

Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution by
This book from Arts & Letters Daily founder Dutton goes Darwinian in its view of the Arts.

Philosophy of the Coen Brothers by Mark T. Conard
More than most films, the Coens' work really does invite speculation about just what their films mean. I mean, what the hell kind of view of humanity do they have any way? That question kind of obsessed me after each of their last two films. Anyway, apparently it's not just me - there are several books on this topic.

The Triumph of Music: The Rise of Composers, Musicians, and Their Art by Tim Blanning
"[T]races the path of music from its place as servant to its current position of supremacy over all other arts in terms of status, influence, and material rewards." I'm not sure I agree with that 'supremacy' bit, but it sounds like a fascinating and original argument.

You Must Remember This: The Warner Brothers Story by Richard Schickel, George Perry
Just in time for Christmas (oops), this history of the great studio is sure to please the cinephile in your life.

Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer by Emanuel Levy
Vincente Minelli: The Art of Entertainment ed. by Joe McElhaney
Two new books about one of the truly great Hollywood directors.

On the Dot: The Speck That Changed the World by Alexander Humez, Nicholas D. Humez
It's widely agreed that the microhistory is played out as a genre, but for some reason this one appeals. Maybe I just have some kind of punctuation fetish. (Though to be precise, this account goes far beyond the dot's use as a mark of punctuation.)

Shakespeare and Modern Culture by Marjorie Garber
Goodness, Garber's been a busy bee, with a book on my last roundup as well.

Poe: A Life Cut Short by Peter Ackroyd
Have you heard it's Poe's bicentennial this year?

Who the Hell Is Pansy O'Hara?: The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World's Best-Loved Books by Jenny Bond, Chris Sheedy
Ian Fleming worked on the Enigma code? This book promises of feast of tidbits, trivia and stories behind dozens of classic novels.

American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry ed. by Cole Doug Swensen
"Hybrid" refers to the American synthesis of traditional lyric poetry and experimentalism. Doesn't seem like your typical Norton anthology.

Utopia's Debris: Selected Essays by Gary Indiana
The Library Journal review mentions several essays in the collection that are appreciations of lesser-known writers and artists. Sounds like reason enough to check out Indiana's latest collection.

Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased down the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb
The story of how Eichmann was brought to justice is one I've always wanted to know a little more about.

Banquet at Delmonico's: Great Minds, the Gilded Age, and the Triumph of Evolution in America by Barry Werth
The Gilded Age provides a fascinating lens (or mirror, pick your metaphor) for understanding our own time - this book considers the origins of that disgusting ideology, social Darwinism.

The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America by Steven Johnson
Could also file this under Science - the story of a polyglot who apparently played a walk-on role in the founding of our nation. Johnson's a highly accessible writer.

Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution by Richard Beeman
Publishers Weekly: "now the most authoritative, up-to-date treatment of the Constitutional Convention since Catherine Drinker Bowen's Miracle at Philadelphia over 40 years ago."

The Last Witch of Langenburg: Murder in a German Village by Thomas Robisheaux
This story of witch persecution sounds absolutely riveting. What a disgusting yet fascinating phenomenon of history.

Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future by Will Bunch
Hear, hear. I love a good title.

Life You Can Save: A Simple Solution to Global Poverty by Peter Singer
How much should we give to charity? Specifically to the fight against poverty? Singer wants our help to make a better world.

Well-Dressed Ape: A Natural History of Myself by Hannah Holmes
Are we so different from the animals? Fascinating topic.

What Have You Changed Your Mind About?: Today's Leading Minds Rethink Everything ed. by John Brockman
Latest in an interesting series.

Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne
Sure to be the target of review-bombing on Amazon and every other bookstore web site.

Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans by Dan Baum
This in-depth portrait of Katrina-scarred New Orleans is one of the few books on the topic that's appealed to me; sounds like the author has dug a little deeper into the history, character and just plain "weirdness" of the place - in other words, what's lastingly interesting about it.

Other Side of Desire: Four Journeys into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing by Daniel Bergner
Calling all voyeurs, your next book awaits.

The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure by Catherine Blyth
Need a gift idea for the boor in your life?

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
Isn't decision-making hard enough without becoming self-conscious of the process itself? Sheesh. Well, does sound interesting.

Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World by Trevor Paglen
Paglen became fascinated by the redacted spots on governement maps, saw them as obvious invitations to curiosity.

More Noteworthy Nonfiction:
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Try to Tell the Story: A Memoir by David Thomson
Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey
William Hazlitt: The First Modern Man by Duncan Wu
Why Victorian Literature Still Matters by Philip Davis
John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought by Gordon Campbell, Thomas N. Corns
Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme by Tracy Daugherty
Reading Matters: Five Centuries of Discovering Books by Margaret Willes
Prairie Spring : A Journey into the Heart of a Season by Peter Dunne
Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster by Alison Weir
Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siecle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror by John Merriman
Versed: Poems by Rae Armantrout
Mr. America: How Muscular Millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Transformed the Nation Through Sex, Salad, and the Ultimate Starvation Diet by Mark Adams
Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age by D. J. Taylor
Porn and Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and Other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture by Damon Brown
Birds in Flight: The Art and Science of How Birds Fly by Carrol L. Henderson
End: Natural Disasters, Manmade Catastrophes, and the Future of Human Survival by Marq de Villiers
Myth of American Exceptionalism by Godfrey Hodgson
Oh Dad!: A Search for Robert Mitchum by Lloyd Robson
Entity: Five Centuries of Secret Vatican Espionage by Eric Frattini
Short Films: How to Make and Distribute Them by Nathan Parker
Halliburton's Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War by Pratap Chatterjee
Jonathan Demme: Interviews by Robert E. Kapsis
Verses and Versions : Three Centuries of Russian Poetry by Vladimir Nabokov

Of Gay Interest:

Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel
Handy point of entry for fans of Fun Home who want to catch up on the strip that put Bechdel on the map. (But I'm talking about myself again...)

Also Noteworthy:
Got 'Til It's Gone by Larry Duplechan
Labor of Love: The Story of One Man's Extraordinary Pregnancy by Thomas Beatie
Dope Menace: The Sensational World of Drug Paperbacks, 1900-1975 by Stephen J. Gertz
Jesus Is Sending You This Message: Stories by Jim Grimsley
Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights by C. Todd White
Same Sex, Different Politics: Success and Failure in the Struggles over Gay Rights by Gary Mucciaroni
Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America by Nathaniel Frank

Of Chicago Interest:

Ruins by Achy Obejas
The much-loved Chicago writer returns with a new novel.

The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them by Amy Dickinson
Dickinson is better known by Chicago Tribune readers for her "Ask Amy" column.

Also Noteworthy:
To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells by Mia Bay
Voices by Lucille Clifton
Way Through Doors: A Novel by Jesse Ball (SAIC teacher)

Graphic Work:

Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack by Nicholas Gurewitch
New collection of the stunningly inventive alternative comic strip.

Also Noteworthy:
Kramers Ergot 7 ed. by Sammy Harkham
The Beats: A Graphic History by Harvey Pekar
Moomin Book Three: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip by Tove Jansson
Welcome to Dingburg [Zippy the Pinhead] by Bill Griffith
The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970 by Charles M. Schulz
Krazy and Ignatz 1943-1944: He Nods in Quiescent Siesta by George Herriman



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