Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesday Books

A bold, arresting new work of fiction from the acclaimed author of Everything Matters!

In this tour de force of imagination, Ron Currie asks why literal veracity means more to us than deeper truths, creating yet again a genre-bending novel that will at once dazzle, move, and provoke.

The protagonist of Ron Currie, Jr.’s new novel has a problem­ — or rather, several of them. He’s a writer whose latest book was destroyed in a fire. He’s mourning the death of his father, and has been in love with the same woman since grade school, a woman whose beauty and allure is matched only by her talent for eluding him. Worst of all, he’s not even his own man, but rather an amalgam of fact and fiction from Ron Currie’s own life. When Currie the character exiles himself to a small Caribbean island to write a new book about the woman he loves, he eventually decides to fake his death, which turns out to be the best career move he’s ever made. But fame and fortune come with a price, and Currie learns that in a time of twenty-four-hour news cycles, reality TV, and celebrity Twitter feeds, the one thing the world will not forgive is having been told a deeply satisfying lie.

What kind of distinction could, or should, be drawn between Currie the author and Currie the character? Or between the book you hold in your hands and the novel embedded in it? Whatever the answers, Currie, an inventive writer always eager to test the boundaries of storytelling in provocative ways, has essential things to impart along the way about heartbreak, reality, grief, deceit, human frailty, and blinding love.

Could have been the blown business deal with the Italians. Could have been the unauthorized office party, which ended with the cops — and then an arrest. No matter what finally got him fired, Mikhail never expected to find himself at Red Star Industries’ office again.

So down-and-out Mikhail is surprised to be called in by old boss Pavel Petrovich, who offers Mikhail easy money and the Land Rover of his dreams to teach his son, Sergei, how to “be a man” — and to spy on him.

Of course, Sergei’s not the Internet-obsessed recluse his father believes. He’s hiding a relationship with the beautiful Marina, who Mikhail himself can’t help but fall for as well. To keep it all together, Mikhail finds himself lying to Petrovich about his son’s activities, lying to Marina about Sergei’s intentions, and lying to Sergei about his love for Marina. So when Sergei’s father invites them all to Italy, the web of lies holding their world together begins to fall apart, and about the time Mikhail finds himself held hostage at gunpoint, he realizes he’s gotten in way over his head...

A true story of obsessive love turning to obsessive hate, Give Me Everything You Have chronicles the author’s strange and harrowing ordeal at the hands of a former student, a self-styled “verbal terrorist,” who began trying, in her words, to “ruin him.” Hate mail, online postings, and public accusations of plagiarism and sexual misconduct were her weapons of choice and, as with more conventional terrorist weapons, proved remarkably difficult to combat. James Lasdun’s account, while terrifying, is told with compassion and humor, and brilliantly succeeds in turning a highly personal story into a profound meditation on subjects as varied as madness, race, Middle East politics, and the meaning of honor and reputation in the Internet age.

“Anything we take for granted, Mr. Everett means to show us, may turn out to be a lie.” —Wall Street Journal

A story inside a story inside a story. A man visits his aging father in a nursing home, where his father writes the novel he imagines his son would write. Or is it the novel that the son imagines his father would imagine, if he were to imagine the kind of novel the son would write?

Let’s simplify: a woman seeks an apprenticeship with a painter, claiming to be his long-lost daughter. A contractor-for-hire named Murphy can’t distinguish between the two brothers who employ him. And in Murphy’s troubled dreams, Nat Turner imagines the life of William Styron. These narratives twist together with anecdotes from the nursing home, each building on the other until they crest in a wild, outlandish excursion of the inmates led by the father. Anchoring these shifting plotlines is a running commentary between father and son that sheds doubt on the truthfulness of each story. Because, after all, what narrator can we ever trust?

Not only is Percival Everett by Virgil Russell a powerful, compassionate meditation on old age and its humiliations, it is an ingenious culmination of Everett’s recurring preoccupations. All of his prior work, his metaphysical and philosophical inquiries, his investigations into the nature of narrative, have led to this masterful book. Percival Everett has never been more cunning, more brilliant and subversive, than he is in this, his most important and elusive novel to date.

In See Now Then, the brilliant and evocative new novel from Jamaica Kincaid — her first in ten years — a marriage is revealed in all its joys and agonies. This piercing examination of the manifold ways in which the passing of time operates on the human consciousness unfolds gracefully, and Kincaid inhabits each of her characters — a mother, a father, and their two children, living in a small village in New England — as they move, in their own minds, between the present, the past, and the future: for, as she writes, “the present will be now then and the past is now then and the future will be a now then.” Her characters, constrained by the world, despair in their domestic situations. But their minds wander, trying to make linear sense of what is, in fact, nonlinear. See Now Then is Kincaid’s attempt to make clear what is unclear, and to make unclear what we assumed was clear: that is, the beginning, the middle, and the end.

Since the publication of her first short-story collection, At the Bottom of the River, which was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Kincaid has demonstrated a unique talent for seeing beyond and through the surface of things. In See Now Then, she envelops the reader in a world that is both familiar and startling — creating her most emotionally and thematically daring work yet.

The sleepy community of Brewster, Rhode Island, is just like any other small American town. It’s a place where most of the population will likely die blocks from where they were born; where gossip spreads like wildfire, and the big entertainment on weekends is the inevitable fight at the local bar. But recently, something out of the ordinary — perhaps even supernatural — has been stirring in Brewster. While packs of coyotes gather on back roads and the news spreads that a baby has been stolen from Memorial Hospital (and replaced in its bassinet by a snake), a series of inexplicably violent acts begins to confound Detective Woody Potter and the local police — and inspire terror in the hearts and minds of the locals.

From award-winning author Stephen Dobyns comes a sardonic yet chillingly suspenseful novel: the literary equivalent of a Richard Russo small-town tableau crossed with a Stephen King thriller. The Burn Palace is a darkly funny, twisted portrait of chaos and paranoia, with an impressive host of richly rendered, larger-than-life characters and a thrilling plot that will keep readers guessing until the final pages.

This is what it is to be a slave: that everything is decided for you from out there. You just got to listen and do as they tell you. You don’t say no. You don’t ask questions. You just do what they tell you. But far at the back of your head you think: Soon there must come a day when I can say for myself: This and that I shall do, this and that I shall not.

In Philida, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, AndrĂ© Brink — “one of South Africa's greatest novelists” (The Telegraph) — gives us his most powerful novel yet; the truly unforgettable story of a female slave, and her fierce determination to survive and to be free.

It is 1832 in South Africa, the year before slavery is abolished and the slaves are emancipated. Philida is the mother of four children by Francois Brink, the son of her master. When Francois’s father orders him to marry a woman from a prominent Cape Town family, Francois reneges on his promise to give Philida her freedom, threatening instead to sell her to new owners in the harsh country up north.

Here is the remarkable story — based on individuals connected to the author’s family — of a fiercely independent woman who will settle for nothing and for no one. Unwilling to accept the future that lies ahead of her, Philida continues to test the limits and lodges a complaint against the Brink family. Then she sets off on a journey — from the southernmost reaches of the Cape, across a great wilderness, to the far north of the country — in order to reclaim her soul.

2 comments:

Loki's Log said...

Thanks so much for sharing all these new releases -- which one is top on your list? You know I am in loe with you right?

Writer said...

I love you too, Loki. *blush

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is on the top...mainly because I love the cover. Hopefully what is inside lives up to my expectations. :)