16 February 2019

First Readings 2019

Toni Morrison speaks in a new
collection of essays:
The Source of Self-Regard

Many wonderful writers are publishing early this new year – novels, short stories, essays, true crime and memoir – and many candidates for book groups. A sampling.

Tessa Hadley: Late in the Day
A terrific writer, this novel is all about relationships, past and present, and the impact of grief. Reminiscent of Crossing to Safety by Stegner. I’ve also returned to an earlier work, the Marriage Bed, in which she subtly takes you into the mindset of a lonely woman who doesn’t realize how desperately she’s in need of attention.

Dani Shapiro: Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love
Shapiro has mined her life frequently in memoir and fiction, and still new revelations keep it interesting.

Robert Bolano: The Spirit of Science Fiction
For the Bolano fans, from a world far far away.

Elizabeth McCracken: Bowlaway
Might be the zaniest premise of a novel ever – McCracken loves to explore whacky characters. [Remember the Giant’s House?] This one lands on earth with a bowling bowl! She is a true original and lovely writer.

Claire Adam: Golden Child
A wow debut novel of a family coming to terms with twin sons, one of whom is born challenged and stays a challenge, but only when he goes missing do we begin to understand why. A touching and insightful work of fiction that feels like a docudrama.

Leila Aboulela: Elsewhere, Home
A new master of the short story, she writes about what it means to be an immigrant in a wider world. Great characters.

Yuval Taylor: Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal
Yummy literary gossip.

Karl Ove Knausgaard: So Much Longing in So Little Space 
The title alone makes it a must read, if you like his style and his [incessant] introspection. This tale weaves in the artist Edvard Munch - might make you scream. 

Claire Harman: Murder by the Book
Dickens’ London, literary, and literally, true crime. Might be a curl-up-on-a-wintry-night read.

Dave Eggers: The Parade
In an un-named middle eastern country, a set of conflicted characters confront conflicting agendas, what Eggers does so well in fiction. Reminds me a little of Hologram for a King, one of my favorites.

Siri Hustvedt: Memories of the Future
This lesser-known great-brain writes with longing and imagination, and I look forward to this new novel. [And she’s married to the great Paul Auster!]

Frederic Tuten: My Young Life
I had the pleasure of meeting this relatively unknown but prolific writer some years ago and I was struck by his Chekhovian persona – subtle, stoically quiet and quirky. Now he’s written a memoir that sounds as intriguing as his fiction. [He too was born in the Bronx, so we’re kindred spirits.] If you’ve never read The Green Hour, I recommend. 

Kathryn David: The Silk Road 
Davis' writing is enigmatic to the point of metaphysical, sometimes surreal, 
often allegorical, and I don't always get it, but she's always worth a try. 

Dryer’s English
If you write just about anything, or just have a fascination with the written word, this new take on grammatical correctness is smart and engaging. At the very least, a good book to add to the how-to shelf.