Exploring the art of prose


Early October Books

Here’s a quick look at some of the great books out the week of October 2, 2017. Happy pub day to all!

T.C. Boyle, The Relive Box
Harper Collins

From Publishers Weekly: “Settings for the 12 stories range from the Arctic to Argentina, protagonists from teenager to octogenarian. Boyle makes the incredible credible through detail, and his narrative voices convincing through rhythm and attitude. He can be funny, touching, or both, as when his characters face aging with characteristically fervent resistance.”

Jennifer Egan, Manhattan Beach

From Kirkus Reviews: “After stretching the boundaries of fiction in myriad ways (including a short story written in Tweets), Pulitzer Prize winner Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad, 2010, etc.) does perhaps the only thing left that could surprise: she writes a thoroughly traditional novel. It shouldn’t really be surprising, since even Egan’s most experimental work has been rich in characters and firmly grounded in sharp observation of the society around them. Here, she brings those qualities to a portrait of New York City during the Depression and World War II.”

Jeffrey Eugenides, Fresh Complaint
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

From Kirkus Reviews:  “Eugenides enjoys putting his characters into odd predicaments: “Baster” centers on a woman pursuing a pregnancy via the title’s kitchen gadget, while the writer who narrates “Great Experiment” contemplates defrauding his wealthy but stingy employer, using de Tocqueville’s writings as a rationalization. But Eugenides never holds up his characters for outright mockery, and the two fine new stories that bookend the collection gracefully navigate darker territory: “Complainers” is narrated by a woman confronting her longtime friend’s dementia, and “Fresh Complaint” turns on a young Indian-American woman’s provocative scheme to escape an arranged marriage.”

Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties
Graywolf Press

From Publishers Weekly: “Machado creates eerie, inventive worlds shimmering with supernatural swerves in this engrossing debut collection. Her stories make strikingly feminist moves by combining elements of horror and speculative fiction with women’s everyday crises. Machado builds entire interior lives through sparse and minor details, turning even litanies of refrigerator contents and free-association on the coming of autumn into memorable meditations on identity and female disempowerment. Queerness permeates these tales, shaping the women and their problems, with a recurring focus on the inherent strangeness of female bodies.”

Jon McGregor, Reservoir 13

From The Guardian: Reservoir 13 isn’t simply an iteration of the usual story, however: it’s a fascinating exploration of it. McGregor is a writer with extraordinary control, and he uses the power of the archetype as well as our genre expectations for his own purposes. We’re pulled in from the first page, when the villagers “gathered at the car park before dawn and waited to be told what to do”. His sentences are abrupt and minimal, austerely denotative, building the tension: he hasn’t got narrative time to waste.”

Edward St. Aubyn, Dunbar
Penguin Random House

From Kirkus Reviews: “A brilliant reworking of William Shakespeare’s King Lear for our day.

Henry Dunbar, bearing a proud Scottish name and lamenting declining fortunes and capacities, may or may not be “more sinn’d against than sinning.” At the outset of St. Aubyn’s (A Clue to the Exit, 2015, etc.) retelling, shuffling the order of the play, Lear is in a pricey English sanitarium, fuming that his hydra-headed business has been wrested from him: “They stole my empire and now they send me stinking lilies,” he howls, with no one but a fool named Peter to listen to him…St. Aubyn uses the play as a guide more than a template at points, but the basic truth remains that the best of Shakespeare stands up readily to adaptation in every age, from West Side Story to Ran and Scotland, PA.”