Exploring the art of prose


New books: Week of January 15!

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

Eileen Chang, Little Reunions
NYRB Classics

From Publishers Weekly: “Originally completed in 1976 and appearing in English for the first time, this intricate novel follows a young Chinese woman, known as Julie, who comes of age during World War II. The book opens before the Japanese invasion of British Hong Kong, where Julie attends private boarding school. These scenes are among the book’s most striking, as the students provide a fascinating cross-section of different lifestyles as informed by various backgrounds, from the rural provinces of the mainland to cosmopolitan aristocracy…The translation is elegant, though the expansive cast—there’s an eight-page character index at the back of the book—may require some sorting out on the reader’s part (at one point Judy describes a family relation to Julie as “Brother Hsu’s mother was Third Concubine’s servant girl”). Nevertheless, the novel provides an intimate glimpse into an alluring world, rife with vivid detail and characters.”


Denis Johnson, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden
Penguin Random House

From Kirkus Reviews:A posthumous collection of stories from Johnson (The Laughing Monsters, 2014), graceful and death-stalked as his work ever was. Johnson (1949-2017) is best known for his writing about hard-luck cases—alcoholics, thieves, world-weary soldiers. But this final collection ranges up and down the class ladder; for Johnson, a sense of mortality and a struggle to make sense of our lives knew no demographic boundaries. Whether it’s a motivation to clean up or (more often) a prompt to think about the past, death is always Topic A for these characters. “It’s plain to you that at the time I write this, I’m not dead,” one narrator tells us. “But maybe by the time you read it.” American literature suffered a serious loss with Johnson’s death. These final stories underscore what we’ll miss.”

Read “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden.”


Mira T. Lee, Everything Here is Beautiful
Penguin Random House

From Publishers Weekly: “At the opening of Lee’s promising debut, Chinese-American Lucia Bok marries a coarse yet charming Russian-Israeli Jew named Yonah. The newlyweds quickly settle into a life in Manhattan’s East Village, where Yonah runs a health food store and Lucy writes features for a Queens newspaper. But then, in quick succession, a mental illness Lucy thought had been cured returns and she realizes she wants a child…Readers will find much to admire and ponder throughout, and Lucy’s section reveals Lee as a writer of considerable talent and power.”



Leni Zumas, Red Clocks
Little, Brown

From Publishers Weekly: “Zumas (The Listeners) imagines a palpable, powerful alternate reality in which the United States has passed the Personhood amendment, reversing Roe v. Wade and making abortion a crime. Four women whose futures changed overnight with the passage of the amendment struggle for equality in rural Oregon… Zumas manages a loose yet consistently engaging tone as she illustrates the extent to which the self-image of modern women is shaped by marriage, career, or motherhood. Dark humor further enhances the novel, making this a thoroughly affecting and memorable political parable.”

Read an excerpt.
Read an interview with Zumas.
Read another interview with Zumas.