Exploring the art of prose


New books: week of August 6

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


Crystal Hana Kim, If You Leave Me

From Publishers Weekly: “A family struggles to balance tradition and change in Kim’s marvelous debut. Sixteen years old and living in a refugee camp in 1951 Busan, South Korea, Lee Haemi is not interested in marrying but knows the plight of her situation might necessitate it. War has put everything on hold except starving, dying, and desperation… Kim’s lyrical intergenerational saga resonates deeply and will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Orphan Master’s Son.”

Read an interview with Kim in Publishers Weekly.
Read an excerpt, up at Literary Hub.


Catherine Lacey, Certain American States
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

From Kirkus Reviews: “In Lacey’s (The Answers, 2017) collection of 12 wryly devastating stories, everyone is searching for something, and the cruel truth is that no one ever finds it. Everyone in Lacey’s stories is losing something or has lost something, and they are brittle with the ordinary pain of grief… There is a bleak and relentless sameness to the stories; the tone is so consistent, it is occasionally disorienting, and to read the collection all at once is like driving through an emotional Great Plains. But on a sentence level, the stories are exquisite: Every line is dry and spare and bracing, without a single syllable out of place. A fully realized vision.”

Read “Family Physics” in The Sewanee Review.
Read “Violations” in Harper’s.
Read “Small Differences” in Granta.


Kyung-Sook Shin, The Court Dancer
Tr. by Anton Hur
Pegasus Books

From Booklist: “Man Asian Literary Prize–winning Shin (The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness, 2015) alchemizes a brief mention in a French diplomat’s book about his turn-of-the-century Korean tenure into a gorgeous epic that seamlessly combines history and fiction to create a hybrid masterpiece. In 1888, France’s first official legate to Korea, Victor Collin de Plancy, arrives in Seoul and falls in love at first word, a single exchange of “Bonjour” with Yi Jin, a revered traditional dancer of the Joseon Dynasty (Korea’s final royal court). Blinded by obsession, Victor dares to ask the emperor for her unprecedented release to accompany him back to France… Originally published in Korea in 2007 to best-selling success and smoothly Anglophoned by Anton Hur in his translated-novel debut, the court dancer’s latest journey west should command substantial, eager audiences.”

Learn more about Shin and her body of work.


Laura van den Berg, The Third Hotel
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

From Publishers Weekly: “In her mysterious and engrossing second novel, van den Berg (Find Me) tells the story of recently widowed elevator sales rep Clare, who travels to Havana after her horror-film scholar husband, Richard, is killed in a hit-and-run near their home in Upstate New York. The couple had planned to attend the Festival of New Latin American Cinema together, specifically to see Cuba’s first horror film, a zombie picture named Revolución Zombi, and Clare intends on seeing the trip through in Richard’s honor… Toying with horror tropes and conventions, and displaying shades of authors such as Julio Cortázar, van den Berg turns Clare’s journey into a dreamlike exploration of grief. This is a potent novel about life, death, and the afterlife.

Read an interview with van den Berg, up at Powell’s.
Read an interview with van den Berg, up at BOMB.