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New Books: July 2019

Happy summer, readers! Here’s a look at the new July fiction releases CRAFT can’t wait to read. Happy pub day to one and all…

 

Selva Almada, The Wind That Lays Waste (translated by Chris Andrews)

“Selva Almada burns off all the dross and gives us pure revelation, cryptic and true.” —Paul Harding

The Wind That Lays Waste begins in the great pause before a storm. Reverend Pearson is evangelizing across the Argentinian countryside with Leni, his teenage daughter, when their car breaks down. This act of God or fate leads them to the workshop and home of an aging mechanic called Gringo Brauer and a young boy named Tapioca.

As a long day passes, curiosity and intrigue transform into an unexpected intimacy between four people: one man who believes deeply in God, morality, and his own righteousness, and another whose life experiences have only entrenched his moral relativism and mild apathy; a quietly earnest and idealistic mechanic’s assistant, and a restless, skeptical preacher’s daughter. As tensions between these characters ebb and flow, beliefs are questioned and allegiances are tested, until finally the growing storm breaks over the plains.

Selva Almada’s exquisitely crafted debut, with its limpid and confident prose, is profound and poetic, a tactile experience of the mountain, the sun, the squat trees, the broken cars, the sweat-stained shirts, and the destroyed lives. The Wind That Lays Waste is a philosophical, beautiful, and powerfully distinctive novel that marks the arrival in English of an author whose talent and poise is undeniable.(From Graywolf July 9)


Sarah Rose Etter, The Book of X

“I loved every page of this gorgeous, grotesque, heartbreaking novel.” —Carmen Maria Machado

A surreal exploration of one woman’s life and death against a landscape of meat, office desks, and bad men.

The Book of X tells the tale of Cassie, a girl born with her stomach twisted in the shape of a knot. From childhood with her parents on the family meat farm, to a desk job in the city, to finally experiencing love, she grapples with her body, men, and society, all the while imagining a softer world than the one she is in. Twining the drama of the everyday—school-age crushes, paying bills, the sickness of parents—with the surreal—rivers of thighs, men for sale and fields of throats—Cassie’s realities alternate to create a blurred, fantastic world of haunting beauty. (From Two Dollar Radio July 16)


Madeline ffitch, Stay and Fight 

“In her debut novel, Madeline ffitch renders a loving and lawless portrait of a remarkable Appalachian family and the conventions that bind them with undeniable wit and brilliance. Fans of Joy Williams and Nell Zink will find a familiar, but ffitch brings her own compass to these woods and clears new ground while she’s out there. An enthralling debut.” —Amelia Gray

Helen arrives in Appalachian Ohio full of love and her boyfriend’s ideas for living off the land. Too soon, with winter coming, he calls it quits. Helped by Rudy—her government-questioning, wisdom-spouting, seasonal-affective-disordered boss—and a neighbor couple, Helen makes it to spring. Those neighbors, Karen and Lily, are awaiting the arrival of their first child, a boy, which means their time at the Women’s Land Trust must end.

So Helen invites the new family to throw in with her—they’ll split the work and the food, build a house, and make a life that sustains them, if barely, for years. Then young Perley decides he wants to go to school. And Rudy sets up a fruit-tree nursery on the pipeline easement edging their land. The outside world is brought clamoring into their makeshift family.

Set in a region known for its independent spirit, Stay and Fight shakes up what it means to be a family, to live well, to make peace with nature and make deals with the system. It is a protest novel that challenges our notions of effective action. It is a family novel that refuses to limit the term. And it is a marvel of storytelling that both breaks with tradition and celebrates it. Best of all, it is full of flawed, cantankerous, flesh-and-blood characters who remind us that conflict isn’t the end of love, but the real beginning.

Absorbingly spun, perfectly voiced, and disruptively political, Madeline ffitch’s Stay and Fight forces us to reimagine an Appalachia—and an America—we think we know. And it takes us, laughing and fighting, into a new understanding of what it means to love and to be free. (From FSG July 9)


Caitlin Horrocks, The Vexations

“I’ve loved Caitlin Horrocks’s work for a long time, so I am not surprised—though I am overjoyed—to find that she has written a gorgeous, sensitive, deeply immersive novel in The Vexations. You’ll never hear the music of Erik Satie again without diving back into the layers of genius, torment, eccentricity, abandonment, and profound sadness that Horrocks so masterfully evokes in this beautiful book.” —Lauren Groff

Erik Satie begins life with every possible advantage. But after the dual blows of his mother’s early death and his father’s breakdown upend his childhood, Erik and his younger siblings—Louise and Conrad—are scattered. Later, as an ambitious young composer, Erik flings himself into the Parisian art scene, aiming for greatness but achieving only notoriety.

As the years, then decades, pass, he alienates those in his circle as often as he inspires them, lashing out at friends and lovers like Claude Debussy and Suzanne Valadon. Only Louise and Conrad are steadfast allies. Together they strive to maintain their faith in their brother’s talent and hold fast the badly frayed threads of family. But in a journey that will take her from Normandy to Paris to Argentina, Louise is rocked by a severe loss that ultimately forces her into a reckoning with how Erik—obsessed with his art and hungry for fame—will never be the brother she’s wished for.

With her buoyant, vivid reimagination of an iconic artist’s eventful life, Caitlin Horrocks has written a captivating and ceaselessly entertaining novel about the tenacious bonds of family and the costs of greatness, both to ourselves and to those we love. (From Little Brown July 30)


Amanda Lee Koe, Delayed Rays of a Star

“This is a voraciously intelligent, heartrending novel. Few books have so much life in them, or are so willing to explore the terrors of war and desire, the ruthlessness of genius. Maybe this novel can face the dark so fearlessly because it is itself so radiant, a blazing star. Amanda Lee Koe is a brilliant writer.” —Garth Greenwell


R.L. Maizes, We Love Anderson Cooper: Short Stories

“Told with humor and wisdom, these charming stories burst with possibility: At any moment, a character might risk all, or the world might tilt on its axis. Here is a wildly entertaining new voice, one to revel in.” Rebecca Makkai

In this quirky, humorous, and deeply human short story collection, Pushcart Prize-nominated author R.L. Maizes reminds us that even in our most isolated moments, we are never truly alone.

In We Love Anderson Cooper, characters are treated as outsiders because of their sexual orientation, racial or religious identity, or simply because they look different. A young man courts the publicity that comes from outing himself at his bar mitzvah. When a painter is shunned because of his appearance, he learns to ink tattoos that come to life. A paranoid Jewish actuary suspects his cat of cheating on him—with his Protestant girlfriend.

In this debut collection, humor complements pathos. Readers will recognize themselves in these stories and in these protagonists, whose backgrounds are vastly different from their own—we’ve all been outsiders at some point. (From Celadon July 23)


Ben Marcus, Notes from the Fog

“Each story features moments of considered, lacerating prose threaded together by sentences that, like a marionette’s strings, bring the world to full, expansive life. This is a bracing, forceful collection.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Ben Marcus returns with a collection of timely dystopian visions of alienation in a modern world. Here a hapless, corporate drone finds love after being disfigured from testing his employer’s newest nutrition supplement; a father starts to suspect that his son’s precocity has turned sinister; and two architects in a failing marriage must consider the ethics of artificially inciting emotion as they construct a memorial to a terrorist attack. It’s these characters and others that over the course of thirteen short stories showcase Marcus’s compassion, imagination, and mordant humor. Never has existential catastrophe been so much fun. (Paperback release from Vintage July 9)


Courtney Maum, Costalegre

“Courtney Maum’s Costalegre is a marvel―so lively, intimate, and strange you don’t read so much as dream the voice and visions of Lara, our fifteen-year-old narrator writing from a house full of surrealists in Mexico, as they wait out WWII. This is an unforgettable book, by a writer who proves on these pages that she can do anything.” Julie Buntin

It is 1937, and Europe is on the brink of war. In the haute-bohemian circles of Austria, Germany, and Paris, Hitler is circulating a most-wanted list of “cultural degenerates”—artists, writers, and thinkers whose work is deemed antithetical to the new regime.  To prevent the destruction of her favorite art (and artists), the impetuous American heiress and modern art collector, Leonora Calaway, begins chartering boats and planes for an elite group of surrealists to Costalegre, a mysterious resort in the Mexican jungle, where she has a home.

The story of what happens to these artists when they reach their destination is told from the point of view of Lara, Leonora’s neglected fifteen-year-old daughter, who has been pulled out of school to follow her mother to Mexico. Forced from a young age to cohabit with her mother’s eccentric whims, tortured lovers, and entourage of gold-diggers, Lara suffers from emotional, educational, and geographical instability that a Mexican sojourn with surrealists isn’t going to help. But when she meets the outcast Dadaist sculptor Jack Klinger, a much older man who has already been living in Costalegre for some time, Lara thinks she might have found the love and understanding she so badly craves. (From Tin House July 16)


James Alan McPherson, Hue and Cry

“A writer of insight, sympathy, and humor and one of the most gifted young Americans I’ve had the privilege to read.” —Ralph Ellison

The classic debut collection from Pulitzer Prize winner James Alan McPherson

Hue and Cry is the remarkably mature and agile debut story collection from James Alan McPherson, one of America’s most venerated and most original writers. McPherson’s characters—gritty, authentic, and pristinely rendered—give voice to unheard struggles along the dividing lines of race and poverty in subtle, fluid prose that bears no trace of sentimentality, agenda, or apology.

First published in 1968, this collection includes the Atlantic Prize-winning story “Gold Coast” (selected by John Updike for the collection Best American Short Stories of the Century). Now with a new preface by Edward P. Jones, Hue and Cry introduced America to McPherson’s unforgettable, enduring vision, and distinctive artistry. (From Ecco July 2)


Peter Orner, Maggie Brown & Others: Stories

“To read Peter Orner’s stories is to live simultaneously in so many lives: the reader’s memories intertwine with the characters,’ the characters’ dreams resurface in the reader’s. People we have loved and lost, people we have encountered and missed—they wait for us to rediscover them in Orner’s stories. This book, exquisitely written, is as necessary and expansive as life.” Yiyun Li

In his orchestral and moving new book, Peter Orner, a writer who “doesn’t simply bring his characters to life, he gives them souls” (The New York Times Book Review), chronicles people whose lives are at inflection points. In forty-four compressed gems, he grips us with a series of defining moments. Whether it’s a first date that turns into a late-night road trip to a séance in an abandoned airplane hangar, or a family’s memories of the painful mystery surrounding a forgotten uncle’s demise, Orner reveals how our fleeting decisions between kindness and abandonment chase us across time. These stories are anchored by a poignant novella that delivers not only the joys and travails of a forty-year marriage, but an entire era in a working-class New England city. Bristling with the crackling energy of life itself, Maggie Brown & Others marks the most sustained achievement to date for “a master of his form” (The New York Times). (From Little Brown July 2)


Helen Phillips, The Need

“An existential page-turner that captures, with perfect sharpness, the fierce delirium of motherhood, the longing to understand the workings of our universe, and the wondrous and terrifying mystery that is time.”Laura van den Berg

When Molly, home alone with her two young children, hears footsteps in the living room, she tries to convince herself it’s the sleep deprivation. She’s been hearing things these days. Startling at loud noises. Imagining the worst-case scenario. It’s what mothers do, she knows.

But then the footsteps come again, and she catches a glimpse of movement.

Suddenly Molly finds herself face-to-face with an intruder who knows far too much about her and her family. As she attempts to protect those she loves most, Molly must also acknowledge her own frailty. Molly slips down an existential rabbit hole where she must confront the dualities of motherhood: the ecstasy and the dread; the languor and the ferocity; the banality and the transcendence as the book hurtles toward a mind-bending conclusion.

In The Need, Helen Phillips has created a subversive, speculative thriller that comes to life through blazing, arresting prose and gorgeous, haunting imagery. Helen Phillips has been anointed as one of the most exciting fiction writers working today, and The Need is a glorious celebration of the bizarre and beautiful nature of our everyday lives. (From Simon & Schuster July 9)


Jordi Puntí, This Is Not America: Stories

“Jordi Puntí is not only Catalonia’s most important writer, but he is also one of the funniest, most perceptive writers in all of Europe. This Is Not America is a tour-de-force story collection set on both sides of the Atlantic.” Gary Shteyngart

As one of Catalonia’s most acclaimed literary talents, Jordi Puntí’s writing is “full of invention and consistently gripping” (The Times Literary Supplement). Now, he returns to his American audience with this breathtaking short story collection. Sharing the title of the David Bowie song, it travels from Spain to America and back, showing the differences between the two places.

A man recalls a past love as he strolls through the lonely streets of Barcelona. A hitchhiker on the outskirts of the city of Vic carries his secrets in a briefcase. In northern Catalonia, a villager receives letters from a long-estranged brother and grapples with how to respond. Then there’s the man who wants to surprise his wife with a trip to Paris, only to swap it for a solitary cruise.

Showcasing “the author’s vivid imagination” (Kirkus Reviews), the stories in This Is Not America are effortless evocations of the strangeness of everyday life and the universal search for love and belonging. (From Atria Books July 30)


Peg Alford Pursell, A Girl Goes into the Forest: Stories

“In these wistful, expansive stories, Peg Alford Pursell holds up a mirror to our lives and relationships. The stories excavate the lives of her narrators with honesty and clear, luminous prose. They are mysterious in the way the best fiction is—their truths echoing long after you turn the page.” —Karen E. Bender

Following her acclaimed debut, Show Her a Flower, A Bird, A Shadow, award-winning author Peg Alford Pursell explores and illuminates love and loss in seventy-eight hybrid stories and fables. A Girl Goes into the Forest immerses readers in the complex desires, contradictions, and sorrows of daughters, wives, and husbands, artists, siblings, and mothers.

In forests literal and metaphorical, the characters try, fail, and try again to see the world, to hear each other, and to speak the truth of their longings. Powerful, lyrical, and precise, Pursell’s stories call up a world at once mysterious and recognizable.

A Girl Goes into the Forest invites fans of Lydia Davis and Helen Oyeyemi into a world where “no one can deter a person from her mistakes.” (From Dzanc July 16)


David Szalay, Turbulence

“A (world) tour de force, an exploration in fiction of the concept of six degrees of separation…. The chapters are tiny cross sections of lives, lovingly examined under the writer’s microscope. The result is a book that is high concept but—thanks to Szalay’s gift for compression and the same empathetic imagination that was on display in All That Man Is—never gimmicky. Szalay has devised an ingenious way to accommodate enormous range in a miniature form. Subtle, smart—a triumph.” Kirkus (starred review)

A woman strikes up a conversation with the man sitting next to her on a plane after some turbulence. He returns home to tragic news that has also impacted another stranger, a shaken pilot on his way to another continent who seeks comfort from a journalist he meets that night. Her life shifts subtly as well, before she heads to the airport on an assignment that will shift more lives in turn.

In this wondrous, profoundly moving novel, Szalay’s diverse protagonists circumnavigate the planet in twelve flights, from London to Madrid, from Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers or estranged siblings, aging parents, baby grandchildren, or nobody at all. Along the way, they experience the full range of human emotions from loneliness to love and, knowingly or otherwise, change each other in one brief, electrifying interaction after the next.

Written with magic and economy and beautifully exploring the delicate, crisscrossed nature of relationships today, Turbulence is a dazzling portrait of the interconnectedness of the modern world. (From Scribner July 16)


Colson Whitehead, The Nickel Boys

A gripping and brilliant novel based on a true story about a boys’ reformatory school in Florida in the 1960s. Whitehead is one of the most daring and gifted authors writing these days, and I will never miss one of his books.” —Elizabeth Gilbert