Exploring the art of prose


New Books: February 2020

Here’s what we’re most looking forward to reading this February, with a special nod to several writers we’ve published in CRAFT!


Clare Beams, The Illness Lesson

“Beams (We Show What We Have Learned, 2016) takes risk after risk in this, her first novel, and they all seem to pay off. Her ventriloquizing of the late 19th century, her delicate-as-lace sentences, and the friction between the unsettling thinking of the period and its 21st century resonances make for an electrifying read. A satisfyingly strange novel from the one-of-a-kind Beams.”
Kirkus (starred review)

From Doubleday | February 11

Read “The Renaissance Person Tournament” by Clare Beams, reprinted in CRAFT.

Amina Cain, Indelicacy

“Bewitching…Cain’s concentrated, subtle, and intriguing portrait of an evolving artist resolutely rejecting gender and class roles, with its subtle nods to Jean Rhys, Clarice Lispector, and Octavia Butler, explores the risks and rewards of a call to create and self-liberate.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

From FSG | February 11

Katharine Coldiron, Ceremonials

“In Coldiron’s (After Gardens, 2019) haunting novella, inspired by the Florence + the Machine album of the same name, two young women struggle to accept their lost love after death tears them apart…. Coldiron’s language, which dances between poetry and prose, retains the soul of its source material while evoking the fragmentary nature of a young life in mourning. Her imagery, meanwhile, conjures a sensuous, gothic atmosphere—one as haunting and ubiquitous for the reader as Corisande’s ghost is in Amelia’s life.”

From Kernpunkt | February 11

Read Katharine Coldiron’s craft essays in CRAFT here and here.

Joan Frank, Where You’re All Going

Winner of the 2018 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction

“[T]aken as a whole, Where You’re All Going becomes an expansive book that reads similarly to Joan Silber’s Ideas of Heaven. In each of the novellas, Frank shows the intimate ways people are connected while exploring the distance that exists between them.”
Wendy J. Fox in BuzzFeed

From Sarabande | February 18

Gish Jen, The Resisters

“What’s most remarkable about the worldbuilding here is that the sense of horror that suffuses so much dystopian fiction is absent. [Narrator] Grant’s tone is wryly matter-of-fact—perhaps because, as a dark-skinned person, he never took the freedoms and opportunities he once had for granted. And, really, the totalitarian country he describes is entirely believable. It’s not the product of a single cataclysmic event. It is, instead, the result of a million seemingly inconsequential actions, the cumulative effect of citizens giving away little pieces of their agency every time they choose convenience over autonomy.”
Kirkus (starred review)

From Knopf | February 4

Poupeh Missaghi, trans(re)lating house one

“In this beautiful and brave book, art, love, death, and shards of the city accrete into a crucial archive of unbearable loss, but also of rich, fierce life. Echoing the probing explorations of Edmond Jabès, Anna Akhmatova and Charlotte Delbo, but with concerns and methods all her own, Poupeh Missaghi has fashioned a novel that bears clear-eyed witness and calls into question the act of witnessing, that beautifully renders a time and a place and interrogates whether such an endeavor is possible at all. The process of making and unmaking mirrors the world of missing art and bodies at the book’s center. This is important work. I hope Missaghi’s stunning debut finds its way into many hands.”
—Laird Hunt

From Coffee House Press | February 4

Ander Monson, The Gnome Stories

“Ander Monson has always been fascinated by…human creatures who unexpectedly shine their light on the rest of us. [He] is an American Kafka… The Gnome Stories will stay in your memory long after you have finished the book.”
—Charles Baxter

“Like a haunted set of nested dolls, Ander Monson’s excellent short stories open up to reveal the surprisingly looming, gothic spaces that contemporary American life inevitably contains.”
—Kelly Link

From Graywolf | February 4

Emily Nemens, The Cactus League

“Spring training is, above all, a time pregnant with possibility, but Nemens shrewdly focuses on those struggling to hang on just a little bit longer, the annual opportunity for renewal—signaled by the smell of a freshly mowed infield and the sound of a crisply struck line drive—dimmed by everything from Tommy John elbows to one too many facelifts. And, yet, Nemens finds a kind of attenuated hope along with melancholy in these sharply etched character studies that ‘end not with “out three” but ‘out maybe.'””
—Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review)

From FSG | February 4

Amber Sparks, And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges

“Few readers will encounter with any frequency such bold, bizarre, and brutally honest content as is in Sparks’ (The Unfinished World and Other Stories, 2016) new collection…. Sparks’ imagination seems limitless, her approaches to style and form without boundaries. Yet there is a cohesive voice and intention here, whether Sparks is using the vehicles of myth, history, and fantasy in her attempts to unravel rather than weave together tales of women’s true experiences. To escape possession, find one’s self, exert force without shame or justification, and tell what really happened—these themes rise like foam on the roiling bone-rich broth of righteous feminine rage. At once timely, wickedly funny, and uncomfortably real, Sparks’ singular stories have the power to shake us wide awake and shatter every last happily-ever-after illusion.”
—Janet St. John, Booklist

From Liveright | February 11

Brandon Taylor, Real Life

“Skillfully weaves a story of friendship and superficiality, the subtle and ubiquitous ways in which white supremacy plays out in a white-dominant Midwestern friend group, queer love and queer infatuation. It’s also the best portrayal of an introvert’s inner and outer life in recent memory. With smooth prose and a deeply nuanced protagonist, Real Life is one of those timeless stories that also perfectly captures a generational moment.”

From Riverhead | February 18

Lidia Yuknavitch, Verge: Stories

“Characters from the fringes of society grapple with desire and fury in this collection of short stories.

“Early on in ‘The Pull,’ a story about a young swimmer from a war-torn country, the narrator describes her childhood as the ‘kind of story that makes your chest grow tight as you listen.’ The stories here are exactly that kind: insistently visceral, pushing into, and past, the reader’s comfort zone.”

From Riverhead | February 4