Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring 2011 Preview or my Very Large To Be Read Pile. . .

The long weekend couldn't have come at a better time.  I have an enormous pile of books, galleys and manuscripts of upcoming books that are all calling out to me.  I've posted my Spring Dewey Picks on the sidebar at the right. These were mostly read last fall and over the xmas holidays and I also have to add Anne Enright's new novel Forgotten Waltz which is fantastic - a very sexy novel about a destructive adulterous affair, set against Dublin's economic rise and fall of the last few years.

But in that very brief respite before I have to turn my attention to the fall books, the rest of the spring crop is tantalizing me. There's no way I'll be able to get through even a portion of all these books and I have no idea where my weekend whims will take me, but here's just a partial list of what I'd love to get through if I could stop time. Again, many of these have not yet been published, so there's plenty of time to get your name at the top of the library holds list or start a shopping list of your own.  Hope you are as excited about some of these titles as I am.

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews.   I'm a big fan of Toews, and I was lucky enough to see her film debut in the art movie Silent Light, directed by Carlos Reygadas  (see more info and trailer here) . I'm sure she's brought some of her film set experiences to bear in this new novel about a young Mennonite woman and her encounters with a film crew who are making a movie about her community.

Man of Parts by David Lodge.  Another favourite writer and in this new novel, he's re-imagined the life of H.G. Wells and his relations with the many women in his life, including the amazing Rebecca West who should be far better known and read than she is.

The Paris Wife by Paula McCain.  Another fictional novel about writers. In this case it's Ernest Hemingway and his circle of friends in 1920s Paris, narrated by his first wife Hadley.

The London Train by Tessa Hadley.  I loved Hadley's previous novel Everything Will Be All Right and I do have a train fetish, so any novel set on trains immediately gets my attention. The novel is about two journeys that will intersect.  Paul travels from Wales to London in search of his adult daughter who has gone missing in the city. Cora is going the other way, from London to Wales, back to the house she has inherited from her parents while escaping her marriage. Beautiful cover too.

Fred Vargas is back with another Commissaire Adamsberg mystery called An Uncertain Place. This one actually starts off in London as he and his colleagues go to the city to attend a conference and get caught up in the case of a pile of shoes  - with severed feet inside them - found outside Highgate Cemetery.  How this will lead to a trail of vampire hunters in Serbia, I have no idea but I completely trust Vargas to deliver another masterfully plotted book.  Henning Mankell is also back this spring with his final Wallander novel, The Troubled Man.

Seven Years by Peter Stamm, translated by Michael Hofmann.  I've read two of this Swiss writer's previous novels (On A Day Like This, and Unformed Landscape, both translated by Michael Hofmann) and this novel about a love triangle sounds wonderful.  My favourite love stories always seem to be European these days.

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips.  Lahring has already read this and has been strongly recommending it to me. It's one of her Dewey picks (also check out her other favourites on the sidebar). This promises to be a clever bit of metafiction involving a main character called Arthur Phillips, a con artist father, a twin sister, a family love of Shakespeare and yes, a lost play found that may or may not be by the Bard.  The entire five act play - The Tragedy of Arthur - is also included in the novel. I'm always intrigued to see what Phillips comes up with next; he certainly doesn't write the same book twice. I think of him as an American Jonathan Coe, which from me, is high praise indeed.  I loved Prague and the bold storytelling of The Egyptologist, and I really must make the time to read his last one as well, The Song is You.

Also on the fiction pile: 

The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Michael Emmerich - a quirky love story about a young woman trying to help her partner escape his cult past by a beautiful and mysterious lake.
The Curfew by Jesse Ball.  My U.S. colleagues have been raving about this dystopian novel about a man and his young daughter living in a city of fear.
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. Tons of buzz already about this debut novel about a woman seeking the truth about secrets in her family's past.
Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? by Johan Harstad, translated by Deborah Dawkin.  I know all the focus is on their crime fiction, but Scandinavia has produced some darn fine literary writers as well. I'm always interested in being introduced to new ones - this novel looks like a lot of quirky fun. A young man tries to escape his personal and professional disasters on the Faroe Islands. Buzz apparently will also make an appearance.
Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson.  One of my colleague's favourite spring books - she says this novel set in Nigeria and narrated by twelve year old Blessing as she assists her mid-wife grandmother, has a terrific voice and is very reminiscent of Chris Cleave's Little Bee.
Irretrievable by Theodor Fontane, translated by Douglas Parmee.  The story of a long time marriage that slowly drifts apart. Another NYRB Classic find.
The Astral by Kate Christensen - the mid-life crisis of Harry Quirk, a poet dealing with literary, marital, financial and parental failures.  I expect a lot of wry humour in this one.
Potsdam Station by David Downing - thriller set in the last days of WWII in Berlin.
All the Time in the World by E. L. Doctorow - short stories.
Games to Play After Dark by Sarah Gardner Borden.  My U.S colleagues compared this debut novel about the destruction of a marriage, to a modern day Revolutionary Road.

 And finally, there are two non-fiction manuscripts on the pile that I think will be important reading to understand, debate, engage with and react to all the changes and challenges going on in the book industry and infiltrating their way also into education and culture.  Basically, I need a little optimism to hold on to and hope to find it in these two books.

This Is Not the End of the Book by Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière.  From the book's description:
"These days it is almost impossible to get away from discussions of whether the ‘book’ will survive the digital revolution. Blogs, tweets and newspaper articles on the subject appear daily, many of them repetitive, most of them admitting they don’t know what will happen. Amidst the twittering, the thoughts of Jean-Claude Carrière and Umberto Eco come as a breath of fresh air.  There are few people better placed to discuss the past, present and future of the book. Both avid book collectors with a deep understanding of history, they have explored through their work the many and varied ways ideas have been represented through the ages.This thought-provoking book takes the form of a long conversation in which Carrière and Eco discuss everything from what can be defined as the first book to what is happening to knowledge now."

The Use and Abuse of Literature by Marjorie Garber.  This is also an examination of literature and reading in the digital age from a prolific writer, and I like this bit on the jacket copy: "Garber’s winning aim is to reclaim literature from the margins of our personal, educational, and professional lives and restore it to the center, as a fierce, radical way of thinking."  Amen to that!

So that should be plenty to be getting on with.  .  .


Isabella said...

Oooh, great pile! And Vargas, I'm in Vargas withdrawal! I've been on the brink of trying her French, but that seemed like a little too much work.

Frances said...

You are making me sick with book lust!