Every Christmas Jason features bookseller picks on our Boswell's Best, so this jun is just for a few days. Asking booksellers to feature books these days usually tilts a list towards new and developing authors, mostly because most publishers don't send too many advance reading copies out for sure things.
We did get a galley of Tom Wolfe's Back to Blood (Little, Brown), mostly because Wolfe doesn't produce regularly, and has had some major bookseller support in the past. But honestly it's hard to get too many Boswellians besides Jason to read a 500+ page book. I was in the groove reading big fat novels several years ago, but I've fallen out of it of late. Hachette should know, however, that just about every Boswellian is digging the massive Red Moon from Benjamin Percy, coming next spring.
I thought the New York Times review from Michiko Kakutani was relatively nuanced (she's usually incensed or overjoyed, don't you think?) stating that Wolfe pushed past satire to "conjure fully realized people."
Hector Tobar (yes, he whose novel is our January 2013 in-store lit group pick) reports on Tom Wolfe's inclusion on Bad Sex in Fiction award nominees, with J.K. Rowling's not making the cut qualifying as news. Read a vague description in this Lost Angeles Times post. The AV Club cut Wolfe less slack, calling the book "cartoonish" and without a message. Of course I do wonder how Ellen Wernecke would react if the book had a message. She'd probably lob back a "heavy handed" comment.
Let's have Mr. Wolfe have his say. Here he is on KCET's SoCal Connection.This may start automatically. Just tap it to pause!
Jason chased down a signed copy of Alice Munro's Dear Life (Knopf) for our old friend and Schwartz colleague Nancy. She's a huge fan, and so is just about every critic in America. It's hard to find a harsh word for this treasured writer. Claudia Puig in USA Today reports "Her prose is spare, graceful and beautifully crafted, her vision
expansive. What Munro does with a story is like alchemy. She presents
toiling, troubled characters who bubble up and engulf our imagination,
leaving the reader to ponder, fascinated, the contours of dear life."
Here's a fascinating interview with Munro and Deborah Treisman from The New Yorker blog, and why it's particularly interesting is that it's not behind the New Yorker paywall, and also because Treisman edits Munro for the magazine. Apparently she's hard to edit--every sentence winds up being vital. Now I can go behind the payroll because I have a subscription, but you can't, unless you of course also have a subscription. What will become of the literati when we don't all have obligatory New Yorker subscriptions, and then in turn moan that we never read the issues?
I've yet to get a word in for Peter Mayle's new novel, The Marseille Caper (also Knopf), which continues the adventures of Sam Levitt of The Vintage Caper. Apparently Mr. Levitt is a detective who is sent on a mission that involves competing for some neighborhood development rights, but everyone says that it's more like a pleasant romp through France with lots of entertaining characters. Tucker Shaw in the Denver Post writes "What Mayle's created — again — is not a novel of great depth or gravitas, but a delightful daydream that will have readers (you) smiling your way through to the (never-far-away) end." Here's his full review.
There were a lot of interviews with Mayle when A Year in Provence celebrated its 20th anniversary. Here's one from the UK Guardian, where he notes that the phenomenon is still going strong. Czech Republic rights were renewed!
It's hard to believe it, but there is very little fiction on the Boswell's Best that I haven't yet profiled, either on the blog or the email newsletter. One title that has escaped my attention is (Gerald) Brom's Krampus: The Yule Lord (Morrow). We had several reads of The Child Thief, and sure enough, a rec from Mel arrived in my in box. She writes: "Krampus is a Mother Earth-loving vigilante trying to right an ancient evil, the Norse god Baldr, who has taken on the persona of Santa Claus to suit his own narcissistic cravings. This is the perfect supernatural mystery for a snowy evening."
Alas, Brom is a little too genre to get too many newspaper out-of-the-gate newspaper reviews, though it strikes me that the book might get into holiday roundups. But on the blogs, Brom is burning up. Here's something from The Little Red Reviewer: "Krampus is a fun and fast-paced urban fantasy, and certainly one designed to be read at this time of year. The mythos-come-to-life was my favorite part, and I appreciated Brom’s afterward where he talks about some of the research that he did."
Mr. Strycker has the ability to write about the worlds of man and fowl without simplifying either.... He thinks like a biologist but writes like a poet, and one of the small pleasures of The Thing With Feathers is watching him distill empirical research into lyrical imagery.... Part the palm fronds behind his sentences, and you can almost see the British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough standing there in a pith helmet, smiling with amused approval at Mr. Strycker's off-center sensibility." – Wall Street Journal
2 hours ago