Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New Fiction on Boswell's Best--Jamaica Kincaid, Manil Suri, Ron Currie, Jr, and Teddy Wayne.

It's the beginning of the month, and that means more new releases.  This week we'll look at some fiction titles.

I read the first Manil Suri's first two novels, The Age of Shiva and The Death of Vishnu, and you would think that I would read the new one, The City of Devi (W.W. Norton) as well, being that it is written by a math professor and all that, but alas, my reading card has been very full and it is still waitng to be checked out. The new novel is set in a futuristic India, with Hindus and Muslims still at odds. Sarita and Jaz are a Hindu woman and Muslim man who are both searching for the missing Karun. Hear more about Suri's new work, why he finally included both a statistician (close enough to math, right?) and a gay man in his novel, and the multiple meanings reflected in this love triangle.

I think, but I'm not positive, that Conrad read this. He's also read and enjoyed Suri's previous novels.

If someone wrote a literary novel inspired by Justin Bieber or Britney Spears, the results might be The Love Song of Jonny Valentine (Free Press), by Teddy Wayne, the story of an 11-year-old sensation who has songs like "U R Kewt." It's set during the tour for his underperforming second album. Wait, this is pretty much about Bieber (aside from the underperforming part), and the hoop Wayne has to jump through is that Bieber has already had his share of cultural deconstruction. Marco R. della Cava praises Wayne's keen sense of cultural awareness and sense of humor in USA Today, while Henry Goldblatt in Entertainment Weekly gives it a B+ for doing a better job of illumining Bieber than the nonfiction.

Jason's pick for the week is Ron Currie, Jr.'s Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles (Viking) and we're all wondering if what happened to George Saunders can happen to a fellow like Currie, who seems to have a similar kind of genius writing skills partnered with fan devotion. In the new novel, Currie re-imagines himself as a famous author, who distraught by the death of his father and the destruction of his latest book in a fire, decides to fake his own death, leading to fame. Kirkus calls it "moving and hilarious" (I left out the "at times"). Charlene in the Literary R&R blog calls it "not my cup 'o tea." I think I'm too early for the power reviews on this one. I know it will get some.

I can always use Jason's quote in his email to me: "loved it--so inventive."

It's been a long time since we had a novel from Jamaica Kincaid, so I'm pleased to note that See Now Then (FSG) is also out this week. We learn in the Washington Post review from Marie Arana that the novels details shadow those of Kincaid. Mr. and Mrs. Sweet could be Kincaid and her ex-husband Alan Shawn, the composer, and that is reinforced when we learn that Mrs. Sweet's first name is Jamaica. Arana is a fan:

"Kincaid is not easy reading. Not much that is worthwhile in literature is. But she is fierce and true. Certainly, that is so of See Now Then. After 10 years of inexplicable fictional silence, she comes forth with a mighty roar." 

Interesting enough, in this interview with Felicia R. Lee in The New York Times, Kincaid claims she is not writing about her life at all. Lee notes that reaction to the book has been mixed, with H├ęctor Tobar in the Los Angeles Times says the book deserves to be celebrated for its linguistic feats and its vision as a work of art. Sam Sacks in The Wall Street Journal is not as hot on it.

All these titles are 20% off in store, at least through February 10th.

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