Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New and Noteworthy Tuesday--Haruki Murakami, Ellen Cooney, Martha Woodruff, Lan Cao, and David Shafer.

A bunch of stores took Knopf's advice and offered midnight release parties for Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, and since we are hot on translation, I'll note that Philip Gabriel did the honors here. Patty Smith reviewed the book on the front page of The New York Times Book Review. She writes: "Tsukuru Tazaki’s unfathomable anguish seems to contain every color of the rainbow. The colorless color of death. He pictures his heart stopping but does not take his life, as no method of suicide corresponds with his “pure and intense feelings” for death. He survives the terrible disaffection but carries profound invisible scars. Precise without, desperate within; plagued by graphic sexual dreams, aspects of astral projection, nameless guilt and confusion. A strange fellow even unto himself, tangled up and colorless."

Boswellian Conrad Silverberg weighs in: "Here is yet another magnificent work from the pen of the great Japanese novelist. Less soaring and magical than 1Q84? To be sure. Less epic and tortured than The Wind Up Bird Chronicle? Yes. But this is every bit the equal of Norwegian Wood or Kafka by the Shore, and that's saying a lot. This settles nicely into a body of work that will inevitably lead to a Nobel Prize for literature in the not too distant future. And, yes, I said much the same thing about Marias, and I'll stick with that too. For these are the towering literary giants of our time, and their new works are to be awaited impatiently, welcomed warmly and relished with quiet intensity, for they are works of genius."

It was 31 years ago that Houghton Mifflin published Ellen Cooney's Small-Town Girl and now, with several stops along the way at Putnam, Pantheon, and Coffee House (among others), the author returns (to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)with The Mountain Top School for Dogs and Other Second Chances. It's about a dog training school called Sanctuary, which saves not just dogs but people too. The publisher has checked off all the popular dog novels, starting with Carolyn Parkhurst and W. Bruce Cameron and making sure that Garth Stein is there too. Gail Godwin writes "Is there such a thing as a Rescue Book? Well, there is now. This is a miracle of a book."

Here's a nice interview with the author in the Portland Press Herald. Joan Silverman notes: "Although this is Cooney’s ninth novel, its arrival comes with more than the usual trepidation. No, the dogs don’t narrate the story, as has been the fashion with some canine chronicles. But the book was three years in the making, with no guarantees of any kind. Cooney feared it would be difficult to find a publisher for a title that defied neat categorization."

In Martha Woodroof's Small Blessings (St. Martin's), a college professor's wife dies in a car accident, just as he learns that he is a father, the product of an affair in his past. The boy arrives with a change of clothes and a backpack full of cash. Margot Livesey writes that “In Small Blessings, Woodroof displays a lovely gift for inventive plot turns and glittering moments. The novel brims with life and complexity and characters who never stop surprising themselves, and each other. This is a delightful and splendidly intelligent comedy.”

Sounds like it has elements of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, especially when it turns out that Putnam takes an interest in the manager of the college bookstore. Here's Woodroof's site, where she talks about her freelance reporting for NPR.

I love that Library Journal's write up for Lan Cao's The Lotus and the Storm notes that the Monkey Bridge (1997) was so good that even Michiko Kakutani liked it. The new book tells of a Vietnamese family from the War up to the present day. Publishers Weekly's reviewer was not a fan of the structure, but person assigned to review it for Kirkus deemed it star worthy, noting that "the author returns to the conflict that shaped her own destiny before she was airlifted from her native Saigon to live in Virginia." Could this really be her first novel in 17 years? If you want to see the author, it looks like she'll be at Women and Children First on November 12.

And finally, it's only been out a week, but sales have popped on David Shafer's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Mulholland/Hachette),most likely due to Dwight Garner nominating it as the book of the summer in The New York Times. He writes describes it "a paranoid, sarcastic and clattering pop thriller that reads as if it were torn from the damp pages of Glenn Greenwald’s fever journal. It’s about a multinational cabal that plans to subjugate humanity by privatizing all information." He compares it to Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Neal Stephenson and more. Patty Rhule in USA Today also gives it a thumbs up.

Do you think this book is edited by Josh Kendall? That's what I'm placing my bets on (actually I'm not sure if there is another acquiring editor for Mulholland), and the only real surprise is why I don't have a rec from our buyer Jason yet. We're currently out of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, but hope to get more in stock shortly. Please have us hold a copy for you.


Sarah said...

Cooney is an underrated modern author in my opinion. I read her novel Thanksgiving last fall and thought it was one of the most ambitious new works of fiction I have read in some time.

Anonymous said...

It is indeed one of mine, and indeed one of my favorites!
--Josh Kendall
PS: Wes Miller is another wonderful editor here (CJ Sansom, others), by the way!