Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New and Noteworthy--From Our Paperback Tables Come Claire Kilroy, Hans Fallada, Jan-Philipp Sendker, J.W. Ironmonger, Manuel Gonzales, and Lucinda Riley.

One of the exciting things about the paperback table is that the books are priced low enough to have more of an impulse factor. Whereas the books on new and noteworthy hardcovers and Boswell's best usually either need name recommendation, great reviews, or strong bookseller reads to sell in any quantity, a paperback can sometimes come from nowhere. We don't know why it worked--it just did.

Since I just wrote about an Irish novel yesterday, I thought I'd continue in that spirit and mention The Devil I know (Black Cat), by Claire Kilroy, a Dublin writer who has received advance praise from Emma Donoghue, Anne Enright, and John Banville, who calls this work "smart, funny, and stylish." Like Patrick O'Keeffe's The Visitors, her novel turns on the Celtic Tiger and the subsequent economic downturn. She's also got a great recommendation from Barbara Kingsolver, praising the "stunning worldly wisdom (packed) into her beautiful prose." Another compared her work to Patrick McCabe.

Arcade, now an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, is bringing in more old Hans Fallada into print. Fallada, born Rudolf Wilhelm Adolf Ditzen, spent most of his life in psychiatric care. Once a Jailbird is the story of Willi Kufult, after a long-term prison stay, finds that he cannot escape his past when he gets out. I found it odd that the publisher does not list his breakout novel, Every Man Dies Alone, anywhere on the jacket copy, and does not provide a list of other titles. This is one of the weird things about the rise of paperback publishing--the tradition was previously that hardcover publishers listed all works, whether they published them or not, but paperback publishers only list the books that they themselves publish. Well, needless to say, that doesn't work in the age of paperback publishing. To all those paperback kids, you're grownups now and you've got to take on the responsibilities of original publishing and list the author's entire works.

We've had a very nice sale of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, but are probably not at that level of handselling I've seen at other stores that have sold well over a thousand copies. The sequel is A Well-Tempered Heart (Other Press) and Julia Win has been back from her father's native Burma (also known as Myanmar) for ten years. Her personal life falls apart, and it is probably not a coincidence that she also starts hearing voices. The narrative is intermixed with Nu Nu's, a Burmese woman whose life is shaken when the country goes to war. Translated from the German by Kevin Wiliarty, Jan-Philipp Sendker's novel shows that he is a mesmerizing storyteller with a romantic streak, or so says Kirkus Reviews. Very romantic.

I am down with this trend to do European authors as paperback originals, as I think many of these books would not come out otherwise. J. W. Ironmonger, once of East Africa and now of rural Shropshire, has a novel called Coincidence (Harper Perennial) that was published as The Coincidence Authority in 2013. I should note that I am not down with the trend of changing titles of English novels when they come out stateside. The story opens in 1982 when a young girl is found alone at a Seaside Fairground. A year later, on the same day, her mother's body washes up. Ten years later her adoptive parents are killed in a rebel uprising, and she begins to worry that these events are somehow related. The book has nice quotes from #1 NYT bestselling author Christina Baker Kline, as well as Simon Van Booy and Margot Livesey, who I just learned was friends with someone who my Massachusetts sister knows, who mentioned it when she saw my sister reading a Livesey book on some exercise equipment. Coincidence? I think not.

There's nothing like a cartoon skull and crossbones to target the reader of a new book, right? The Miniature Wife and Other Stories (Riverhead), by Manuel Gonzales has an acid green cover and an Aimee Bender quote ("an exciting new voice", which is from her New York Times review) that shouts, "Look at me, hipster pirate!" Because our pal Ben Percy gave it a nice quote too,saying he's not just comparable to George Saunders, but also to Borges and Marquez (are we supposed to say Garcia Marquez?) and Aime Bender (coincidence). Jenny Shank in the Dallas Morning News called the collection "clever and funny" and also throws her comparison hat in the ring, touting none other than David Foster Wallace. I like that the only American flag bearer in this week's roundup is Latino. He is also the only writer of the bunch that really focuses on the zombie perspective in his fiction. More power to him!

And finally, a just on sale title (many of the others have been published in January and February) from Lucinda Riley called The Midnight Rose. (Atria). We've done very well with her last two U.S. releases, Orchid House (published in the UK as Hothouse Flower, which was also a perfectly good title) and The Lavender Garden. The new novel spans four generations, starting with a friendship started by the the noble but impoverished Anahita and the headstrong Princess Indira, the privileged daughter of Indian royalty--Anahita is the Princess's official companion, and follows her to England before the outbreak of World War I. A parallel story is set almost a century later, where an American film star is sent to the English countryside, where she meets the great-grandson of Anahita and together they unravel the dark secrets that darken the family dynasty. I guess you'd call this an epic romance. The cover indicates that it's both Indian and moorsy British.

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