Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday New and Noteworthy--Michael Lewis's Latest, Plus Books on the Galápagos, Josephine Baker, Autism, 7th Grade, and being Overwhelmed.

As I came in this morning, Jason asked me what I was going to write up today. When I mentioned that I was leaning towards nonfiction again (I guess it's as the mood strikes me, though there's so much fiction that I might do another day of new releases this week), he looked over at the Kevin Brockmeier, and mentioned how much he liked the cover of A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip (Pantheon). "It just looks like a book you'd have in seventh grade," was his thought. The book is a memoir, told in third person, of being a 12-year old in search of himself. Ethan Rutherford (a not-that-long-ago visitor to Boswell) writes that "seventh grade is rendered in such lovingly vivid detail--so perfectly remembered--that you feel, after reading it, that the memory in fact belongs to you. I love it." So did Jeff Giles at Entertainment Weekly, who scored it A-.

That said, all the focus is definitely on Michael Lewis's Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt (Norton), which has had all kinds of press, including seemingly a review from Janet Maslin and at least two accompanying articles (or was it three, it seems like that's all I read this morning) in The New York Times. Janet Maslin, in her review, notes that "because Mr. Lewis is at the helm finding clear, simple metaphors for even the most impenetrable financial minutiae, this tawdry tale should make sense to anyone. And so should its shock value. Flash Boys is guaranteed to make blood boil." Here's a piece about how Norton kept the lid on the new book, which is about how high frequency trading has led to a rigged market benefiting insiders, and how a bunch of rogues set out to correct for that by building a new exchange. I love how Boris Kachka in the New York magazine story notes Lewis's similarity to Tom Wolfe, only focusing on the heroes instead of the villains.

Heading to more peaceful waters, Henry Nicholls offers The Galápagos: A Natural History (Basic). Nicholls had his 2007 book, Lonesome George, shortlisted for the Royal Society Book Prize, and writes regularly for Nature, New Scientist, and the BBC, as well as his own Animal Magic blog. I do not know any of the folks who offered recs on the back cover, though Michael Shermer's Why Darwin Matters rings a bell, and he calls the story "captivating." Publishers Weekly found the work a bit abbreviated for their taste, but Kirkus Reviews called the book, "A fascinating overview of the natural and human history of this remarkable archipelago, from prehistoric times to the present.

I do recognize many of the folks who liked Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time (Sarah Crichton), by Brigid Schulte. Barbara Ehrenreich (who is getting buzz for her own new book) calls the book "a superb report from the front lines of the sputtering gender revolution" while Daniel Pink offers that "the more overwhelmed you feel, the more crucial it is to take the time to read this important book." Overwhelmed has already gotten a lot of attention, like this New York Times review from Anne Crittenden and this NPR interview on Morning Edition. I was going to write about it earlier, but I just didn't get around to it.

Not just new books, but new publishers also come to my attention when I'm doing these roundups. Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism, by Ron Suskind, is the first book I've really looked at from Kingswell. Apparently this Disney-owned imprint is said to be a placeholder name for ABC Disney while they figure out what to call their remaining adult titles, having sold the bulk of the Hyperion list to Hachette. And yes, Kingswell is another street in Southern California that was home to the Disney Studios, much like Hyperion. I had thought all the remaining adult books would have a Disney tie in, and the hint is in the first line of copy: "imagine being trapped inside a Disney movie and having to learn about life, language, and emotion mostly from animated characters dancing across the screen. Yes, this memoir of raising Suskind's autistic son (I loved Suskind's book, A Hope in the Unseen, by the way) tells of how they communicated using the dialogue from Disney movies. Here's a piece on the book in Vulture.

Jason was also noting that while the publishers that have on-sale dates are so good about shipping, the smaller publishers tend to rush much of their list out together, no matter the pub date. I used to laugh about Viking books with February pub dates showing up in November, but the recently published sections just seemed full of books distributed by Norton and Triliteral. I am not a fan of this practice; if you have a book with a May pub month, please ship it in April, not March. The book is seemingly dead on the shelves by the time reviews hit. That said, like just about everything in the book industry, indie bookstores are innocent bystanders (or collateral damage) in the case of book practices, and I assume their are financial reasons for books leaving warehouses before their retail partners are ready for them.

This is all a preface for explaining why I'm jumping pub date for Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe (Belknap), by Matthew Pratt Guterl, which is not officially out until April 14, but them's the breaks. Booklist calls the book "fastincating." This is the story of Josephine Baker, but not a complete biography (I read a good one years ago by Phyllis Rose called Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in Her Time) but about her years in France when she adopted a dozen kids of multiple nationalities. The author, a professor of Africana and American studies (I think Africana is the newest academic renaming of a department that's had several incarnations) at Brown, grew up in his own rainbow tribe, and his own story makes a fascinating counterpoint to Baker's.

No comments: