Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Releases from Scott Cheshire, Rufi Thorpe, William Vollman, Daisy Goodwin, Stephanie Feldman, Plus a Tendency to Obsess About Book Heft.

A novel that would be at home on the back of a Harley is High as the Horses' Bridles, by Scott Cheshire, what with all the flames on the jacket. In this case, I believe the flames mean hellfire and those said horses are in Queens, where young Josiah Loudermilk is about to take the stage and deliver some brimstone-like oratory, and then picks up decades later when our now-left-the-church protagonist returns to care for his ailing father. I'll put it on my list of Queens novels, which I started compiling after reading Dissident Gardens. Ron Charles, who like the author, was raised in a "church with intense ideals at odds with mainstream culture" is a big fan. He writes in The Washington Post: "This is a complicated and tender exploration of the tragedy of spiritual mania, of living in the endlessly recycled disappointment that 'the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.' But more universally, it’s also a novel about the relationship between a father and son and their sympathy that passeth all understanding." My only complaint---not loving the quality of paper on this $26 hardcover.

There's been a lot of  buzz about The Girls from Corona del Mar, by Rufi Thorpe.It's about two girls who grow up together. Mia's had a lot of struggles, while things have gone relatively easy for Lorrie Ann, and that has definitely molded their personalities. The life falls part for Lorrie Ann, and as the publisher notes, "There is nothing Mia can do to help." Steph Cha in the Los Angeles Times writes "The Girls From Corona del Mar is a slim book that leaves a deep impression. Mia and Lorrie Ann are vivid and fully formed, and their stories provoke strong emotions that linger like lived memory. Thorpe is a gifted writer who depicts friendship with affection and brutality, rendering all its love and heartbreak in painstaking strokes." Thorpe's novel has a larger trim size than Cheshire, but it's also 60 less pages, which makes me think it's still fewer words, but at 20 oz., the heft towers over the 14 ounces of High as the Horses Bridle. Next up I'm going to do my put the books in the front window for a week and see how much they yellow.

Now one expects a nice paper quality and heft on William T. Vollman, and Viking doesn't disappoint with Last Stories and Other Stories, his new collection. The publisher notes the the stories range in tone from the melancholy to the sly, and from the stripped down to the lush and lyrical, with settings ranging from the United States to Mexico, Japan, and Bohemia. Pourochista Khakpour in the Los Angeles Times (I was going to link to The New York Times review, but there was litle I could say about a necrophiliac dreamscape) notes that "Last Stories takes us to so many destinations, inhabits so many lives, that the book becomes less a rumination on death than a celebration of life; less an investigation of apparitions than a presentation of all the many possibilities of existence in the material world. This is a good thing. Vollmann understands that he has to not just invent but entertain here, as all good adventures must." (33 ounces--probably so heavy that some of my older customers would complain when they were reading it in bed.)

There's less necrophilia (for starters) in Daisy Goodwin's The Fortune Hunter, her follow-up to her breakout novel, The American Heiress. This time Goodwin follows Emmpress Elizabeth of Austria, "the Princess Diana of nineteenth-century Europe." When I was at BookPeople, I noted that they had a historical fiction section; I think it's not a bad idea, though you'd have arguments about certain titles. Like our other genres, I'd leave out the genre-mashing stuff. Not every historical novel is a "historical novel." The Brits definitely love their historicals with he quotes, and that's why the major reviewers in London all reviewed this, while it might be a little tougher to get that review attention from Americans.  Here's the UK Sunday Times review. I should note, however, that Janet Maslin did review The American Heiress in The New York Times. (23 ounces but remember, this is 480 pages)

And finally, Boswellian Jen Steele called my attention to the striking cover treatment for The Angel of Losses, by Stephanie Feldman. They are calling it The Tiger's Wife meets The History of Love, but Jen has a different comparison title. She writes "When Majorie's grandfather dies, she stumbles across a notebook he's written, a notebook that leads her on a journey to discover who she truly is. This story about Jewish folklore, mystics, secrets, and sacrifices is, at its center, all about family and love and acceptance. Fans of The Discovery of Witches would enjoy this; it's a different premise but I found some similarities and most importantly, I enjoyed both!" Being that Deborah Harkness is coming this Monday, that's a comparison to particularly keep in mind. Oh, and Kirkus has another comparison, to painter Marc Chagall. I have to remember who that customer was who told me last weekend how much she liked Dara Horn's The World to Come. Hey, based on the similar cover treatments, the cover designer also saw that comparison. (17 ounces, 288 pages, with a heft feel somewhere between Cheshire and Thorpe)

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