Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Releases from Fuminoi Nakamura, Michel Faber, Molly Gloss, David Nicholls, Chuck Palahniuk, and Johanna Skribsrud.

I'm always surprised when a hit novel jumps publishers for the next release. Was it an auction? An editor change? Loggerheads between author and publisher? Alas, when I hear a juicy story, it's not my place as a bookseller to reveal it, but I have to confess I know nothing about why David Nicholls is at a new publisher for Us, by David Nicholls (Harper) after his success stateside with One Day. Mark Lawson in the (UK) Guardian writes: "Although assumed to be a sentimental populist by those who have read about his success rather than reading his books, Nicholls is far more willing than the romcom film director Richard Curtis (to whom he's often compared) to challenge the genre's expectation of a happy ending. Us follows One Day, which was ultimately a sort of rom-trag, in admitting scenes and sentiments of unsettling bleakness."

The review went on to explain the shorthand of saying something was very "David Nicholls." Really, from one novel? Obviously it was more popular across the pond. Another author who is hoping to have his second stateside success, following The Crimson Petal and the White, is Michel Faber, whose newest is The Book of Strange New Things (Hogarth). Another press piece, another strange pronouncement--Faber has said he won't write another novel, as reported in The New York Times. Is he like Alice Munro or Philip Roth in the UK? The new book is about a Christian missionary sent to spread the gospel to another planet and is out of the box with a starred Kirkus and a number of very strong UK reviews so far.

Beautiful You, by Chuck Palahniuk (Doubleday) turns out not to be the third volume in the Madison Spencer trilogy (we all think she's eventually going to wreak havoc in heaven) but what the publisher calls "an apocalyptic novel about the marketing of female pleasure." One Penny Harrigan is wined and dined and brought to sexual bliss by a megabillionaire, only to find that she is a guinea pig for a line of sex toys which as so successful they could destroy the very fabric of civilization. He must be stopped, but wait, just another five minutes.

Last Winter We Parted, by Fuminori Nakamura (Soho) is the newest novel by the Japanese writer who won the Kenzaburō Ōe Prize in 2012 for The Thief. References call this a pseudonym but I usually reserve that for when the author's real identity isn't released. I think of this more as a "pen name", like Benjamin Black. The newest novel, translated by Allison Markin Powell, is a twisty tale about a man who burned two women alive so he could photograph their dying, and the writer who is assigned to cover the story. David L. Ulin in the Los Angeles Times, praises his newest novel as "dark and edgy, original and bold."I was trying to find something to recommend to Christopher Buhelman (The Lesser Dead) last night and this probably would have done the trick.

Molly Gloss, on the other hand, is pure Oregon, and her latest novel (she's probably best known for The Jump Off Creek, which won the Oregon Book Award), is Falling From Horses,(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Her newest follows Bud Frazer, a young ranch hand who wants to make it big in Hollywood as a stunt man, while his parents (first chronicled in The Hearts of Horses) make do at the ranch, a particular struggle when their other child, a daughter, goes missing. Emily Chenoweth reviews the book and profiles Gloss in The Oregonian while Kirkus proposes that "the acute sense of time and place, coupled with a cast of characters drawn with unsentimental but abiding affection, makes for a hypnotic read."

Since I've been thinking a lot about the Scotiabank Giller Prize, with us hosting not one but two of the finalists, Miriam Toews on November 11 and David Bezmozgis on November 17, I thought I'd mention that the second novel by Johanna Skribsrud, winner for The Sentimentalists, has just come out. The first thing to know about Quartet for the End of Time (Norton) is that its structured around a chamber piece by French composer Olivier Messiaen set in the years leading up to World War II. To understand the heart of the book, I first had to read up about the Bonus Army, the movement by World War I veterans to get cash payment on their bonus certificates that were not due to be paid out until 1945. So the book follows the two children of a rather stern judge, one of whom becomes an activist in the movement and the other becomes a journalist. Aparna Sanyal in The Toronto Globe and Mail wrote: "Quartet is a strange, deeply compassionate, and beautiful work. Skibsrud’s prose, full of parenthetical asides and subordinate clauses, suitably slows us into contemplation of an eternally recurring moment." The modernist style can be tough to pull of in a longer work, as Emily Donaldson notes in The Toronto Star.

No comments: