Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New Fiction on Boswell's Best: Jill Ciment, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jamie Kornegay, Máirtin Ó Cadhain, Mario Vargas Llosa.

I'm convinced that I have in my past read a novel by Jill Ciment. Her first novel, The Law of Falling Bodies, was published by Poseidon, and for a number of years, I followed that imprint closely. It makes me sad that I am not as loyal to editors as I once was. A customer came up to me and said "I don't know what to do now that Amy Einhorn's name isn't on the spine of books I like." Jason and I assured Morgan that we're told that she's overseeing the fiction from Flatiron, and while we can't guaranty it's edited by her personally (though it might be at first), it looks like it will be edited by someone working under her. But of course that doesn't guaranty an aesthetic, does it?

So Ciment's newest novel is called Act of God and it's about an apartment building in Brooklyn where  a mysterious mold sprouts, and the four women who are closely affected by it. Billed as a horror-screwball comedy hybrid, the book has a recommendation from Boswellian Jen Steele. She writes: ""If you find a strange glowing mushroom in your closet—like twin sisters Edith and Kat did—you’d better get rid of it quick or risk losing precious artifacts. If you're a landlady-Shakespearean actress like Vida, and happen to discover the same glowing substance in your closet, you should call your insurance company! Unfortunately for Vida, when she does alert her insurance company, they consider the mold to be an ‘Act of God’ and refuse to cover the cost of removal or repairs. Soon, this 'supermold' spreads all over the neighborhood and everyone has to endure HAZMAT showers, eviction, and the loss of everything they hold dear. Act of God is a delightfully dark comedy that shows us the touching beauty to be found even during hard times."

Seriously I should apply for a grant to index my old reading lists. Did I read more than The Remains of the Day from Kazuo Ishiguro? A lot of folks reference Never Let Me Go as his other great book, and that's good because his newest, The Buried Giant, also has speculative elements as it plays on the Arthurian legend. I called out the packaging previously, but when I see a nice black top stain like this, I want to shout it from the rooftops.

I mentioned to our rep Jason that reviews were coming in mixed so he sent me a list of Buried Giant reviews to choose from. It's my feeling that when I see more than two sets of ellipses, that review was more mixed than positive, but perhaps that's just a gut reaction, unproven by facts. So here's the quote I was given from Sam Sacks in The Wall Street Journal: “Axl and Beatrice’s adventures . . . grow in urgency yet never sacrifice the mood of quiet, elegiac pessimism that has always characterized Mr. Ishiguro’s writing—and that makes his novels strangely both melancholic and soothing. . . . For all its fantastical trappings, Buried Giant is a simple and powerful tale of love, aging and loss—no radical departure for this splendid writer but another excellent novel all the same." And reading the full review, I have to stand corrected; this is an excellent review with no caveats!

I feel I should give shout outs to fellow bookstore proprietors when they can run a bookstore and write a novel on the sly, and that's what Turnrow's Jamie Kornegay has done. His new novel Soil, about, to use the publisher's copy, "an idealistic young farmer who moves his family to a Mississippi flood basin, suffers financial ruin--and becomes increasingly paranoid he's being framed for murder" seems to be the right tone to take for someone who owns a bookstore, right? Our Norton sales rep Dave came in early on having read and really loved the book, and while you might say, "Hmmm....doesn't he sell to Turnrow too?" I'd have to answer "Yes, but I'm sure you can count on half a hand the number of sales reps who read Soil, really read it, not just said they read it. Sorry, but I've had one too many experience where "read" (the completion) is purposely confused with "read" (the process). I like to say "I've read some of it" which I feel is fairer, though I'm now going to confess that one customer put me on the spot about a book last week where I said I'd read some of a book when in fact that amounted to cover copy and some reviews. And Dave is a great reader, and would have been up front with me if he'd actually not liked the book.

Soil is also featured on the March Indie Next List, with a recommendation from Josh Christie at Sherman's Books and Stationery in Bar Harbor, Maine: “In his debut novel, Kornegay has confidently announced himself as a writer to watch. Centered around Jay Mize, an idealistic farmer whose luck just keeps breaking bad, the story kicks into high gear when Jay discovers a corpse on his failing farm. Fearing he is being framed by his less progressive neighbors, Jay hides the discovery rather than reporting it. Kornegay expertly heightens the tension, tightening the screws on the increasingly paranoid Jay in a way that makes it impossible for the reader to put the book down. With Soil, Kornegay joins Wiley Cash and Tom Franklin as a strong voice in the world of Southern gothic fiction.” Whenever I hear about a bookstore that sells stationery, my thoughts turn to colored staples.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day. Is there really a novel on our Boswell's Best from Yale? Indeed there is, Máirtin Ó Cadhain's The Dirty Dust, ranked (by someone) as the most important work written in modern Irish. All the characters are telling the stories from their graves and it's completely told in dialogue too. Here's a post from The Modern Novel blogger. Among the other recently read books are a bunch of Russian novels, in Russian. And I'm linking to this why? Because the only thing I can say in Russian after six college classes that is more than one syllable is "Goodnight Ice Cream?"

And finally (a phrase which I inadvertently used twice in our last email newsletter), there is a new novel from Mario Vargas Llosa, awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010 and once again, I'm scrambling to remember if I've read anything by the author beyond Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, which I'm fascinated to note, ranks in Spanish higher than English on the Ingram demand list. In fact, most of Vargas Llosa top demanded titles are in Spanish. I'm assuming course adoption.  The Discreet Hero, per the publisher, follows two fascinating characters whose lives are destined to intersect: neat, endearing Felícito Yanaqué, a small businessman in Piura, Peru, who finds himself the victim of blackmail; and Ismael Carrera, a successful owner of an insurance company in Lima, who cooks up a plan to avenge himself against the two lazy sons who want him dead. Ah, another plot that a small business owner can sink his or her teeth into!

Thomas Mallon's essay in The New Yorker not only reviews The Discreet Hero, but puts it in the context of Vargas Llosa's other work, his life, and Peru itself. He writes that "The Discreet Hero feels retrospective in a personal and perhaps valedictory way, a fulfillment of themes and characters that have populated his work for decades." I'm surprised there's an open link, but I've gotten used to the fact that media turn off and on articles to general linking at whim, and I totally understand their inability to make a decision about this. After all, I know the lyrics to "Present and Future Business Models for Monetizing the Newspaper Industry."

All these books are Boswell's Best, 20% off list price in the store, at least through March 16, 2015.

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