Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One of My Favorite Books of Spring, "The Nest" Leaves the Nest to Conquer Whatever Books Are Supposed to Conquer.

Two of my favorite books of the season are coming out for the April publishing season* and one of them arrives today. But like many novels that have high expectations from publishers, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest. crossed my desk a long time ago.

In this case, it was last June, when publishers, authors, booksellers, agents, and fans gathered in New York for Book Expo America. The American Booksellers Association started a program where booksellers could meet with editors and hear more about the editorial process. I was scheduled for HarperCollins, and listened to folks from Harper, Morrow, and Ecco. They discussed the making of one of their current books and then made a pitch for something off in the future.

For Ecco, the presenter was Megan Lynch. The previous year she had moved over from Riverhead to become editorial director. When I read the article in Publishers Weekly, saying that "her authors include, among others, Sarah Waters, Dinaw Mengestu, Emma Straub, Daniel Alarcón and Meghan O’Rourke," I thought, "Hey, I've read and enjoyed all those authors except for Meghan O'Rourke and now I'm feeling like I should have read her too."

So when she made a pitch for The Nest, I was already predisposed to be interested. And when Lynch promised a multiple perspective comic novel about a family's disinheritance, I was raring to go. But there was only one problem - it is like pulling teeth getting me to read books that early. For one thing, I am not a buyer, who has to make such early decisions. For another, more than half the books I read are from our event programming, and the odds of us getting to host a first-novelist without any Milwaukee ties was pretty slim. (Lynch at left, photo courtesy of HarperCollins)

But somehow, it rose to the top of the pile. And I fell in love with it. I was a bit confused, because Sweeney had clearly written it just for me, and here she was getting a large advance and Ecco and HarperCollins was running around trying to get everyone to read it, review it, and promote it. What the heck was that about? But of course I am not privy to such insider doings - I suppose that other people will like The Nest as well. And that said, this is just a long-winded introduction to my staff rec.

And here that recommendation for The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney is: "Many years ago, Leonard Plumb made his fortune and then got all Warren Buffett on his family; he decided to keep his bequeaths to his children in a trust, not to be distributed until the youngest reached 40. But now three of the Plumb siblings have a dilemma; in the midst of eldest Leo’s messy divorce caused by an even messier car accident with a young waitress, their unpleasant mother has seen fit to liquidate the fund to pay off the aggrieved. The only problem is that Jack and Melody were counting on that money and will do just about anything to get it back. Bea, the peacemaker, only wants everyone to be happy, but can she win back the heart of Leo? Seems unlikely – for Leo is a wee bit of a user. The family relationships are deliciously dysfunctional and the situations are a high-wire act of hilarity. Subplots include Jack’s discovery of a missing sculpture from 9-11, Melody’s wayward daughters, twins who find they are not exactly identical after all, and Bea’s new manuscript after years of writer’s block, inspired, as always, by Leo. While the characters are a bit messy, few tip over into outright unpleasantness, except for Leo of course. He is a complete nightmare, and that helps make The Nest a fabulous addition to The Encyclopedia of Cad Literature." (Daniel Goldin)

I can already see that the book is going to be judge a bit on its advance, while of course when I was reading it, I didn't really know about its publishing backstory, For example, Carol Memmott in the Minneapolis Star Tribune said it was good, but expected more, based on the advance. And Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-, as advances don't phase a magazine that doesn't necessarily see the world in dollar signs, but certainly is more focused on the business of entertainment. (Photo credit for Sweeney at right by Lisa Whiteman.) New York Magazine's Vulture ran a profile on the unusual nature of a woman author breaking out in her fifties.

But honestly, all that is academic to me. What I can tell you financially, is that The Nest is Boswell's Best (20% off) for at least the next two weeks.  And now back to reading the book that I need to finish by tomorrow. And I should note that The Encyclopedia of Cad Literature is a work in progress.

*The other one comes out April 5. I will talk about it later. And I should note this is in the Boswell-not-having-an-event category.

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