June 11, 2010
This is the season of beach reads, and the lists are pouring into my mail box and in-box and popping up on literary websites. They are the escape books we mentally dig into while our feet dig into the vacation sand, and suntan lotion smears the pages. I’m not heading to the beach this summer, rather I’ll be reading on my patio with a cold glass of beer and corgis at my feet. I’ll be reading War and Peace. (I kid not. Has anyone ever carried War and Peace with a beach ball?) I’ll be reading other books, too, and below is the beginning list, added to the Reading Table: seven interesting books for the patio. The summer has begun.
Self Portraits: Fictions by Frederic Tuten
Inter-related stories in which the author appears. From the publisher’s website: “Fantasy and reality collide as the book’s principal characters — two lovers — meet, part and reunite, time and again, at different stages in life and in landscapes both familiar and exotic.” Tuten’s book will be published in September 2010.
With Love and Rage: A Friendship with Iris Murdoch by David Morgan
Morgan met the famous British author Iris Murdoch while he was a student studying at the Royal College of Art in London in the 1960s. This memoir — a compilation of essays and notes — is considered by some to be one of the more insightful accounts into Murdoch’s life and art to appear since her death in 1999. According to the book’s introduction, it “vacillates between disrespect and homage, between hilarity and tears and between love and rage on both sides.” Published by Kingston University Press of Kingston University in Surrey, England.
Walks with Men by Ann Beattie
A paperback novella at 102 pages, the story of a smart girl fresh out of Harvard hooking up with an intoxicating writer 20 years her senior in New York City. Here she gets her real education. Considered a shadow of Beattie’s own story in the 1980s.
Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman
A small book from Yale University Press I’ve been meaning to read because it’s important we bring books of literature from around the world into English, so we read globally. Also, as I struggled to find a translation of War and Peace that worked for me, I became aware of the significant role of the translator.
Driftless by David Rhodes
Praised by the Chicago Tribune as “The best work of fiction to come out of the Midwest in many years.” In 1976, David Rhodes’ life changed tragically in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He stopped publishing for three decades. Driftless is his return, about contemporary life in rural America. Poets & Writers magazine created a slide show of all his novels.
Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst
A new novel by this master of World War II espionage. I’m a Furst fan and anticipate this to be another smart page-turner. According to the publisher’s website: “Greece, 1940. Not sunny vacation Greece: northern Greece, Macedonian Greece, Balkan Greece—the city of Salonika. In that ancient port, with its wharves and warehouses, dark lanes and Turkish mansions, brothels and tavernas, a tense political drama is being played out.”
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
In the summer of 2008, I bought the highly praised Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of this Russian classic intending to dig in for the long haul of reading. I found the translation cumbersome, for reasons I wrote about several months back on TLC. At hand, now, is the Louise and Aylmer Maude translation, written in the 1920s, still considered to be one of the best.
April 26, 2010
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation recently announced the 2010 fellows in categories for creative arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Thirteen fiction writers are among the 180 recipients. They’ll now be able to mention in the bios on their book dust jackets that they’re a Guggenheim Fellow. But what does that tell their readers?
The Foundation’s website defines recipients as advanced professionals, which means, for writers, having “a significant record of publication.” That says to me these authors already have a backlist of good books. But it’s not just past accomplishment that snags these prestigious grants. Exceptional promise for future work is also part of the mix. That means we should take note when we see new books published by these authors.
Below are the 13 and their recent works of fiction. If I found an author’s website, I listed that. Oherwise, I listed the publisher’s web page about the author. From my reading past, I can safely shout out about Lorraine Adams, Ethan Canin, Anthony Doerr, Colum McCann and Nell Freudenberger. Christine Schutt’s Florida is a book I regretfully missed when it first came out; it was a National Book Award finalist in 2004. I’ve purchased Tinkers and Driftless.
Lorraine Adams, The Room and the Chair
Ethan Canin, America, America
Anthony Doerr, Memory Wall
(Memory Wall is a story collection to be published July 2010.)
Nell Freudenberger, The Dissident
Paul Harding, Tinkers
(Winner of this year’s Pulitzer in fiction)
Victor LaValle, Big Machine
Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin
Philipp Meyer, American Rust
Joseph O’Neill, Netherland
David Rhodes, Driftless
Christine Schutt, All Souls
Salvatore Scibona, The End
Monique Truong, Bitter in the Mouth
(Bitter in the Mouth is to be published August 2010.)