Friday, 16 February 2018
A few of the interesting books that arrived this week.
The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton $33
In a strange but possibly possible future Ireland where it never stops raining and where violence is the chief currency, the Kid, having fallen in love with the Earlie King's daughter, vows to care for their babby (although he is only 13). A lively and inventive novel from a fresh Irish writer.
"Mashing ancient myth with a miserable future, Denton’s fierce and distinctive debut should set the books world alight." - Irish Times
The Melody by Jim Crace $38
When an aging musician's reaches out to a feral child, he begins to question the borders between civilised and wild, between acceptable and unacceptable, and between natural and unnatural. Ecological aware, multileveled and beautifully written.
"Takes its place amongst Crace's finest novels." - Guardian
"The book blazes with anger." - Irish Times
River by Esther Kinsky $38
A woman moves to London and begins a series of walks along the River Lea, precisely recording what she sees. As the narrative progresses, the associative qualities of her experiences provide access to tributaries of memory, both personal and collective, reaching back to a place where stories seep into consciousness and collect themselves on the margins of experience.
"There’s a timeless quality to River. How much is fact and how much is pure fiction? It hardly matters. River exists in a hinterland between personal and universal strands of truth. Esther Kinsky has produced a minor-key masterpiece. Iain Galbraith’s English translation could well be one of the best new translations of 2018." — Asymptote
Liberating the Canon: An anthology of innovative literature edited by Isobel Waidner $38
An anthology of examples of contemporary innovative and nonconforming literary forms in English emerging at the intersections of prose, poetry, art, performance, political activism; the whole being a sort of cultural resistance movement to ascendant nationalist and reactionary contexts.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin $35
In 1969, the four Gold children, Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya, visit a psychic on Manhattan’s Lower East Side who predicts the date each of them will die. The novel then follows how the siblings deal with the news. How does foreknowledge affect the choices we make? How would the way we live our life change as we approached what we knew to be its end?
"It's amazing how good this book is." - Karen Joy Fowler
Fireflies by Luis Segasti $30
How do we make our histories? Why is it that memory assembles certain illuminated moments into a kind of story? Segasti is fully aware that each moment in life or literature is an amalgam of numerous stories and times, all having bearing on a moment's experience, and concocts this novel with, among other referents, dashes of Joseph Beuys, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Japanese poets and Russian cosmonauts.
My Body is a Book of Rules by Elissa Washuta $33
As Elissa Washuta makes the transition from college kid to independent adult, she finds herself overwhelmed by the calamities piling up in her brain. When her mood-stabilizing medications aren't threatening her life, they re shoving her from depression to mania and back in the space of an hour. Her crisis of American Indian identity bleeds into other areas of self-doubt: mental illness, sexual trauma, ethnic identity, and independence become intertwined. Compelling and inventively written, this is not only a portrait of a woman at the battle-front of her own life but a rethinking of the form of memoir.
Southerly by Jorge Consiglio $32
On the eve of an important battle, a colonel is visited in his tent by an indigenous woman with a message to pass on. A man sets about renovating the house of his childhood, and starts to feel that he might be rebuilding his own life in the process. At a private clinic to treat the morbidly obese, a caregiver has issues of her own. Stories of immigration, marginality, history, intimacy and obsession from an acclaimed Argentinian author.
Draft No.4: On the process of writing by John McPhee $37
A very useful guide for writers, especially on the aspects of a work, such as structure, that should go unnoticed by the reader.
>> Read an excerpt.
The Kites by Romain Gary $37
On a small farm in Normandy, as Hitler rises to power in Germany, young Ludo comes of age in the care of his Uncle Ambrose, an eccentric mailman, kite-maker, and pacifist. Ludo’s quiet existence changes the day he meets Lila, a girl from the aristocratic Polish family who own the estate next door. Lila begins to reciprocate his feelings just as Europe descends into war. After Germany invades Poland, Lila and her family disappear, and Ludo’s journey to save her from the Nazis becomes a journey to save his loved ones, his country, and ultimately himself. A French classic, finally translated into English.
>> Romain Gary is a great big liar.
The President's Room by Ricardo Romoro $29
In a nameless suburb in an equally nameless country, every house has a room reserved for the president. No one knows when or why this came to be. It’s simply how things are, and no one seems to question it except for one young boy. Can anyone - the narrator? even the reader? - be trusted to tell the truth? Overtones of Cortázar and Kafka potentise the sinister mystery surround the room that is both many rooms and no room.
Eye of the Sixties: Richard Bellamy and the transformation of modern art by Judith E. Stein $28
A man with a preternatural ability to find emerging artists, Richard Bellamy was one of the first advocates of pop art, minimalism, and conceptual art. At home both in New York's arts Bohemia and glittering upper-crust salons, Bellamy was a catalyst for fame for many artists in the mid-to-late twentieth century.
Victorians Undone: Tales of the flesh in the age of decorum by Kathryn Hughes $28
What was it like to have a body in the nineteenth century? How did attitudes towards bodies shape social practices? How did the physical particularities of individuals affect the course of collective history? Hughes will make you think differently both about historical personages and about life in the Victorian era.
"A dazzling experiment in life writing. Every page fizzes with the excitement of fresh discoveries. Each page becomes a window on to a world that is far stranger than we might expect." - Guardian
True to Life: British Realist painting in the 1920s and 1930s by Patrick Elliot $50
Interesting comparisons can be made to the work of Rita Angus and others practicing in New Zealand in the same period.
Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet $17
Generally regarded as the one of the purest examples of the Nouveau Roman novels of which Robbe-Grillet outlined the theory in For a New Novel (1963), Jealousy is narrated by an invisible uninvolved observer who can be postulated as the jealous husband of the character known only as A, whose suspicion that A. is having an affair with a neighbour constantly brings the reliability of the narrative into question. Robbe-Grillet's 'phenomenological' writing has a rigour and clarity still stands as an object lesson for contemporary writers.
The Blot by Jonathan Lethem $26
What is the black spot that is spreading across a flamboyant gambler's vision? More importantly: what does it mean?
"The Blot sets a high bar for 2017's fiction. There are moments of genuine, inexplicable tenderness as well as the sarcasm, venality and schadenfreude that swirl around the book. It also shows that the genre best equipped to speak truthfully about the world we are in is not a flat-footed and sententious realism, but un-realism." - Scotland on Sunday
Orwell on Truth by George Orwell $30
"The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it." Orwell's clarity of thought is a healthy tool in a post-truth world. Read what he has to say about freedom, ethics, honesty and propaganda.
Mod New York: Fashion takes a trip by Phyllis Magidson and Donald Albrecht $90
Traces the fashion arcs of the 1960s and 1970s, when designers worked hard to keep pace with social change. Well documented with historical and garment photographs.
Fish Have No Feet by Jón Kalman Stefánsson $28
Returning to Iceland to visit his dying father, a writer thinks deeply about the passing of time and of life perched on an island of black lava pushed at on all sides by implacable ocean. In the memories of tte narrator and his father a century of change, both personal and cultural, becomes apparent.
Long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.
"Powerful and sparkling. Translator Philip Roughton's feather-light touch brings out the gleaming, fairy-tale quality of the writing, making this novel an impassioned and lyrical read. Stefansson brings out the history of a place and its people in a way few contemporary writers ever manage." - Irish Times
Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot $30
The great epic poem, compiled by Lönnrot in the nineteenth century from Finnish and Karelian folklore and mythology, contains much that is very ancient and demonstrates an alternative path to consideration of the human condition, so to call it, especially in its relation to the forces of nature, so to call them.
The Bughouse: The poetry, politics and madness of Ezra Pound by Daniel Swift $30
In 1945, on the eve of his trial for the pro-Fascist broadcasts he produced in Italy, Pound was declared insane and committed to an institution, where he stayed for ten years, holding salons for visitors. Swift enters these uncomfortable waters to learn more about this strange man and about the relationship between his life and his poetry.
Terracotta Warriors by Edward Burman $38
The so-called 'Buried Army' that so amazed the world when discovered in Shaanxi Province in 1974 continues to provide new insights into life and death in China in the late third century BCE, and to pose new questions.
A Really Big Lunch: The 'Roving Gourmand' on food and life by Jim Harrison $40
A selection of the best food writing from 'The Poet Laureate of Appetite', and author of the hugely enjoyable The Raw and the Cooked.
"A celebration of eating well and drinking even better as a recipe for the good life." - Kirkus
Beautiful Days by Joyce Carol Oates $53
A nicely presented new collection of stories in which Oates typically at once coolly condemns and warmly sympathises with her characters, their lives careening out of bounds.
The ANZAC Violin: Alexander Aitken's story by Jennifer Beck and Robyn Belton $28
A sensitively illustrated true story of a violin's survival of the horrors of both The Somme and Gallipoli, and of the collective efforts of ordinary soldiers to protect it and return it to its owner when they became separated.
Enigma Variations by André Aciman $28
A half-life's account of one man's struggles to understand himself through the intensities and regrets of his erotic fixations.
"A rewarding excavation about one man’s inner life, mapping out the way our emotional and romantic ties can shape our self-knowledge for the rest of our lives." - Lambda
"A Proustian tale of conflicted desires." - The New York Times
Fragile Lives: A heart surgeon's stories of life and death on the operating table by Stephen Westaby $27
"The stakes could not be higher in this bloody, muscular and adrenaline-charged memoir from a pioneering heart surgeon. `Surgeons are meant to be objective,' Westaby tells himself, `not human'. What makes this book so fascinating, and so moving, is the terrible tension between these necessary qualities." - Sunday Times
Twins by Dhwani Shah and Bhaddu Hamir $17
Turn the flap and trace the outlines to complete the creatures in this madcap interactive tale of the meetings of similars.