I first became acquainted with Jennifer Egan's writing when I read her last novel, The Keep, when it was published in 2006. As I was very impressed with what I read I then went back to read Look at Me, which I had missed when it was first published in 2001. Having thus become a demonstrable fan, I was delighted to read her latest novel A Visit from the Goon Squad (Knopf, 25.95). I was doubly delighted when I recognized two of the novel's chapters --"Found Objects" and "Safari" -- from the strong impression they had made on me when I read them in the guise of short stories in The New Yorker.
BookHampton in Southampton welcomed Simon Van Booy to its new space on Saturday afternoon, June 19. The author, winner of the 2009 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, read from his short story collections Love Begins in Winter and The Secret Lives of People in Love, both published by Harper Collins. Later in 2010, Harper Collins will publish three books edited by Van Booy: Why We Need Love, Why We Fight, and Why Our Decisions Don't Matter.
Join us this weekend in Southampton for a lively afternoon with Dan Rattiner, whose latest book is In the Hamptons Too. The event takes place on Saturday, June 26 at 5:00pm at our new store, 93 Main Street (just next door).
On Friday, June 25 Bret Easton Ellis will read from and sign copies of his new novel Imperial Bedrooms (Random House). Join us at our East Hampton store, 41 Main Street, starting at 8:00pm.
Also in East Hampton, author my Hatkoff will discuss her new book The Inner World of Farm Animals: Their Amazing Social, Emotional and Intellectual Capacities (Stewart, Tabori and Chang) on Saturday, June 26 at 5:00pm.
All events at BookHampton are free and open to the public. A current schedule is located on the sidebarto the right. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call any of our stores.
I was saddened to learn of the death of author José Saramago at the age of 87. He was a great favorite at BookHampton and a huge favorite of mine personally. Coming from enormous poverty in a rural area of Portugal, he succeeded in becoming a writer and — against all odds — eventually won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the only Portuguese author to have done so. He never forgot his origins, however, and retained a great sympathy for the poor and disenfranchised even after he moved to the heights of world literature.
In great contrast to the mores of his country, Saramago was a life-long communist (although this rarely figured in his fiction) and an atheist as well, believing that many of the world's problems were caused by organized religion. His wonderful novel, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, was bitterly condemned by the Catholic Church in Portugal — for which reason his Nobel Prize got little attention in his native country — although many felt that at its core it showed a profoundly religious appreciation of Jesus the man.
The "big" book that made him famous is Blindness, a terrifying story of a community in which there is an epidemic of blindness, initially met with harsh governmental repression and leading eventually to a world of savagery. A sequel entitled Seeing, published many years later, describes the same community, its sight restored, refusing to vote in the national elections, leading to the near-collapse of the government (the scenes of cabinet meetings in this and a number of his other books are sharply written and quite hilarious); in desperation, the government decides to blame some of the survivors from Blindness, with terrifying results.
Other very noteworthy books include All the Names, in which a clerk in the municipal records department becomes obsessed with one of the persons he knows only from the written records, and Death with Interruptions, the most recent of his novels to be translated into English, in which Death decides to halt her operations for a while leading to catastrophic upheavals in the society (hospitals overflowing because the mortally ill do not die, cemetery workers out of work, the Church infuriated, etc.) but eventually also to a beautiful love story in which Death becomes infatuated with one of her victims.
Saramago had it all: a modernist style, a vivid imagination, boundless sympathy for the ordinary people and their condition in the world, and equally boundless contempt for the powerful and their use of power for their own ends, often depicted with biting humor.
There is not much non-fiction by Saramago in translation, although the excerpts from his blog were published in book form under the title The Notebook which I wrote about a few months ago. Small Memories, a memoir of his early years, was published in England a year or so ago but has not yet been published in the United States, and his novel The Elephant's Journey (mentioned in Notebooks) will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in early September.
Given the highly unusual circumstances of his life I think it is fair to say that there will never be another Saramago. He will be sorely missed and certainly never replaced, and we are fortunate to have so many of his works to serve as a constant reminder of a rare place at which enormous artistic brilliance combines with a strong moral core.
In other fields there are fairly fixed dates that constitute the "season." In theater, for example, the "season" is supposed to run from June 1 to May 31, thus coinciding, more or less, with the Tony Awards presented in early June. Publishing seems to work with calendar seasons; one speaks of the "Spring List" or "Fall List" but the dates tend to blur together and I rather like looking back over a longer expanse of time, to see what a whole year has amounted to.
Here is something very unusual. I recently reviewed a new translation of Swiss novelist Robert Walser's (1878-1956) novel The Tanners. It has now been joined by a new book entitled Microscripts (New Directions, 24.95). The title refers to the minuscule script in which Walser wrote for the last 30 or 40 years of his life, which was long thought to be undecipherable but which scholars have finally unraveled and published (the German edition apparently extends to 6 volumes). Not only was the writing unbelievably tiny, it was done on scraps of paper or receipts or calling cards or book covers.
I’m glad the Mayhem weekend went so well! It was a great panel, and I hope everyone had as much fun as I did. The attendees were really into it and we'd still be there if Jeremy hadn't wrapped it up. Also, the weather gods were smiling on the weekend. Indeed, the indies are special and in my thirty years of book tours - sixteen books - I'd always look forward to being in the independent bookstores, many of which, unfortunately, are gone. But you guys are in a good place with a good clientele, and I'm happy to see you're doing so well.
The Lion will be out June 8, and I hope you sell a ton of books.
Thanks for the opportunity to get the ball rolling and hello to Jeremy. My summer plans are up in the air at this time, but if we stay on Long Island, I'll let you know.
Hilary Thayer Hamann read from and signed copies of her new novel Anthropology of an American Girl (Random House, 26.00) at BookHampton in East Hampton on Saturday evening. There was a full house -- standing room only!
Join us this weekend as our summer schedule of readings and talks continues. On Saturday, June 12 at 5:00pm in East Hampton novelist Alafair Burke will be reading from her latest thriller 212. Also on Saturday, at 7:00pm in Sag Harbor, Local writer Tom Clavin and his co-author Danny Peary will be on hand to discuss their new biography, Roger Maris.
More of our upcoming readings and talks are listed on the sidebar, and updated frequently. If you'd like to receive the latest updates on our events and store happenings, subscribe to this blog's feed (at the top of the page) and follow BookHampton on Facebook!
Here's an idea so good one wonders why no one thought of it before: Best European Fiction 2010, edited by the wonderful novelist Aleksandar Hemon and published by the estimable Dalkey Archive (14.95). It features chapters by writers from almost all European countries (sometimes from each language group within a country, such as Spain or Belgium).
Although I do not read many mysteries, I've become addicted to Benjamin Black's series established a couple of years ago with Christine Falls, followed by The Silver Swan, and now joined by Elegy for April (Holt, 25.00). Set in Ireland in the early 1950's the series centers on Quirke -- he seems to have no first name -- a pathologist employed at the morgue in Dublin, and also brings in what I would describe as members of his family (not wanting to give too much away).