I came across the Dutch novelist Gerbrand Bakker's book The Twin (Archipelago Books, 16.00) quite accidentally, in a very belated article in The New York Review of Books on Per Petterson's novel To Siberia (which had been published by Picador in English translation in 2008). Then, just a few weeks ago, I saw that it won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for 2010, so it certainly seemed worth a try.
Adam Ross has written an amazing debut novel — Mr. Peanut (Knopf). David Pepin has been madly in love with his wife for the thirteen years they've been together. Madly in love, yes, but also fiendishly dreaming of her demise and his freedom. When Mrs. Pepin winds up dead, David is distraught, but suspected nonetheless. Mr. Peanut is at turns an intricate murder mystery, an insightful study of the human heart, and most of all a compelling, painful peek into the multi-layered soul of marriage itself. Beautifully written, an ultimately moving and disturbing, this book will linger long after its last page.
The most thrilling ride of the summer is The Passage by Justin Cronin (Ballantine Books, 27.00). This apocalyptic heart-stopper has it all: vampires, deadly viruses, reluctant heroes, bloodthirsty villains... and that's Chapter One. Cronin, a respected and well-reviewed author (Summer Guest, Mary and O'Neil), makes himself a household name with this terrific saga that combines the best storytelling skills of Stephen King and Michael Crichton. The good news is that this is the first of a planned trilogy. The bad news is that The Passage is only 800 pages. Climb aboard this summer's scariest ride!
The 1920's and 30's must have been something of a golden age for German-language literature. Kafka, Schnitzler, Mann, Hesse, Döblin, Broch, Musil — and if one wanders into the adjacent fields of poetry and theater the list would have to include such as Rilke, Hofmannsthal and Brecht. I am familiar with quite a lot of this but have to confess that until Melville House, the very ambitious small press, started its explorations a couple of years ago I had never heard of Hans Fallada (who died in 1947).
Melville House republished the translation of what appears to have been Fallada’s best known book, Little Man, What Now? (written and set in Germany in 1932, when the Depression was still raging and the Nazis had not yet taken power) as well as a late work entitled The Drinker. The most notable book up to now was Every Man Dies Alone, a work (based on a true story) commemorating an almost senseless act of protest by an ordinary citizen living in Nazi Germany — leaving anti-government post cards in the lobbies of apartment buildings — which was published for the first time in English.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Random House, 25.95) is an absolutely
stellar novel. Egan's observations are as fearless as her choices; she
tells us about the promises that were the future and the sorrows that
surprised, and with that the power of her story eclipses all others.
The novel is
populated by a bunch of 'goons': quasi-adults whose music-scene
adolescence is still seen in surface traces, like the pit marks of acne
gone but waiting to curse future generations. The
novel is built in stories, and each story could easily stand alone,
however it is the visceral impact of the whole that makes Egan's work
both startling and compelling.
Like many others I first became aware of David Mitchell when I read his astounding novel Cloud Atlas, first published as a paperback in 2004 (Random House, 15.00). Now comes another totally different novel: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet (Random House, 26.00). It takes place in 1799 on a man-made island off the coast of Japan, where the Dutch trading mission was permitted virtually no contact with the mainland. I have no idea how historically accurate this is, but the reader never questions it for a minute.
Hi I’m Ruby. I’m 8 years old I love riding horses and reading books about horses, I go to Los Encinos School. My best subject in school is reading.
The name of this book is: A Horse of Her Own (Square Fish, 7.99). It is written by Annie Wedekind. Annie Wedekind wishes she could sing better. If Annie were born with a totally different skill set she would want to speak dozens of languages. Annie prefers to write her books in a little run down cafeteria, when they closed, her mother bought a table from that shop and Annie still writes at that table.
In the past few months I have written about two biographies of major jazz figures, Louis Armstrong and Thelonious Monk, and now comes a major work on Duke Ellington, entitled Duke Ellington’s America, written by Harvey G. Cohen (University of Chicago Press, 40.00). Although any biographical work on a jazz musician is to a greater or lesser extent going to be a book on the sad story of race in America, this book confronts the topic directly and as a matter of central concern. In fact the book is not a conventional biography, dealing scarcely at all with Ellington's romantic affairs and the like: it deals instead with what made him, even from the very beginning of his long career, something special, something different.