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New in Paperback for November

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November is upon us and the paperback releases are looking good. This month, keep your eye out for this excellent crop of new books—mostly originals.

The Ballonist by MacDonald Harris with an introduction from Philip Pullman
As in the best of Jules Verne or Albert Sanchez Pinol, “The Balloonist” is a gripping and surreal yarn, chilling and comic by turn, that brilliantly reinvents the Arctic adventure.

It is July 1897, at the northernmost reach of the inhabited world. A Swedish scientist, an American journalist, and a young, French-speaking adventurer climb into a wicker gondola suspended beneath a huge, red-and-white balloon. The ropes are cut, the balloon rises, and the three begin their voyage: an attempt to become the first people to set foot on the North Pole, and return, borne on the wind. Philip Pullman says in his foreword: “Once I open any of MacDonald Harris’s novels I find it almost impossible not to turn and read on, so delightful is the sensation of a sharp intelligence at work.

Kafka in Love by Jacqueline Raoul-Duval
Kafka was an attractive, slender, and elegant man–something of a dandy, who captivated his friends and knew how to charm women. He seemed to have had four important love affairs: Felice, Julie, Milena, and Dora. All of them lived far away, in Berlin or Vienna, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons that he loved them: he chose long-distance relationships so he could have the pleasure of writing to them, without the burden of having to live with them. He was engaged to all four women, and four times he avoided marriage. At the end of each love affair, he threw himself into his writing and produced some of his most famous novels: Amerika, The Trial, and The Castle.

In this charming book, author Jacqueline Raoul-Duval follows the paper trail of Kafka’s ardor. She uses his voice in her own writing, and a third of the book is pulled from Kafka’s journals. It is the perfect introduction to this giant of world literature, and captures his life and romances in a style worthy of his own.

Granta: The Best Young Brazilian Novelists edited by John Freeman
Since Granta’s inaugural list of the Best of Young British Novelists in 1983 – featuring Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Martin Amis and Julian Barnes – the Best of Young issues have been some of the magazine’s most influential and best-selling. In 2010, Granta looked beyond the English-speaking world with Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists.

Now, in an issue fully translated in partnership with Granta em Português, the magazine celebrates emerging talent from Brazil, many translated into English for the first time. Authors include Cristhiano Aguiar, Vanessa Barbara, Carol Bensimon, Javier Arancibia Contreras, J.P. Cuenca, Miguel del Castillo, Laura Erber, Emilio Fraia, Julian Fuks, Daniel Galera, Luisa Geisler, Vinicius Jatoba, Michel Laub, Tatiana Salem Levy, Ricardo Lisias, Chico Mattoso, Antonio Prata, Carola Saavendra, Leandro Sarmatz, and Antonio Xerxenesky.

Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin
Day after day the Russian asylum-seekers sit across from the interpreter and Peter—the Swiss officers who guard the gates to paradise—and tell of the atrocities they’ve suffered, or that they’ve invented, or heard from someone else. These stories of escape, war, and violence intermingle with the interpreter’s own reading: a his­tory of an ancient Persian war; letters sent to his son “Nebuchadnezzasaurus,” ruler of a distant, imaginary childhood empire; and the diaries of a Russian singer who lived through Russia’s wars and revolutions in the early part of the twentieth century, and eventually saw the Soviet Union’s dissolution.

Mikhail Shishkin’s Maidenhair is an instant classic of Russian literature. It bravely takes on the eternal questions—of truth and fiction, of time and timeless­ness, of love and war, of Death and the Word—and is a movingly luminescent expression of the pain of life and its uncountable joys.

Hush Hush: Stories by Steven Barthelme
If you’re up $16,000 at the casino and missing dinner with the woman you love, how do you find the strength to drive away? If you give up your career and your beautiful wife and find yourself drinking vodka and fixing cars for a living, is that necessarily a step down? In Hush Hush, Steven Barthelme gives us a simultaneously twisted, heartbreaking, and hilarious account of learning to quit when you’re ahead.

The collection, which includes the Pushcart Prize-winning “Claire,” exposes the surprising dignity in lying on your belly in the pouring rain, in ringing your ex-girlfriend’s doorbell at 4 A.M., in sleeping with your dead wife’s best friend. Co-author with his brother Frederick of the brilliant and devastating casino memoir, Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss, Steven Barthelme seems to cast an eye at his own history and the characters he’s known. These are men and women who are down — but stirringly, not quite out. An unmissable, arresting book from one of the most seminal short story writers of the last twenty years.

The Other Side of the World by Jay Neugeboren
Charlie Eisner is a journeyman whose friend Nick convinces him to move to Singapore, where he falls in love with the vibrant and endangered world of nearby Borneo. One night, at a party in Nick’s Singapore apartment, Nick dies mysteriously, prompting Charlie to return to New England, where he discovers that Seana O’Sullivan has moved in with his father, Max, a retired professor with a beguiling and antic disposition. Seana, one of his father’s former students, is a wildly successful and provocative writer who is equally wild and provocative in life. Together, she and Charlie set out on a road trip, first to pay respects to Nick’s parents, and then on a journey where “weird things happen if you make room for them.”

From the forests of Borneo to the mean streets of Brooklyn and the haunting towns of coastal Maine, The Other Side of the World is a grand, episodic novel and yet another virtuoso performance by one of America’s most revered living writers.

The Writer’s Notebook II: Craft Essays from Tin House with an introduction from Francine Prose
The Writer’s Notebook II continues in the tradition of The Writer’s Notebook, featuring essays based on craft seminars from the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop, as well as a variety of craft essays from Tin House magazine contributors and Tin House Books authors. The collection includes essays that not only examine important craft aspects such as humor, suspense, and research but that also explore creating fractured and nonrealist narratives and the role of dream in fiction. An engaging and enlightening read, The Writer’s Notebook II is both a toolkit and an inspiration for any writer.

Moranthology by Caitlin Moran
The follow-up to Caitlin Moran’s breakout hit, How to Be a Woman–A hilarious collection of award-winning columns, available to American readers for the first time ever.

Possibly the only drawback to the bestselling How to Be a Woman was that its author, Caitlin Moran, was limited to pretty much one subject: being a woman. Moranthology is proof that Caitlin can actually be “quite chatty” about many other things, including cultural, social, and political issues that are usually the province of learned professors or hot-shot wonks–and not of a woman who once, as an experiment, put a wasp in a jar and got it stoned. Caitlin ruminates on–and sometimes interviews–subjects as varied as caffeine, Keith Richards, Ghostbusters, Twitter, transsexuals, the welfare state, the royal wedding, Lady Gaga, and her own mortality, to name just a few. With her unique voice, Caitlin brings insight and humor to everything she writes.

Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand
No one is innocent, no one unexamined in Shirley Jackson award-winning author Elizabeth Hand’s new collection of stories. From the mysterious people next door to the odd guy in the next office over, Hand teases apart the dark strangenesses of everyday life to show us the impossibilities, broken dreams, and improbable dreams that surely can never come true.

The Right Way to Do Wrong by Harry Houdini with an introduction from Teller
Originally published in 1906, The Right Way to Do Wrong was a masterclass in subversion conducted by the world’s greatest illusionist. It collected Hou­dini’s findings, from interviews with criminals and police officers, on the most surefire ways to commit crime and get away with it.

This volume presents the best of those writings alongside little-known articles by Houdini on his own brand of deception: magic. Revealing the secrets of his signature tricks, including handcuff and rope escapes, and debunking the methods of his rivals, he proves 
himself to be just as clever and nimble a writer as he was a magician—and surprisingly free with trade secrets! All of which makes this unique selection of works both the ultimate anti-etiquette guide and proof that things are not always as they seem.

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Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley

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While reading Parnassus on Wheels, a novella written in 1917 by Christopher Morley, a bunch of words that I never use sprung to mind. Like the book itself they were fun and made me smile. “Jaunty” was one “snappy” another.

Parnassus is clearly written for book lovers. After seven years of selling books on the road out of a horse-drawn wagon, which was suitable for living in as well, traveling salesman Roger Mifflin longed to move back to Brooklyn and begin writing his novel. His hope was that Andrew McGill, a newly published author living in Upstate New York, would want to buy his outfit. Unfortunately for Mifflin, McGill is out in the fields farming when he arrives and it’s the writer’s sister, Helen McGill, who answers the door.

Since her brother’s literary fame, Helen has noticed that Andrew has been neglecting his farmly duties in favor of reading and writing. Resentful of the shirking, and out of necessity for their continued survival, Helen intercepts the many packages from publishers sent to her brother’s attention–either carrying word of new projects or asking for support for others–and burns them in the stove before they can be read by the intended recipient.

When Helen sees the wagon full of books meant specifically for Andrew, she knows it is one step too far. No way could her brother resist. After attempting to shoo the bookseller away before her brother returned, she decides to buy the wagon herself. Giddy with a sense of adventure, she takes to the road after 15 years of not having once seen a vacation. To get her on her way, Professor Mifflin–as Helen takes to calling him–accompanies her for the first few miles, teaching her how to sell books and familiarizing her with his loyal customers.

When Andrew finds out that his sister has taken off in a traveling bookstore he attempts to stop her by nearly any means necessary but, being a strong and largely unapologetic woman, Helen has none of it. In this comedy of innocent misadventures, there are a slew of adorable mishaps as Helen struggles for independence.

Throughout Parnassus on Wheels there are two powerful themes: the empowerment of women and the power of books.

Parnassus on Wheels is literature very much within the realm of first-wave feminism. Oftentimes while reading, I imagined Helen hiking up her billowing dress, waving off any boosts, and pulling herself up onto the covered wagon with a sturdy grunt. On the road she’s given the time and space to learn about herself and gains the confidence to stand by what she wants.

“Now see here Andrew,” I said, “you talk too quickly. A woman of forty (you exaggerate, by the way) who has compiled an anthology of 6,000 loaves of bread and dedicated it to you deserves some courtesy. When you want to run off on some vagabond tour or other you don’t hesitate to do it. You expect me to stay home and do the Lady Eglantine in the poultry yard. By the ghost of Susan B. Anthony, I won’t do it! This is the first real holiday I’ve had in
fifteen years, and I’m going to suit myself.”

Given equal devotion, books are seen as a mode of education. The professor stresses that he performs a valuable service to the people he visits, pointing out that while cities might have libraries and bookstores, rural areas do not.

You see, my idea is that the common people—in the country, that is—never have had any chance to get hold of books, and never have had any one to explain what books can mean. It’s all right for college presidents to draw up their five-foot shelves of great literature, and for the publishers to advertise sets of their Linoleum Classics, but what the people need is the good, homely, honest stuff—something that’ll stick to their ribs—make them laugh and tremble and feel sick to think of the littleness of this popcorn ball spinning in space without ever even getting a hot-box! And something that’ll spur ’em on to keep the hearth well swept and the wood pile split into kindling and the dishes washed and dried and put away. Any one who can get the country people to read something worth while is doing his nation a real service. And that’s what
this caravan of culture aspires to….”

Besides being an endearing story of independence, defiance, and, ultimately, love Parnassus on Wheels offers some some great riffs on reading, such as this one from Helen:

“I think reading a good book makes one modest. When you see the marvellous insight into human nature which a truly great book shows, it is bound to make you feel small—like looking at the Dipper on a clear night, or seeing the winter sunrise when you go out to collect the morning eggs. And anything that makes you feel small is mighty good for you.”

And humorous truisms: “And nobody knows anything about literature unless he spends most of his life sitting down.”

Parnassus on Wheels is a book for book lovers, especially book loving women who, like me, will see a hero in the feisty figure of Helen McGill. I’ve been fortunate lately to come across many books that make me cheer but none as much as this one and not with such force. As the book came to a close I resisted the urge to lift it over my head like a trophy and whoop with excitement. McGill and her traveling bookstore triumph is certainly a winner.

::[Links]::
Find Parnassus on Wheels at your local indie bookstore
Find other books in Melville Houses’s Art of the Novella Series

Written by Gabrielle

August 21, 2012 at 7:00 am

New in Paperback for August

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Lots of good stuff coming out in paperback this August. Head to your local bookstore and look for them on the shelves.

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
Hailed by the critics and lauded for its riotously funny and scathing portrayal of America in an age of trial by media, materialism, and violence, Vernon God Little was an international sensation when it was first published in 2003 and awarded the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

The memorable portrait of America is seen through the eyes of a wry, young, protagonist. Fifteen-year-old Vernon narrates the story with a cynical twang and a four-letter barb for each of his townsfolk, a medley of characters. With a plot involving a school shooting and death-row reality TV shows, Pierre’s effortless prose and dialogue combine to form a novel of postmodern gamesmanship.

DBC Pierre’s website

Misfit by Adam Braver
Melding facts with imagination, Misfit is centered around the last weekend of Marilyn Monroe’s life, which, wanting to get away from the stress of a lawsuit filed against her by Twentieth Century Fox, she spent at Frank Sinatra’s resort, the Cal Neva Lodge, in Lake Tahoe. Using this weekend as a springboard, the novel explores moments throughout Monroe’s career when, faced with various opportunities, she altered her persona—from her days as a child, to her marriages with Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, to her studies with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, and, finally, to her role in the film Miller wrote for her, The Misfits.


This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music by Adam Brent Houghtaling
This Will End in Tears is the first ever and definitive guide to melancholy music. Author Adam Brent Houghtaling leads music fans across genres, beyond the enclaves of emo and mope-rock, and through time to celebrate the albums and artists that make up the miserabilist landscape. In essence a book about the saddest songs ever sung, This Will End in Tears is an encyclopedic guide to the masters of melancholy—from Robert Johnson to Radiohead, from Edith Piaf to Joy Division, from Patsy Cline to The Cure—an insightful, exceedingly engaging exploration into why sad songs make us so happy.

Persecution by Alessandro Piperno
In a sprawling villa on the outskirts of Rome, the members of the Pontecorvo family have gathered for dinner. Leo Pontecorvo, an internationally revered pediatric oncologist, is forty-eight. His wife, Rachel, is a physician and the loving mother to Filippo and Samuel, two amiable pre-teens. The evening news is on in the living room but nobody pays it any attention until Dr. Pontecorvo’s name surfaces from the background noise and a news item airs that will change the lives of the Pontecorvos forever.

Leo Pontecorvo has been publicly accused of a vile crime. A spotlight is turned on him that reveals the mistakes, regrets, and contradictions of a lifetime. Every detail of his private and professional life is about to come under scrutiny, to be debated by both friends and foes, by ravenous reporters and punctilious prosecutors. But Leo could bear all this if it weren’t for the suspicious gazes of his wife and children. Surely they, of all people, believe in his innocence!

Alessandro Piperno is widely acknowledged as one of today’s most talented European novelists. His voice is singular and shocking at times, yet always possessed of tenderness and enormous generosity of heart. His vision is broad and encompassing, his psychological insights penetrating and undeniable. In this deeply felt family drama, Alessandro Piperno paints a broad canvas and fills it with psychologically complex characters whom readers will instantly recognize and never forget.

Snowball’s Chance by John Reed
This unauthorized companion to George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a controversial parable about September 11th by one of fiction’s most inventive and provocative writers
Written in 14 days shortly after the September 11th attacks, Snowball’s Chance is an outrageous and unauthorized companion to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, in which exiled pig Snowball returns to the farm, takes charge, and implements a new world order of untrammeled capitalism. Orwell’s “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” has morphed into the new rallying cry: “All animals are born equal—what they become is their own affair.”

A brilliant political satire and literary parody, John Reed’s Snowball’s Chance caused an uproar on publication in 2002, denounced by Christopher Hitchens, and barely dodging a lawsuit from the Orwell estate. Now, a decade later, with America in wars on many fronts, readers can judge anew the visionary truth of Reed’s satirical masterpiece.

John Reed was born in New York City in 1969. Among his many books are the novels A Still Small Voice and The Whole, a play, All the World’s a Grave, and the non-fiction Tales of Woe. He currently teaches at The New School, and is a senior editor at The Brooklyn Rail.

Daniel Fights the Hurricane by Shane JonesEver since he was a boy, Daniel Suppleton has been deathly afraid of hurricanes, which he fears will arrive suddenly and reduce everyone he knows and loves to trembling skeletons. Retreating to live in a tipi in the woods, Daniel battles demons real and imagined. As his ex-wife, Karen, frantically searches for him, the long-awaited hurricane finally hits, and Daniel must find a way to save them both. Haunting, mesmerizing, and beautifully written, Daniel Fights a Hurricane is an affecting, original novel of love and loss, marriage and friendship, by a rising young talent.

Shane Jones is the author of the novel Light Boxes, which was named an NPR Best Book of 2010. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals, including LIT, New York Tyrant, Fairy Tale Review, and the Milan Review. He lives in upstate New York.

Shane Jones on Tumblr
Shane Jones on Twitter

Written by Gabrielle

July 31, 2012 at 7:04 am

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