The Nix is a novel featuring Samuel Andreson-Anderson, who at age 11 is abandoned by his mother (telling him goodbye in the middle of the night she whispers not to worry), and never hears from or sees her again until 40 years later, when she appears on the nightly news for having thrown rocks at an arch conservative could-be presidential candidate. Samuel becomes a frustrated college teacher who once got a huge advance on an unwritten novel based on one short story that got him proclaimed as a “best under 40,” and, fifteen years later, he hasn’t written a single word because, well, he’s been too busy playing Elfquest on his computer. There’s an important story element involving his mother and the 1968 Chicago riots, as well as Samuel’s enduring obsession with the childhood girl-next-door, who, while he teeters on the brink, has become a world-renowned concert violinist. The Nix is clever, ambitious, funny, big-hearted, and brilliantly written, and the anticipation of its publication very much reminds me of a time in 1978, just before The World According to Garp was published.
The Genius of Birds is a splendidly written account of the remarkable ways, many of which are newly discovered, that birds gossip, eavesdrop, exact revenge, manipulate, sympathize, use tools, and communicate in myriad ways. This smart and entertaining narrative appeals to bird geeks and the commonly curious alike with anecdotes, science, and new insights into what birds know about our frighteningly changing world.
Sometimes we hear criticism (and sometimes we agree) that 600-page novels today are not being edited. Not so, Here I Am (whose title comes from Abraham’s response to God in the book of Genesis), which is actually only 571 pages—is the story of Jacob and Julia, their marriage in distress, and their three sons in present-day Washington D. C. over a one-month period in which there is a bar mitzvah, a Middle East earthquake, and an invasion of Israel. Chock full of narrative tension that is brilliant, very funny, irreverent, relevant, dirty, and altogether entertaining, from the author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
A lot of writers and readers would love to get inside the head of the former editor-in-chief or managing editor of (among others) Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, and Esquire, and get insight into the minds of many of the writers and friends who this person he has published, including Hunter S. Thompson, Tom McGuane, Edward Abbey, James Salter, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jim Harrison. Meet Terry McDonell in his Accidental Life, an enlightening, fascinating and fun book.
This provocative and lovely book of 100 photographs reaches the intimate environs of Bill Ferris, his Mississippi, and his beginnings as a trailblazing folklorist. It is a gift to those of us who appreciate or admire his work and the man himself.
Born to a sharecropper family of the rural South in 1915, it is soon known that Jane Chisolm has a birth defect that likely may have a life-long effect on the child. This, along with accompanying challenges of poverty, isolation, and a lack of schooling, are offset by certain other traits and conditions: Jane is bright, with a native poise and independent mind, and is surrounded by nature and animals. Brad Watson creates a vivid, colorful atmosphere about a certain time and place in a way that is magical. Likewise, his characters, especially Miss Jane—an unforgettable girl and woman with a great, heroic spirit—also come to life in all the peculiarities and frailties of their humanity. The novel is stunning in its tenderness and originality.
As one might guess and very much hope, Richard Russo’s new book is a follow-up to his wonderful 1993 novel, Nobody’s Fool. We are back in North Bath with some of those same wonderful characters, and this time perhaps an even stronger narrative and sense of humor which make for the most satisfyingly entertaining novel I’ve found this spring. Russo’s editor, Gary Fisketjon, calls the book “a crowning achievement of a storyteller who’s profound in every possible respect.”
Julian Barnes has enjoyed continued critical and popular success over a career of twenty books that venture various risks of both style and subject. The Noise of Time is a fictional account that, in less than 200 pages, gives us a vivid life of the great composer and pianist, Dmitri Shostakovich, and his Russia. Through Bolshevism, Marxism-Leninism, Stalin and Khrushchev, Shostakovich’s life is convincingly rendered as a struggle of art against political power, of humanity against oppression, so great that the fear of it became more terrifying than death itself.
Hot dog! A book of stories by Jack Pendarvis. Funny, completely unpredictable, occasionally sad, wildly inventive, more real than real life. “You should try sitting in your house in the dark listening to some troubled youths blow on their duck calls outside your window,” begins “Duck Call Gang.” In “Taco Foot,” one character says “We can’t be punished for our thoughts.” His so-called friend responds, “Oh yes we can.” Get it? Now go read the book.
Kent Haruf wrote this short novel before he died last November. A beautiful and compelling story of a relationship between two older people in a small town. It's almost as if Haruf wrote this as a love letter to us, his readers.
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Relying on scores of primary sources, Shepard has his child narrator tell the heroic story of Janusz Korczak, the doctor who tended to the Warsaw ghetto orphans. It is told through the eyes of Aron, who brings truth and bears witness to this unbearable event.