New fiction at the Libraries, Dec 9

December 9, 2010 – 11:07 AM

The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison
PR6101.L45155 V47 2010

England, 31st August 1939: the world is on the brink of war. As Hitler prepares to invade Poland, thousands of children are evacuated from London to escape the impending Blitz. Torn from her mother, eight-year-old Anna Sands is relocated with other children to a large Yorkshire estate which has been opened up to evacuees by Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, an enigmatic childless couple. Soon Anna gets drawn into their unhappy relationship, seeing things that are not meant for her eyes – and finding herself part-witness and part-accomplice to a love affair, with tragic consequences. A story of love, loss and complicated loyalties, combining a sweeping narrative with subtle psychological observation, The Very Thought of You is a haunting and memorable debut.

Morning and Evening Talk: A Novel by Naguib Mahfouz
Translated from the Arabic by Christina Phillips.
PJ7846.A46 H2313 2009

This unusual epic from the Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz portrays five generations of one sprawling family against the upheavals of two centuries of modern Egyptian history.

Set in Cairo, Morning and Evening Talk traces three related families from the arrival of Napoleon to the 1980s, through short character sketches arranged in alphabetical order. This highly experimental device produces a kind of biographical dictionary, whose individual entries come together to paint a vivid portrait of life in Cairo from a range of perspectives. The characters include representatives of every class and human type and as the intricate family saga unfolds, a powerful picture of a society in transition emerges. This is a tale of change and continuity, of the death of a traditional way of life and the road to independence and beyond, seen through the eyes of Egypt’s citizens. Naguib Mahfouz’s last chronicle of Cairo is both an elegy to a bygone era and a tribute to the Egyptian spirit.

Loose Pearls and Other Stories by D.C. Troicuk
PR9199.4.T76 L66 2010

Loose Pearls is a collection of short stories, gems from a practiced and gifted writer whose insights and imaginings are, as the title suggests, beautiful and mysterious. In contrast with the superficial sameness of a string of pearls, however, Troicuk calls our attention to the unique and the flawed. Like natural pearls her characters are alive with subtle, resilient and troubled colours.

Stolen Horses by Dan O’Brien
PS3565.B665 S76 2010

McDermot, Nebraska, is a pleasant, scenic western cattle town situated in the Pawnee River valley—just the place for people seeking refuge from their hectic city lives. It is also just the place for those who have made their homes on this haunting prairie since the late nineteenth century. Ideal for both, McDermot means everything to those native inhabitants and something very different to those who are looking for a new life.

As the native residents wrestle with the arrival of outsiders, a local journalist uncovers a medical scandal epitomizing the problems facing the divided community. After the death of two men, it falls to the ancient but powerful district attorney to mediate a resolution between the clashing interests of the new and the old West. And the Thurston family, descended from the town’s first citizen, sets out in its own way to fight the forces threatening to destroy it. This is the story of new and old interests colliding, of small western plains towns confronting the forces of “progress.”

The Ise Stories
Translated and with commentary by Joshua S. Mostow and Royall Tyler.
PL787 .I813 2010

Ise monogatari is one of classical Japan’s most important texts. It influenced other literary court romances like The Tale of Genji and inspired artists, playwrights, and poets throughout Japanese history and to the present day.

In a series of 125 loosely connected episodes, the Ise tells the story of a famous lover, Captain Ariwara no Narihira (825–880), and his romantic encounters with women throughout Japan. Each episode centers on an exchange of love poems designed to demonstrate wit, sensitivity, and “courtliness.”

Joshua Mostow and Royall Tyler present a fresh, contemporary translation of this classic work, together with a substantial commentary for each episode. The commentary explores how the text has been read in the past and identifies not only the point of each episode, but also the full range of historical interpretations, many of which shaped the use of the Ise in later literary and visual arts. The book includes reproductions from a version of the 1608 Saga-bon printed edition of the Ise, the volume that established Ise iconography for the entire Edo period (1600–1868).

Witz: A Novel by Joshua Cohen
PS3553.O42434 W58 2010

On Christmas Eve 1999, all the Jews in the world die in a strange, millennial plague, with the exception of the firstborn males, who are soon adopted by a cabal of powerful people in the American government. By the following Passover, however, only one is still alive: Benjamin Israelien; a kindly, innocent, ignorant man-child. As he finds himself transformed into an international superstar, Jewishness becomes all the rage: matzo-ball soup is in every bowl, sidelocks are hip; and the only truly Jewish Jew left is increasingly stigmatized for not being religious. Since his very existence exposes the illegitimacy of the newly converted, Israelien becomes the object of a worldwide hunt . . .

Meanwhile, in the not-too-distant future of our own, “real” world, another last Jew—the last living Holocaust survivor—sits alone in a snowbound Manhattan, providing a final melancholy witness to his experiences in the form of the punch lines to half-remembered jokes.

Audition by Ryu Murakami
Translated by Ralph McCarthy.
PL856.U696 O3513 2010

Documentary-maker Aoyama hasn’t dated anyone in the seven years since the death of his beloved wife, Ryoko. Now even his teenage son Shige has suggested he think about remarrying. So when his best friend Yoshikawa comes up with a plan to hold fake film auditions so that Aoyama can choose a new bride, he decides to go along with the idea. Of the thousands who apply, Aoyama only has eyes for Yamasaki Asami, a young, beautiful, delicate and talented ballerina with a turbulent past. But there is more to her than Aoyama, blinded by his infatuation, can see, and by the time he discovers the terrifying truth it may be too late. Ryu Murakami delivers his most subtle and disturbing novel yet, confirming him as Japan’s master of the psycho-thriller.

The King of Trees by Ah Cheng
Translated from the Chinese by Bonnie S. McDougall.
PL2833.A34 A2 2010

When the three novellas in The King of Trees were published separately in China in the 1980s, “Ah Cheng fever” spread across the country. Never before had a fiction writer dealt with the Cultural Revolution in such Daoist-Confucian terms, discarding Mao-speak, and mixing both traditional and vernacular elements with an aesthetic that emphasized not the hardships and miseries of those years, but the joys of close, meaningful friendships. In The King of Chess, a student’s obsession with finding worthy chess opponents symbolizes his pursuit of the dao; in The King of Children—made into an award-winning film by Chen Kaige, the director of Farewell My Concubine—an educated youth is sent to teach at an impoverished village school where one boy’s devotion to learning is so great he is ready to spend 500 days copying his teacher’s dictionary; and in the title novella a peasant’s innate connection to a giant primeval tree takes a tragic turn when a group of educated youth arrive to clear the mountain forest. As moving and enduring as the best of Jack London or Knut Hamsun, The King of Trees is as relevant today as it will be tomorrow.

Doubles: A Novel by Nic Brown
PS3602.R72242 D68 2010

Slow Smith is in a slump. He’s a professional tennis player stuck in his hometown, serving to an empty court. His wife is in a coma and he’s afraid he’s to blame. Left behind are her Polaroids, obsessive daily records of their life together. Meanwhile Kaz, Slow’s lifelong doubles partner, is traveling the world while playing with someone new.

Then one afternoon his old coach Manny appears in a dumpy Fiat convertible and persuades Slow to get in. When they return to Forest Hills — the site of a six-year winning streak — they reunite with old friends who call up long-buried desires and reveal a secret that threatens to destroy Slow’s marriage as well as his friendship with Kaz.

Slow just can’t win — and especially not back on the court. Turns out Kaz can’t either. Theirs is a bond driven as much by odd habits as by shared life experiences — a marriage not unlike the one rendered comatose — and the only way to get their lives back on track is by playing together again.
At once hilarious and heartbreaking, Doubles serves up a tale of melancholy and redemption — both on the court and off.

Drain:  A Novel by Davis Schneiderman
PS3619.C4472 D73 2010

It s the year 2039, and Lake Michigan is mysteriously emptied of
water. The planet’s atmosphere and magnetic field are failing, and fires burn ominously throughout the empty lake bed. In this seemingly endless desert east of Chicago, three factions are locked in conflict: the original end-of-times cultist settlers who follow religious visionary Fulcrum Maneuvers and worship a giant World Worm they deem responsible for the drained lake; the megacorporation Quadrilateral, a mega-consumerist, planned-community combine of bourgeois city planners developing what is now called the Wildland-Urban Interface; and the Blackout Angels, landlocked punk pirates raised in Quadrilateral cities, who oppose everything and everyone.

In Davis Schneiderman’s shocking novel, Drain, freedom, creativity, and transgression wage war with forces of control, censorship, and conformity.

The wordscapes of William S. Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon, the dystopic nightmares of Philip K. Dick, and the transgressive punch of Chuck Palahniuk and Georges Bataille together convene in this stunning and thrilling work.

Klausen: A Novel by Andreas Maier
Translated from the German by Kenneth J. Northcott.
PT2673.A375 K6313 2010

Nobody knows exactly what happened in the small town of Klausen, or rather, everyone knows: a bomb went off on the autobahn, or at a shack near the autobahn, or someone was shooting at the town from a bridge; it all stems from a fight over measuring noise pollution on the town square, or it was the work of eco-terrorists, or Italians. And while nobody knows who or what to blame—although they’re certainly uneasy about the Moroccan and Albanian immigrants who are squatting in an abandoned castle—they all suspect that Josef Gasser, who spent several years away from Klausen, in Berlin, is behind it all. Only one thing is clear: Klausen was now a crime scene. In Klausen, Andreas Maier has taken Thomas Bernhard’s method—the nested indirect speech, the repetition, the endless paragraph—and pointed it at an entire town. A town where one confusion leads to the next, where everyone is living in a fog of rumor, but where everyone claims to know exactly what’s going on, even if they’ve changed their story several times.

Cold Earth by Sarah Moss
PR6113.O87 C65 2009

Six young people meet on an archaeological dig in a remote corner of Greenland. Excavating the unsettling remains of a Norse society under attack, they also come to uncover some of their own demons, as it becomes apparent that a plague pandemic is sweeping across the planet and communication with the outside world is breaking down. Increasingly unsure whether their missives will ever reach their destination, each of the characters writes a letter to someone close to them, trying to make sense of their situation and expressing their fears and dwindling hope of ever getting back home…In fluid, witty prose, Moss weaves a rich tapestry of personal narratives, history, ghost stories, love stories, stories of grief and naked survival. Through these missives, the author explores themes that are at the very heart of our existence: What do people do in extremis? What do they think when faced with near-certain death? How do the group dynamics shift under such strain?

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