September 4, 2021
Be prepared—September 2021 has some of the most extraordinary writers publishing new books of fiction, poetry, and essays. I would advise cleaning off that littered nightstand. Heavy hitters like Colm Tóibín, Lauren Groff, and Sally Rooney lead this week’s fiction selection alongside new books of narrative nonfiction by two of our most eloquent and relevant stylists. In addition, pre-orders are now open for one of the most highly anticipated fall releases: The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones, based on her Pulitzer Prize-winning work published in The New York Times Magazine two years ago. The publication date is November 16.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By COLM TÓIBÍN
Published by SCRIBNER
The Magician is a powerful portrait of an acknowledged giant of literature. It is also a deep psychological study of what it means to be a writer and an examination of the moral duty to speak out about horrific political events. Thomas Mann was an enormously influential figure in Germany in the buildup to and aftermath of WWII. But he was first and foremost a family man, while also carrying on clandestine love affairs with men. Tóibín structures his moving narrative around the places Mann lived and loved—Lübeck, Germany; Venice; Switzerland; Pacific Palisades; Princeton. This novel feels like an instant classic. And you’ll definitely want to drag out that copy of The Magic Mountain again.
Beautiful World, Where Are You
By SALLY ROONEY
Published by FSG
Rooney writes about young Irish women and men, but their conflicts transcend age, gender, class, and geography. Her writing is brimming with wit and empathy. She seems more of her time than of her place and her characters’ foibles feel universal as they try to find themselves in the world. Alice is an unexpectedly successful novelist; Eileen, an assistant at a literary magazine; Simon, a religious and political childhood friend of Eileen’s; and Felix, who Alice met on Tinder, works in a warehouse. Their pairings are complicated—fraught, hesitant, tender, uncomfortable, comforting. In other words, realistic. I urge you to take the journey with them..
By JOY HARJO
Published by W. W. NORTON
Harjo was the first Native American poet laureate of the United States. Her sensibility is evident in this excerpt from “Eagle Poem”: “We see you, see ourselves and know; That we must take the utmost care; And kindness in all things.” Her new memoir (see 2012’s Crazy Brave) celebrates a life spent listening to nature, to music and to her ancestors. A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and based in Tulsa, Harjo’s work (including nine volumes of poetry) has touched many lives. In her ongoing dedication to justice both for the land and for humanity, she is a true inspiration for all of us.
By LAUREN GROFF
Published by RIVERHEAD
Turning the last page of this epic journey (in under 300 pages), I marveled at what Groff had accomplished. Her novel is set in medieval England during the reign of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who cast out 17-year-old Marie de France from her court, and sent her to a distant abbey. The tale covers six decades—from Marie’s teen years through her rise to an abbess extraordinaire caring for nuns and oblates—as she transforms an impoverished house of God into a thriving, wealthy nunnery surrounded by an elaborate labyrinth. Groff makes Marie’s life mesmerizing. Matrix is a lesson in early feminism and sexuality, historically edifying, emotionally moving and filled with extraordinary language..
By MAGGIE NELSON
Published by GRAYWOLF
Easily one of our most important critics today, Nelson burrows into the notion of freedom, in all its permutations and interpretations through history. Her intention in this new essay collection is “to bear down on the felt complexities of the freedom drive in four distinct realms—art, sex, drugs, and climate.” She cites Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, Michel Foucault, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many more in a volume that should become essential reading for our times. You can watch her scintillating conversation with Olivia Laing, a kindred spirit, here.