July 15, 2023
This week’s authors are keen observers of American culture. For antic humor there is the second installment of a prize-winning writer’s foray into crime writing. One of our finest short fiction writers has released a collection of stories examining the fallout of the appalling 2017 Charlottesville rally. A work of nonfiction celebrates a New Yorker contributor’s life well-lived in the service of writing. And we have a wonderful memoir by a man losing his sight, a fitting title as we mark National Disabilities Month.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Colson Whitehead
Published by Doubleday
Two-time Pulitzer winner Whitehead (Harlem Shuffle) continues his bestselling crime caper trilogy set in working-class Harlem. It is 1971 and his irascible and utterly charming protagonist, Ray Carney, furniture store owner and sometime fence, is trying to avoid getting drawn back into the criminal life after four years on “the straight and narrow.” Now in his 40s, he and his friend Pepper (the “crooked duo”) stumble into a dicey situation jump-started by trying to get Ray’s daughter Jackson 5 tickets. As the country careens toward the 1976 Bicentennial and Harlem erupts in violence, Whitehead once again explores Black experience in 20th-century America like no other.
By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published by Del Rey
Winner of the British Fantasy Award, among other prizes, Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic) has created a new genre-blending novel which she calls “supernatural suspense.” We find ourselves in Mexico City among three characters in different aspects of the film industry: Monserrat is a sound editor (inspired by the author’s mother), her actor friend Tristán (inspired by the author’s husband), and Abel, a B-movie director. There is also a ghost with ties to the occult, Nazism and White Supremacy who has the ability to cast magical spells. Something for everyone? Absolutely—especially if you love horror movies—and lots of fun to read..
By Ann Beattie
Published by Scribner
Beattie sets her interconnected stories in Charlottesville, VA, a location that allows her to explore the liberal residents associated with the University, as well as the conservative Deep South denizens and White Supremacists there. “Since the Unite the Right rally in 2017, the town had operated under a cloud of shame. It winced under the outside world’s shocked attention.” As always, the author captures the essences of her indelible characters in descriptive shorthand (an ex is called The Narcissist) and the specter of the Civil War monuments, especially Robert E. Lee on his horse, ties all the characters together.
Tabula Rasa, Volume 1
By John McPhee
Published by FSG
The incomparable geologist, essayist, Princeton professor and consummate New Yorker writer has assembled a new collection in his 91st year (volume 1!). He recalls meeting (as a naïve young man) Thornton Wilder who was cataloging 1,800 plays of Lope de Vega—an endless “old man’s project.” He sees now that this is just the sort of project necessary to keep engaged in the creative pursuit of writing. These pieces represent work he started and put aside. They are astute, intimate portraits of people he has met, places he has been, sports, presidents, food and so much more. With his humor and endless curiosity, he remains a national treasure..
The Country of the Blind
By Andrew Leland
Published by Penguin Press
Leland, an editor at The Believer, has written a very moving memoir of his progressive blindness. In it, he recalls how people first responded when he shared his diagnosis—as though he’d received a death sentence. He began life with full sight, however over time the retinitis pigmentosa will take his sight away completely. But as he chronicles the changing relationship with his work and his family, and the larger world of blindness, he examines the “big questions,” considering what sort of blind person he will become. His story is inspirational, told with humor and a compassion that resonates with anyone facing a life-changing disability.