September 5, 2020
As usual September is beginning with an abundance of tasty, irresistible books to read. Despite the absence of all the usual in-person events of New York’s cultural offerings which we locals duly note in our calendars, readers everywhere can be thankful for the extraordinary works of debut fiction and new titles by much-loved writers out this month (not to mention the many wonderful virtual events). An embarrassment of riches!
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Ali Smith
Published by Pantheon
This is the finale to Smith’s quiet masterpiece, the Seasonal Quartet. Smith’s intention to write one novel a year that reflects the world around her has produced an unforgettable reading experience with a real immediacy. She has already tackled Brexit and global warming but could not have predicted where we’d be today when she sat down to write the conclusion. If I had my way I would spend the last days of summer reading all of the installments back to back.
By Hari Kunzru
Published by Knopf
A favorite author and a friend of the Center for Fiction, Kunzru starts his new story in 2016 in the midst of that despairing election circus when his troubled narrator flees Brooklyn for the welcome opportunity of a writer’s residency outside Berlin. But even there a disturbing mid-life crisis threatens his grasp on the world as he begins to mentally deteriorate. It is a mesmerizing read and one that has much resonance for today’s anxious world..
By Katharina Volckmer
Published by Avid Reader / Simon & Schuster
Again, set in Germany—a darkly comic monologue from a young German woman who bares her soul to her London doctor. Comparisons to so many of the Center for Fiction’s favorite writers (Moshfegh, Lawlor, Halliday, Greenwell, Kang, Braithwaite, and Nunez—see below) not to mention squirrel tails, sent me running to this one and I was not disappointed. Try it.
What Are You Going Through
By Sigrid Nunez
Published by Riverhead
A simply beautiful book about friendship between two women, and a request by one to grant an ultimate wish. Their ruminations of life and death, without sentiment, are so closely observed the novel reads like a journal. It provokes and makes you think deeply about what you would do in their shoes. It is the human condition laid bare. The title in its original French—quel est ton tourment?—from the philosopher Simone Weil, is a key to the book’s power..
By Daisy Johnson
Published by Riverhead
Johnson’s voice is so singular it is not a surprise she was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Everything Under. Here she undertakes a story about the fraught relationship between a couple of siblings, named July and September, in a novel that is Gothic in the best Shirley Jackson fashion. “They always seemed to be telling some great secret, some truth only they could know.” To say the full effect is unsettling is an understatement.
Just Us: An American Conversation
By Claudia Rankine
Published by Graywolf
A rather original conceit—a record of conversations with white men, in transitional spaces like airport terminals, places where there is sort of no there there. Rankine combines this material with poems and essays to create a fascinating portrait of white privilege (which she calls “the ability to simply live your life”). Hers is an essential voice and this new book is an urgent clarion to step outside one’s comfort zone and listen..