June 3, 2023
An octopus and a cougar star in two different novels this week. We also have dreamlike encounters abroad from one of our favorite English novelists; a first collection of short fiction by a Soweto-born star in the making; and a crime writer cements his already stellar reputation. No June gloom here, these are all incredibly exciting books by both seasoned authors and those in the early stages of promising careers, all worthy of your TBR pile.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Magogodi oaMphela Makhene
Published by W. W. Norton
This debut author has said, “I study human beings, I need to get into the messiness…and unearth our most secret selves.” Set in apartheid South Africa, Makhene writes about how “white supremacy…has gnawed out our innards….” The terrific title story follows the life and death (at 106 years old) of Ntate, a boy shepherd during the Great Wars who ends up a peddler of innards. This writer packs more of the political, personal, sacred, and profane into a short story than most, and has a startling lyricism, sprinkled with Zulu. Start reading her now.
By Henry Hoke
Published by MCD
Hoke’s new fiction is sui generis. It is narrated by a furtive, queer mountain lion who lives in the Hollywood Hills, who is very, very hungry—almost hungry enough to eat a person. They stalk the hikers, listening to conversations about ‘ellay,’ therapy, and earthquakes. It’s easy to fall in love with this creature, as They search for sustenance and observe the strange behavior of the humans walking the paths. Hoke has imbued his story with a sense of melancholy, and a touch of humor, that brings the reader into the imagined thoughts of a lonely animal, looking for love..
By Deborah Levy
Published by FSG
It’s time Levy (The Man Who Saw Everything) won the Booker Prize (after three nominations). Her new novel is a return to her intellectually voluptuous prose and a consideration of identity’s enigmatic nature. While in Athens, Elsa, a famous pianist, sees a woman wearing an almost identical raincoat who could be (is?) her double. “My startling thought at that moment was that she and I were the same person.” Elsa is immediately plunged into a mysterious search for the woman. To explain Levy’s plots is besides the point; best to submerge yourself in the parallel world she creates, all the while feeling that it could happen to you.
All the Sinners Bleed
By S. A. Cosby
Published by Flatiron Books
Cosby is destined to follow writers like Walter Mosely and Attica Locke into the pantheon of bestselling Black crime writers. His newest noir harks back to his childhood growing up in a religious family with a disabled mother. The protagonist is the first Black sheriff in a small Southern town, hunting a serial killer. There is a school shooting, far-right groups celebrating confederate statues, and a town torn by both Black and white resentments. Cosby has called crime fiction “the gospel of the dispossessed.” He has recently teamed up with Questlove for a middle-grade series and it seems clear that this novel, already optioned for the movies, will be his breakout..
The Memory of Animals
By Claire Fuller
Published by Tin House
Fuller (Bitter Orange) has beautifully woven three narrative strands together: a 20-something marine biologist volunteers for an experimental vaccine to stop a deadly global virus; her letters to “H,” who turns out to be an octopus; and her time travels in a ‘revisiting contraption.’ This is a psychologically insightful exploration of a prophetic future unlike any pandemic novel you will read. Think HBO’s The Last of Us with marine life and a lot more heart (and a great ending). Limited signed copies available.