October 14, 2023
This week we have murder in Bordeaux, as well as in British Malaya (by an author we have the pleasure of hosting); a rumination on the end of the world by a favorite Center writer; a dying madman pondering the infinite varieties of sexual experience; and a collection of essays by acclaimed writers contemplating the infinite varieties of endings.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
Vengeance is Mine
By Marie Ndiaye
Published by Knopf
NDiaye is the Senegalese French writer you’ve been waiting to discover. Her ominous new novel has a compelling (unreliable) narrator—a lawyer defending a case in which a woman murdered her three young children, and whose husband seems to trigger Maître Susane’s repressed memory of abuse when she was only ten. This fever dream of a novel takes us through Susane’s own unravelling (“…laid low by the sorrow of living…”) as she probes that sorrow. It is a mesmerizing journey that verges on the horrific, beautifully calibrated to keep the reader guessing. NDiaye’s previous novel The Cheffe is also available in both English and French.
The House of Doors
By Tan Twan Eng
Published by Bloomsbury
In Tan Twan Eng’s novel, it is the early 1900s on the island of Penang and Somerset Maugham, whose career is waning, arrives to visit the Hamlyns, his male secretary in tow. Hamlyn’s wife takes Maugham into her confidence, divulging her personal secrets and regaling him with the story of the scandalous murder of William Steward by his wife. So begins a tale of murder and betrayal set during the colonial era. It is inspired by Maugham’s short story, “The Letter,” which has been adapted into a play and film, notably the 1940 Bette Davis vehicle. Tan says he “took ‘The Letter’ and speculated.” The result is a wonderful blend of history and imagination..
By Walter Mosley
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press
The Justs are the only Black family in their Hollywood Hills neighborhood. Martin has a superpower that might be the ‘Cure’ for a threat to humanity. Haunting the story is a ghostly figure who walks with a cane and has the ability to obliterate with his touch. In Mosley’s new novel, he imagines a terrifying future. It is a foray into the realm of writers like Jemisin and Butler, mixing considerations of race, technology, a family story, and alternative history. It’s exciting to see this master of crime take a leap into science fiction in his novels, and totally succeed. Limited signed copies are available.
By Justin Torres
Published by FSG
Acclaimed for his moving coming-of-age debut, We the Animals, Torres changes direction with a haunting novel featuring two characters who met in an insane asylum. Our narrator is visiting Juan who now lays dying at ‘the Palace.’ Juan is determined to hand over his research on a book titled Sex Variants. Torres includes pages from the object of Juan’s obsession with much of the text blacked out. What remains is a fascinating, century-old relic written by a woman. Torres takes this opportunity to rescue a chapter of queer history in a theatrical two-character encounter. A bold and exciting achievement, it just made the National Book Award shortlist for Fiction..
By John Freeman
Published by Grove Press
John Freeman, formerly of Granta, has a new addition (the tenth and last) to his long-running anthology series. It is fittingly themed as explorations of conclusions. The impressive roundup of contributors includes Rebecca Makkai, Julia Alvarez, Colum McCann, Mieko Kawakami, Sandra Cisneros, Omar El Akkad, Louise Erdrich, and Tommy Orange, representing a variety of voices and cultures. The writers approach the subject from all angles—in short fiction, essays, and poetry (even a posthumous piece from Denis Johnson). An appropriate ending for the terrific literary journal which has always featured some of the best writing of our day.