May 22, 2021
The selection this week addresses matters of urgency, but also lessons of patience as the texts explore necessary historical, political, and environmental concerns. They also take time for the most pressing personal need of finding oneself. Time here is elastic; it is everything and nothing. Read on to find a book that fits into your schedule.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
The Secret to Superhuman Strength
By ALISON BECHDEL
Published by HOUGHTON MIFFLIN
Bechdel’s latest graphic novel is a must-read. If you’ve never read her (Are You My Mother? and Fun Home), start now. This memoir hilariously takes us through her obsession with exercise and fitness (remember Jack LaLanne from the 60s?) to her aha! moment as she searches for enlightenment (including reading Kerouac). She comes to realize what is really important in life—connection with her inner self and with others, rather than body perfection. Her comic genius does not overshadow her heartfelt message; it merely makes it more entertaining and universal.
The Living Sea of Waking Dreams
By RICHARD FLANAGAN
Published by KNOPF
A master of titles (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), Flanagan is a Man Booker Prize-winning novelist who always brings his native Australia to vivid life. His new novel is a rich domestic drama with a hint of magical realism. A family gathers at the deathbed of their matriarch as decisions to prolong her life cause disruption among the siblings, especially Anna the main caretaker. Impelled by the recent wildfires, Flanagan sets his story in their midst bringing an insistence to the family-centered story that conflates the disappearance of the natural (and physical) world with the loss of their mother. The dreamy prose mesmerizes..
Leonard and Hungry Paul
By RÓNÁN HESSION
Published by MELVILLE HOUSE
This wonderful first novel got slightly lost in the pandemic, but I wanted to revisit it after reading stellar reviews of the new paperback edition. Written by an Irish musician, it is both innovative and refreshing. Hession tells the story of two quiet men who still live with their parents and are devoted friends. What makes them unique is that they are part of the invisible of the world—modest, gentle, living lives without the noise and anxiety of human drama. A simple, happy tale but deceptively profound, it could easily become a cult favorite.
By ANNETTE GORDON-REED
Published by LIVERIGHT
On the eve of the annual Juneteenth commemoration (June 19th), we celebrate with Gordon-Reed’s beautiful memoir that delves not only into her personal past growing up Black in Texas, but also the historical past and the significant milestone in 1865 when slavery came to an end in that state. On Juneteenth is also an important reminder of why the date should be recognized as a federal holiday. In addition, note the just-reissued paperback of Ralph Ellison’s classic novel, Juneteenth, with a new introduction by Charles R. Johnson..
By FRANCIS SPUFFORD
Published by SCRIBNER
Spufford (Golden Hill) turns from historical New York to a day in English history when five London children were killed in a 1944 German air strike. He imagines, with deft literary precision, the future lives of these young innocents through the decades of the 20th century and all its changes, had they not lost their lives during WWII. A bit reminiscent of Kate Atkinson’s masterpiece Life After Life, it is a beautiful story that also honors the enormous losses of war.
How to Betray Your Country
By JAMES WOLFF
Published by BITTER LEMON PRESS
Although a sequel to Beside the Syrian Sea, this riveting book of espionage set in Turkey stands alone as a gripping thriller. A fine example of the foreign mysteries put out by the small English publisher, Bitter Lemon Press, the novel follows a British intelligence agent who has seen better days, in his personal life and on the job. How far will he go when he becomes enmeshed in Islamic politics upon his arrival in Istanbul? His journey exposes the moral dilemmas of his chosen career, a bit like late le Carre, as he gets further and further into a dangerous game of intrigue. A third installment is set to follow!.