April 3, 2021
This week we delve into the minds of men: a major biography of a literary lion, portraits of Black performers, new stories by one of our favorite Japanese stylists, and some propulsive thrillers featuring eco-terrorism, neuroscience, and Pacific Northwest gentrification—plus a little Hemingway thrown in.
And don’t forget April is National Poetry Month. Click here to see some very special staff recommendations.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
Philip Roth: The Biography
By Blake Bailey
Published by WW Norton
Say what you will about his sometimes abrasive personality, his work speaks for itself. From Portnoy (which still holds up today) to Zuckerman and Sabbath, and American Pastoral (my favorite) to the wives and disastrous marriages and lovers, Bailey, the authorized biographer, proves himself worthy of one of the giants of the 20th century. Thirty-one books filled with narcissism and sex and intellectual brilliance, winning almost every award, except the most prized by Roth, the Nobel. Bailey’s immensely accomplished study is the only biography you’ll ever need to understand and celebrate the great Philip Roth.
A Little Devil in America
By Hanif Abdurraqib
Published by Random House
The title is a quote from the legendary jazz artist Josephine Baker—appropriate as the essays celebrate Black performance in America with some of our most memorable artists. Abdurraqib includes Merry Clayton (the unforgettable back-up singer on “Gimme Shelter”), Beyoncé, and even Mike Tyson to form a cultural chronicle laced with his own personal observations. This highly praised, big-hearted writer of music criticism and poetry succeeds once more in providing a reflective lens through which to view American culture. Limited signed copies are available!.
First Person Singular
By Haruki Murakami
Published by Knopf
Translated by Philip Gabriel
Murakami is a literary master—funny, clever and provocative—and a global cult figure. (You can buy comforters, shower curtains and bath mats graced with one of his early books covers, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.) The eight stories in this collection, three of them new, remind us of his ability to delve deep into his character’s psyches, and are all told in the first person. The title story resonates today as the narrator looks over his closetful of proper suits and can’t wait to get back into his sweats!
By Jeff Vandermeer
Published by MCD
Vandermeer’s fiction cannot be neatly placed in one category—he has written literary fantasy, horror, post-apocalyptic fiction, and eco-thrillers. The last niche is what his new book falls into where you’ll encounter taxidermied vanishing species (see: the title) as the heroine is swept into a race to uncover a conspiracy that threatens the entire world. Our narrator, a 6-foot tall amazon who works as a software manager, finds her life in serious danger. Vandermeer’s unmistakable prose is so vividly descriptive you can’t help being swept away yourself..
The Night Always Comes
By Willy Vlautin
Published by HarperCollins
I had never read Vlautin and what a great discovery. He cites as influences both Raymond Carver and Tom Waits (he’s also a musician). His new heart-stopping novel features a young over-employed Portland woman who is trying to buy a house for her mother and brother with an intellectual disability. The story soon spins into a tension-filled race to acquire the necessary funds. When she comes up against local greed and sleazy businessmen her very safety is threatened. Vlautin’s deeply etched ordinary working-class characters prove unforgettable.
By Erik Hoel
Published by Overlook Press
Erik Hoel has a double literary pedigree—his mother owns the wonderful Massachusetts bookstore, Jabberwocky, and he was a Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow. Already an accomplished neuroscientist and a professor at Tufts University, he deftly transforms his career specialty into fiction about the nature of the unconscious and an investigation into the death of a colleague that seems suspicious. The writing in his debut novel is wild and exciting, proving that science is not just facts and figures..