September 18, 2021
Two of this week’s selections confront the drastic changes in the world of climate change, with quite different takes on folding the issues into novelistic speculations. All four works of fiction manage to draw you into their tales with one-word titles. And a stunning essay collection takes on race and queerness from a dazzling writer who began publishing poetry in 2006.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By RICHARD POWERS
Published by W. W. NORTON
If you are looking for hope for the future of literature, read Bewilderment. I was left in tears. What a beautiful, passionate, poetic, totally relevant and resonant novel. From a Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer (The Overstory) who often pens rich (and long) books, this time Powers manages to distill a complete world on the brink of extinction into many fewer pages. In this heartbreaking story of a single father and his son, he has built imaginary astrophysical and natural domains with an evocative quietude that perfectly combines science, science fiction and domestic fiction. Like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road before it, the universe that Powers creates is, alas, a world too close to ours now.
By JOY WILLIAMS
Published by KNOPF
Williams also treads into eco-fictional territory with her spectacularly experimental new novel, which describes “a country on the verge” filled with plastic bags and filthy rivers. Our narrator is a young woman whose mother insisted she had literally died as a baby and come back to life, imbuing her with all manner of unrealistic special traits. They live in some future world in the aftermath of a catastrophic ecological disaster. In typical Williams fashion, there is invented language and wacky subplots, love for her vulnerable characters and respect for the endangered natural world..
By NATASHA BROWN
Published by LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY
This novella really sneaks up on you. Brown’s debut features a young, successful Black British woman whose job in corporate finance fits her personality. She is ambitious, but measured and rather private. Then she gets a dire diagnosis from her doctor. She handles the situation—with her lover, best friend, boss, and with herself—so vividly you feel like it is happening to you. Brown is able to envelope issues of gravity with astonishing brevity. Not only terminal illness, but also how race plays into her behavior and decisions. A promising start to a writing career!
By SIMONE de BEAUVOIR
Published by ECCO
Translated by Sandra Smith
An unpublished work of fiction by Beauvoir is an exciting event as evidenced by Margaret Atwood’s introduction that puts it in the context of her life and work (written in 1954, after The Second Sex). A semi-autobiographical novel set in the 20s, it is the coming of age of two best friends of very different temperaments, Sylvie and Andrée (in real life, her ‘inseparable’ companion, Zaza), and the terrible early loss that marked Beauvoir’s growth as a woman and a writer. That experience informed all her writing and her personal development and makes for a fascinating read..
Things I Have Withheld
By KEI MILLER
Published by GROVE PRESS
Like a contemporary Jamaican James Baldwin, Kei Miller is a voice to be reckoned with. He shares his experiences with us in essays, shards of memoir, and odes to his influences like Toni Morrison. One discusses an abusive relationship (where silence was a strategy to survive) and in his letter to James Baldwin, he talks of finding strength and power in “the things we do not say.” Miller is also an award-winning poet (“teach us how to belong where we do not belong…”), a writing professor in the U.K. and an extraordinary reader.