January 9, 2020
January is a perfect time to revisit that classic novel you either never read, or read too early in high school, or want to reread to deepen your understanding of the book. The first selection below will appeal to that impulse, followed by a few much-anticipated new titles to start off the year. As many of us discovered during the dark days of 2020, reading both old and new works of fiction has become a necessary salvation.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
By GEORGE SAUNDERS
Published by RANDOM HOUSE
The brilliant George Saunders, known for his short fiction and the Booker Prize-winning novel Lincoln in the Bardo, has been teaching Russian Short Fiction for 20 years in the MFA Writing Program at Syracuse University. Assembled here is a selection of his lectures on four of the greatest Russian writers (Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev) as well as the actual short stories he discusses. This warm, inviting book, geared specifically for general readers, could be the answer to chasing away the winter blues.
By ROBERT JONES, JR.
Published by G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS
The Prophets, Jones’s first novel, is an auspicious debut that takes place in the antebellum South on a plantation where two young men find solace in each other amidst the trauma and violence of slavery. His book is a paean to the ancestral lives lost and wasted, and to the discovery of how love can help transform even the most heinous experience. With echoes of the best writers who came before him and inspired this book (Morrison and Baldwin, among others), The Prophets marks the arrival of a powerful new voice..
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
By MARIANA ENRIQUEZ
Published by HOGARTH
Translated by Megan McDowell
Enriquez’s terrific new collection of stories has a hint of Borges, and includes “Our Lady of the Quarry,” about seemingly innocent teens in the torpid days of January below the equator, recently published in the New Yorker. In her interview with that magazine she states: “What I like about horror is the sense of anticipation, of waiting for the inevitable to hit you. I like feeling unsafe in a story, both reading and writing it.” This Argentine writer, whose last collection was 2017’s Things We Lost in the Fire, captures the underlying menace in the everyday. She certainly has a talent for titles as well.
By TORREY PETERS
Published by ONE WORLD
Few writers have the skill to encapsulate the trans- and cisgender experiences in all their possible permutations with such vibrancy and heart. The meaning of family and gender is blown apart as a relationship between two women changes course when one detransitions. Three characters wrestle with their futures when an unexpected pregnancy occurs. But raising a child can take many forms and this exploration of love, sex and parenthood provides a lens for readers to discover its many vicissitudes. (And Peters is a local Brooklyn writer!).
By SARAH MOSS
Published by FSG
Moss’s novel has an eerie ambience of apocalypse, a Scottish version of what Rumaan Alam and Don DeLillo portrayed this past fall. It’s set on a loch where an incessant rain, that has begun to feel not just unsettling but prophetic, traps a dozen vacationers. It’s the perfect atmosphere for a world caught in a pandemic complicated by climate change. Moss’s ability to explore the psychological workings of her many characters as they wait out the weather is a crystallized glimpse of humanity in the throes of existential dread. Uncanny and disquieting—pick up her previous Ghost Wall for more!