November 11, 2023
Let’s be thankful this November for these five extraordinary writers with new works of fiction. We have a master of prose returning with a novel set during the pandemic; a trio of stories from an Irish writer we’ve come to love; two novels exploring personal freedom; and a profound portrait of a philosopher contemplating his life. It is fascinating how stories of love, loss, and survival against odds can be so comforting to read and leave one hopeful.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Michael Cunningham
Published by Random House
From the first page you can sigh, knowing you are in the hands of a pro, happy to nestle into Cunningham’s imagined world, wherever it takes you. Who else writes sentences that can stop your brain? His sensitive novels have an old-fashioned feel combined with contemporary settings. In Day, an unsettled married couple, their two children, and the wife’s gay brother navigate the pandemic (without naming it) as isolation contributes to their emotional well-being, their disappointments, and the quietly dramatic events of their lives. There is love but also loss, of course. It is a compassionate, beautiful book.
So Late in the Day
By Claire Keegan
Published by Grove
It’s impossible to overstate the talent of this Irish writer. Her stories are neither happy nor sad; she taps into some unnamed emotion that is more true, more pure. In these three stories written over a period of two decades, she examines the mysterious connections between men and women. They feature a recently jilted man, a writer-in-residence whose solitude is interrupted, and a married housewife out for a little infidelity who gets rather more than she bargained for. “…so much of life carrying smoothly on, despite the tangle of human upsets and the knowledge of how everything must end…” Gift this perfect little triptych to everyone on your holiday list..
By E. J. Koh
Published by Tin House
The title of Koh’s quietly powerful debut refers not only to freedom but also internal liberation in an intergenerational story set in Korea, post-colonial Japan, and America. Koh calls her genre ‘biomythography.’ It begins in 1980s Korea with a young narrator who speaks six languages. Other narrators continue the story beyond the primary couple in an arranged marriage as the author explores the dynamics of in-laws and families of immigrants. Each character has their own arc and perspective—some likable, some not so much, as it should be. Koh’s concern is with “borders and boundaries,“ and how she could “bend” them to enrich this vivid novel about the Korean diaspora.
The Book of Ayn
By Lexi Freiman
Published by Catapult
Freiman’s first novel, Inappropriation, was longlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her follow-up is a bold satire that confronts today’s troubling cancel culture. Anna’s novel about the opioid epidemic has caused an avalanche of bad press and worse, sends her fleeing New York for Hollywood. There she becomes obsessed with the rational self-interest of Objectivist Ayn Rand. But when a family matter brings her east again, she flees once more to Greece, and a commune on the island of Lesvos. Freiman is exceptionally adept at pushing buttons, making this novel wickedly fun and a perfect book to prompt heated discussions among readers..
By Paul Auster
Published by Grove
It is always exciting to see what is on Auster’s fertile mind. Here we meet Baumgartner, an aging philosophy professor, a decade after the death of his wife, a translator and writer, still adjusting to his world without her. At the beginning we find him accidentally burning himself at the stove, then tumbling downstairs. Perhaps a wakeup call? Prone by his nature and career to ponder the mysteries of his life he relives falling in love, his long marriage, and his family history. There are wondrous descriptions of everyday life and fate; as a treat, listen to the author reading the audio book.