September 23, 2023
An Italian dystopian future; an epic novel about the natural world through the lens of a single dwelling; a South African writer’s music-infused, unconventional love story; a Senegalese journey; and an essential nonfiction collection by a beloved Canadian writer who adopted Paris as her own. All five books share a richness of language and investigations into the psyche of both people and place.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
Land of Milk and Honey
By C. Pam Zhang
Published by Riverhead
Zhang’s debut, How Much of These Hills is Gold, was a finalist for The Center’s First Novel Prize. Her new sensuous, end-of-days novel, set in a starving world, will make your mouth water. That delicious dichotomy fills this morality tale, an indictment of the dangers of ignoring climate change, and a moving story of one young woman’s attempt to navigate the ethics of decadence amid a dying planet. Somewhere in Italy, she works as a chef where her employer “served our success alongside the world’s decay, an intoxicating flavor…rotted with pride.” Food dwindles as the privileged rich can afford the alimentary pleasures, fiddling while Rome burns.
By Daniel Mason
Published by Random House
Daniel Mason, who has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist, has composed a sweeping historical fiction about the natural world, focusing on one New England home and its denizens over the centuries, arranged by month. Writer Anthony Marra says it does for houses what Richard Powers did for trees. Intriguing, no? Mason states in an interview that he found the voice for this creatively ambitious novel in a “19th-century letter where there is this kind of unbridled indulgence.” This is a very special book, one to lose yourself in and appreciate the ingenuity of its structure, its pathos, and the message of the interconnectivity between landscape and humanity..
By J. M. Coetzee
Published by Liveright
An aging celebrated Polish pianist becomes obsessed with a pretty, married Barcelona patroness who hosts him for a concert. Beatriz becomes Wittold’s ‘Beatrice’ (as in Dante), and a halting relationship begins. Her marriage is one of contentment and convenience, and her interest (or lack thereof) in Wittold is not sexual. When he’s invited to their country home in Mallorca, the attachment begins to deepen. As the years pass, they are no longer in contact, and she finds upon his death that he has left her a trove of love poems. Booker and Nobel Prize-winner Coetzee has created a brief, elegiac love story that is lushly poetic, as accomplished as Wittold’s piano playing.
Beyond the Door of No Return
By David Diop
Published by FSG
Translated by Sam Taylor
This Paris-born Senegalese writer’s last novel, At Night All Blood Is Black, was awarded the International Booker Prize in 2021. In the early 1800s, Algéa, the daughter of acclaimed botanist, Michel Adanson, is haunted by her father’s death and his unfairly tarnished reputation. She discovers journals of his travels through Senegal with his indispensable young guide where he found that the common French notion that Black people are inferior was a gross assumption. The mysterious story of her father’s last word: “Maram,” the name of a disappeared revenant, broadens the story to include the history of their secret relationship which parallels the birth of West African colonialism..
By Mavis Gallant
Published by David R. Godine / Nonpareil Books
What joy to have a new edition of Gallant’s essays and reviews with an introduction by the great biographer Hermione Lee. Gallant, who died almost a decade ago, was a Canadian writer closely associated with Paris and the expat life there. She writes of her Parisian experiences from 1968 (the student uprising, which was published like many of her essays in the New Yorker) to 1985. In addition, there are penetrating reviews of writers like Nabokov and Colette. Her writing is always elegant, laced with knowing humor and informed by a sharp reporter’s eye. This is a great companion to her timeless short fiction, Collected Stories.