April 2, 2022
April is National Poetry Month, and it coincides with the much-awaited publication of Ocean Vuong’s new collection. In fiction there is the second novel from Booker Prize-winner Douglas Stuart (who we’ll host live at The Center in June in conversation with John Cameron Mitchell) and Emily St. John Mandel’s follow-up to her bestselling dystopian novel Station Eleven. We also highlight two unforgettable memoirs. A pretty extraordinary week for publishing!
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
Time Is a Mother
By OCEAN VUONG
Published by PENGUIN PRESS
Vietnamese American writer Vuong (On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous) presents a new collection of poetry, whose double-entendre title proves the author can lace wry humor into his themes of loss and grief. The poems were all written in the last couple years and resonate, as does his fiction, with his love for and attachment to his mother. Aware of coming so far from his early beginnings—coming out, becoming his non-English-speaking mother’s voice—his work here is as generous and humble and honest as his prose. Vuong says that his whole self is in this collection.
By DOUGLAS STUART
Published by GROVE PRESS
A welcome return for Shuggie Bain’s creator who revisits themes from his award-winning fiction debut. This is once more a beautiful, heartbreaking, sometimes brutal coming-of-age story. Set in working-class Glasgow, it features a singular 15-year-old in a fatherless family—narcissistic, drinker mother; violent older brother; and good-hearted, smart sister. Mungo’s journey to maturity is as rough as it is tender as he navigates two cultural taboos that converge in a budding liaison: a forbidden relationship with another boy and the unacceptable fact that this boy is Catholic. It sometimes feels like a queer West Side Story. Another clear winner, Stuart is the real deal..
Run Towards the Danger
By SARAH POLLEY
Published by PENGUIN PRESS
Canadian actor, writer and filmmaker Polley has been performing since the age of four. I first noticed her as the daughter in the film adaptation of Russell Banks’s The Sweet Hereafter; then again with her directorial debut adapting an Alice Munro story in Away from Her about early onset Alzheimer’s. Here she collects six superb essays about traumatic experiences in her life including paralyzing stage fright, the early death of her mother, a cold distant father, sexual abuse, painful scoliosis and a three-year recovery from a concussion on a film set. I envy her three daughters having such a wise and thoughtful mother. They are the fortunate recipients of her self-examination.
By CHLOÉ COOPER JONES
Published by AVID READER PRESS
In her new memoir, Jones—a Brooklyn writer, philosopher and prize-winning journalist—writes about the body and excruciating discomfort, both physical and psychological, brought on by a childhood congenital disease (sacral agenesis). Redefining beauty, she reveals how she has coped with the challenges of chronic pain, and the humiliations of a body that she felt betrayed by. She writes, “I center myself in The Neutral Room . . . ,” the place she created in her mind to disassociate from pain. Despite that pain, she has thrived—academically, publicly, traveling and experiencing the world and becoming a mother..
Sea of Tranquility
By EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL
Published by KNOPF
If you read Station Eleven or got hooked on the limited TV series like I did, you will be delighted to learn Emily St. John Mandel has a new novel. With echoes of her previous fiction—there’s a postapocalyptic novelist as in Station Eleven and several character references from The Glass Hotel—readers travel through time from the early part of the 20th century to the future. Forests and the eerie sound of a violin reverberate in both times, from Canada to moon colonies, as Mandel warns us of an unsettled future.