March 20, 2021
As there is finally light at the end of the pandemic tunnel one has to wonder if New York City can ever be the place it once was. Two nonfiction books this week invite readers to immerse themselves in NYC’s past, present, and future. And we highlight four new pieces of fiction, each looking for answers: in search of a mysterious bookstore customer in Rome, investigating a crime in Craców, pursuing two young boys in the wilds of the Upper Midwest, and the impossible quest for the perfect job in Japan. Great storylines, all.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess, and Transformation
By Thomas Dyja
Published by Simon & Schuster
This is a perfect time to reflect on our great city and how we got here today. From late 70s garbage strikes, drugs, unsafe streets, urban blight, and homelessness; from Koch to Dinkins to Giuliani and Bloomberg; the moment the first plane hit the South Tower; politics, entertainment, finance, and the best and worst parts of it all. Dyja guides us through New York’s stormy history and its changing urban landscape across almost 40 years. A fascinating look at this glittering metropolis from a brilliant cultural observer.
Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York
By Alexander Nemerov
Published by Penguin Press
The post-war New York art scene was a legendary time, forging the careers of artists like Jackson Pollock and the Abstract Expressionists. But the primary woman in their midst was Helen Frankenthaler. Nemerov focuses on her life over a defining decade, formative in her career and her personal life (including her marriage to Robert Motherwell). He captures her strength and vulnerabilities as well as the work itself—the force of her use of color and the uncanny intimacy of her paintings. A compulsively entertaining slice of art history, with reproductions of her gorgeous color-stained canvasses and evocative photos of the era..
There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job
By Kikuko Tsumura
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Translated by Polly Barton
From the enticing cover to the last page, Tsumura arrives with her first English translation after a stellar reception and multiple awards in her native Japan. Sure to strike a chord with anyone looking for purpose in life and finding decent employment difficult and unsatisfying, this whimsical look at the job search rings true. From the ridiculous to the sublime, from the absurd to the fantastic, Tsumura pours some of her personal experiences of workplace burnout into her novel and nails a modern conundrum with dark comic accuracy.
Raft of Stars
By Andrew J. Graff
Published by Ecco
A cinematic adventure that makes use of the beautiful Wisconsin wilderness as two young boys, both from difficult families, are on the run from a possible murder they may have committed. That is the engine driving the action of Graff’s compelling story as four separate people hunt for the boys, each with their own agenda. This is a truly riveting read that will stop your heart. Here is an interview with the author, and an audio excerpt certain to tantalize you..
Karolina and the Torn Curtain
By Maryla Szymiczkowa
Published by Mariner Books
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Last year the debut crime novel of this Polish duo captured our imaginations—and books sales—and luckily the next installment is right on its heels. Starring again is Sofia, the socialite wife of a Craców professor whose amateur sleuthing takes her this time on a search for her missing maid. She must traverse the underbelly of the city with its unseemly class of people, determined to find the answers to her beloved Karolina’s demise. As delightful as the first episode, with a colorful cast of characters and vivid atmosphere.
The Vietri Project
By Nicola DeRobertis-Theye
Published by HarperCollins
This wonderful plot takes the reader from a Berkeley, CA bookshop to a foreign adventure in Rome where the protagonist searches for clues to an intriguing customer as well as an investigation into her own difficult family history. She finds surprises on both counts that provide this novel with a satisfying and emotionally complex story. And the author is a Brooklyn-based 2015 Emerging Writer Fellow. Listen to an excerpt that will convince you of its deep pleasures..