January 2, 2021
One of the many New Year’s resolutions I make each year is to read more, and I don’t think I am alone. The year 2021 promises to be a particularly rich one for fiction, both from favorite authors with new books and new writing from less familiar voices. This week we call out three exceptional debuts of satirical fiction, and celebrate a literary lion’s legacy.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
By MATEO ASKARIPOUR
Published by HOUGHTON MIFFLIN
I loved this novel about an ambitious 20-something Black kid from Bed-Stuy who works in a Park Avenue Starbucks. When he catches the eye of a successful corporate customer, he’s plucked right out of the store and tossed into a new life of high-powered sales. It’s a little like The Wolf of Wall Street with its protagonist’s combination of innocence and hubris. Watching him cope with the consequences of instant success, being the only Black person on staff, finding time for his mom, longtime girlfriend and friends is truly fascinating. Will Buck (née Darren) find a balance? Fresh, funny and thought-provoking, it’s also chock full of real life lessons.
The Liar's Dictionary
By ELEY WILLIAMS
Published by KNOPF
This one is an irresistible read for those who adore language and the beauty of words (even fake words). I am convinced that Williams’s debut novel will bring her the recognition she deserves in the U.S. (her short story collection won The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, among other awards). In two time periods, we are introduced to Swansby’s Dictionary, once popular and now limping along with one intern who is struggling with her sexuality and a present-day Swansby heir. Many years ago false entries were inserted into the dictionary and the remaining skeleton staff is now attempting to ferret them out. As delightful, playful, nonsensical, and entertaining as it is absurd and informative (the words are mountweazels—look it up!) it will appeal to readers of Schine’s The Grammarians and Dreyer’s English, and so many more..
A Certain Hunger
By CHELSEA G. SUMMERS
Published by UNNAMED PRESS
This is a mash-up of noir and satire, all to do with food, gender, and revenge. Summers’s inventive first novel introduces a promising new voice with a very kinky sensibility. Her heroine is a food critic with an axe to grind, who becomes a serial killer. Think The Silence of the Lambs and American Psycho with a feminist twist. One of our favorite writers and a member of our Writers Council, Megan Abbott compares Summers to Angela Carter—high praise indeed. This dark, nasty, delicious (no pun intended) fiction is loads of fun.
By MICHAEL FARRIS SMITH
Published by LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY
This month is an important one for publishers around the world as The Great Gatsby goes into public domain. A slew of new publications in several formats and price points will help you revisit that ever-popular original story. Here are just a few!
Timed for this event is the publication of Nick. Nick Carraway, of course, is the narrator of Gatsby who recounts the story of Jay and Daisy and their careless Jazz Age crowd. The new novel is an origin story set before Nick’s move to West Egg and after his traumatic experiences in WWI and subsequent travels abroad. This is good historical fiction with a fancy pedigree..