April 10, 2021
Sometimes in publishing there is a veritable cascade of books that flow onto the shelves in the same month. For spring 2021 titles, April is the month—and so this week we call out a few that we think you’ll want to know about: two cultural icons, (one who lived into her 90s and one whose life was cut short); several artists and torrid romances; a lyrical new voice in Black literature; plus the lost art of old world Indian alchemy and ancient bookmaking in Italy.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Izumi Suzuki
Published by Verso
Translated by David Boyd, Daniel Joseph, Sam Bett, and Polly Barton
Early life as a nude model and actress gave way to a final decade of edgy, prolific writing for Suzuki. Then, some eight years following her musician husband’s overdose, she committed suicide. Though the details of her short, tragic personal life as a sort of Japanese Sid & Nancy have tended to eclipse her virtuoso skill as a writer of speculative fiction, we now have the first English translation of her work—twisted, dark, sometimes prescient, dystopian, fantastic.
Leonora in the Morning Light
By Michaela Carter
Published by Avid Reader Press
One of the few women artists among the Surrealists, Carrington’s reputation as an early feminist has a definite cult following. A recently rediscovered fiction and a book of her tarot illustrations precede this new novel that recreates her remarkable story. Her relationship at 20 with the artist and much older lover, Max Ernst is the sensual centerpiece. Dropping us into a dramatic time and place (30s-40s France and Germany) Carter—a bookseller!—vividly recreates the day-to-day life of this bohemian artist and her circle (including Man Ray, Lee Miller and Picasso). Historical fiction at its juiciest best..
By Caleb Azumah Nelson
Published by Black Cat
Nelson’s debut fiction is beautiful to read; you’ll want to slowly savor the words. His novel revolves around the love story of a photographer and a dancer, exploring both the joy and the struggle of being Black in South East London, the visibility and invisibility that accompanies inherent racism. Nelson captures the contemporary world of artists, name-checking performers as he goes, as well as the thrilling sensuality of his starring lovers (“You don’t tell her that it was there, in the slight pauses, that you were able to breathe, not even realising you were holding in air, but you were.”). This British-Ghanaian writer is definitely one to watch.
By Sanjena Sathian
Published by Penguin Press
Here’s a story with enormous charm about first and second generation Indian Americans in residential Georgia. This is a satire that perfectly captures the parents’ ambitions for their children to succeed in America, and the lengths to which they will go, with a dose of magical realism thrown in. The discovery that a potion (made of stolen gold from an ancient Indian recipe) could prove helpful to getting ahead in the world drives the action. We follow Neil and Anita, neighbors in the idyllic Atlanta suburbs, and their coming of age, then again as they reunite in Silicon Valley where the stakes for this business of gold harvesting ratchet up. Sathian is a particularly astute observer of contemporary life and identity..
The Five Wounds
By Kirstin Valdez Quade
Published by Norton
The Five Wounds is expanded from a short story published in Quade’s debut collection Night at the Fiestas that won the coveted National Book Critic’s Circle John Leonard Prize in 2015. Her new novel takes place in northern New Mexico over a year in the life of one family of five generations, beginning with Holy Week. The themes of Catholic identity and redemption that have always been explored in her fiction are given a lengthier investigation here. As she said in a recent interview, “That question of redemption absolutely undergirds the novel. I believe deeply that we can change and become better.”
The Bookseller of Florence
By Ross King
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press
Booklovers rejoice! Ross King (Brunelleschi’s Dome) returns with another eye-opening history of the Renaissance and the story of a 15th century bookseller in which we learn how illuminated manuscripts were made and disseminated. The setting is the magnificent city of Florence and the man responsible for spreading ancient wisdom is Vespasiano da Bisticci, whose powerful realm came to a grinding halt with the invention of the printed book in 1480. An amazing story in a beautifully designed package, rediscovered for this generation of bibliophiles..