April 22, 2023
Today we commemorate Earth Day with a selection of books that celebrate the land and its flora and fauna in various ways. One new book below combines nature and language. Of the four novels, one we will celebrate at The Center with a Brazilian musical event; one examines climate change through animal extinction; one ponders coming of age in Nigeria; and one brings us to Australia for what J.M. Coetzee calls “the strangest book you are likely to read this year,” reviewed by our Bookstore Manager, Jory Southurst.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa
By Stephen Buoro
Published by Bloomsbury
Buoro’s first novel follows Andy’s escapades living with his single mother and hanging out with his friends as he grapples with what it means to be a Black boy in contemporary post-colonial Nigeria. Buoro’s degree in mathematics is reflected as one of the many preoccupations of Andy’s life. He also has an obsession with white girls. Andy describes himself as “a fifteen-year-old African genius poet altar boy who loves blondes.…” The author uses humor to leaven the serious issues of race and politics as this novel chugs along at a breakneck speed, fueled by an effervescent, memorable character trying desperately to come of age under ‘the Curse of Africa.’
The Last Animal
By Ramona Ausubel
Published by Riverhead
Should extinct animals be brought back if it can help reverse climate change? Ausubel’s new novel has a surprisingly winning combination of subjects: animal husbandry, the dying planet, loss and grief. The story of a single mother, her two daughters and her life as a scientist among a male-dominated profession easily manages to win our hearts. After the accidental death of her husband, she hauls her two girls from Berkeley to Siberia, Lake Como and Iceland in search of answers. The author’s good-natured humor and wildly imaginative plot create an incredibly appealing read..
Macunaíma: The Hero with No Character
By Mário de Andrade
Published by New Directions
Translated by Katrina Dodson
Written in 1928 over six days, Mário de Andrade’s novel is now available in an exhilarating new translation by Katrina Dodson. It is cause for rejoicing as this important novel is considered an essential text of Brazilian modernism. Supernatural events proliferate as our hero and his brothers search for a missing amulet, encountering giants and shamans. It is a quest that takes them into the heart of the country—“the forests resounded with sweetness lulling to sleep the snakes the ticks the mosquitos the ants and the bad gods.” It’s infused with fantastical language and the magic of the shapeshifting character of Brazil itself.
By Michael Winkler
Published by Coach House Books
By the third footnote of this book-about-a-man-writing-a-book-about-a-man-writing-a-book-about-a-man, you get an idea of how unusual it is. When the talking goat turns up on page 50, you realize that it’s something truly unique. A mix of autofiction, metafiction, and creative nonfiction, it tells the story of Joe Grimm, an Italian American boxer who toured Australia in the early 1900s, losing fights but amazing crowds with his showmanship and extraordinary physical resilience. Grimmish took the Australian book world by storm in 2021, becoming the first ever self-published book to be shortlisted for that country’s preeminent literary prize..
The Language of Trees
By Katie Holten
Published by Tin House
This ingenious book is an illustrated anthology that marries visual art with the art of telling stories. The artist Katie Holten has created a tree for every letter of the alphabet and replaces the titles, authors’ names and even the stories themselves with beautiful drawings that accompany each essay, story, or poem by the contributors. Ross Gay provides a lovely introduction encouraging us to listen: “The language of trees might incline us to patience. To love. It might incline us to gratitude.” The fifty contributors include Robin Wall Kimmerer, Ada Limon, Ursula Le Guin and Zadie Smith. It is a reminder of one of the five pillars of Earth Day: climate and environmental literacy.