It’s abstractly depressing when you hear the statistics of independent bookstores closing in droves; it’s concretely depressing to see favorite bookstores in your town get the axe. First Dutton’s of Beverly Hills was forced to shut down; now the news is that the original Dutton’s will be remodeled out of existence. The LA Times reports that the landlord, Charles T. Munger, wants to build luxury condos. Apparently, Munger’s $1.7 billion net worth isn’t enough – he also needs some extra pocket change from rent. The claim is that the condos will be built atop a sleek, modern bookstore, but I have my doubts. One, that a sleek modern bookstore can ever replace the idiosyncratic layout of Dutton’s, and two, that once Munger starts remodeling, the plans will change to either eliminate Duttons completely or give it only a token space.
Francine Prose gives a very favorable review to Dave Egger’s latest novel/memoir What is the What in the Dec. 24th edition of the New York Times Book Review. Unfortunately, Egger’s book was released Oct. 25, two months ago. I know they were coordinating it with the podcast interview of Eggers, but isn’t two months a bit large of a gap, especially when they’re getting review copies? Editor Tanenhaus’ taste is quite good, but the timing is kinked.
(Click on the Dave Eggers tag below to read my account of the Los Angeles talk)
Not to get too much of a head start on things, but before the Christmas rush I wanted to make a list of books coming out next year.
Anthony Swofford: Exit A [January 9, 2007]. Swofford, author of the memoir Jarhead, turns to fiction in Exit A.
Martin Amis: House of Meeting. [January 15, 2007] For this Gulag-centric book, Publisher’s Weekly gave a negative blurb, saying it was "disappointing", filled with "trite cliches" and that his "trademark riffs are all too muffled in his obvious research," while the Guardian review is much kinder.
Norman Mailer: The Castle in the Forest [January 23, 2007]. First novel in a decade.
Chris Abani: The Virgin of Flames. [January 30, 2007] If you don’t know this writer, you should. Scroll a few posts down to see what I said about him after going to one of his readings.
Milan Kundera: The Curtain [January 30, 2007]. This is the third part of a non-fiction trilogy on books and reading, containing seven essays, and I’ve been waiting for it ever since the first of the series, The Art of the Novel. Expect Kundera’s trenchant insights into the form and state of the novel – these treaties should be categorized up with Mikhail Bakhtin’s The Dialogic Imagination for their ability to categorize and describe the genre.
Jonathan Lethem: You Don’t Love Me Yet. [March 07] The Random House blurb makes it sound completely over the top and hilarious. Characters working at a masturbation boutique called "No Shame"? Someone else who steals a kangaroo from the zoo to "save it from ennui?’ And it all centers around two characters who fall in love over the phone, one working at a complaint line, the other who calls and complains. How could we resist?
Anne Lamott: Grace. [March 07] Who doesn’t like Anne Lamott? Honestly, her how-to-write book Bird by Bird is not only practical, it’s knee-slappingly funny. Every semester I teach the chapter "Shitty First Drafts" and every semester students laugh and identify. And it’s also refreshing to see her new religious reflections, as this book Grace is the third book in her Thoughts on Faith series (including Traveling Mercies and Plan B)
Jim Crace: The Pesthouse. [May 07] Love, love, love Jim Crace. Quarentine was my first introduction, and all his others have not disappointed. I’ll also mention The Devil’s Larder, simply because it was such an uncategorizable book, a book that his publisher and editor must not have liked the sound of (what? a book all about food with each story from 500 to 1000 words? How will we market it?), and therefore a book that I think he was brave to write, as well as a book that’s very entertaining. Here’s the first chapter excerpt for The Pesthouse and here’s a short summary in Crace’s words: "It’s set in America’s medieval future and is an inquiry into my – and the world’s – love-hate relationship with the United States . . . the first line of the book was going to be ‘This used to be America’."
Chuck Palahniuk: Rant. [May 07] Okay, other than the fact that the title seems rather suitable for a Palahniuk novel, as much of his prose resembles a rant, I have to admit that the only novel I’ve really liked from him was Fight Club. There, I’ve said it. And no, sorry, even with all the inventive sexuality of Choke it wasn’t entertaining apart from that sexuality, and I didn’t buy the basis premise of Lullaby that an African culling song can kill people. But I’m putting Rant up here because deep down I somehow like Chuck, maybe because he’s hyper-masculine, probably because anyone who writes three novels while working as a mechanic before finally getting one published has a lot of pathos going for him. Here’s the gist of the book: "Rant takes the form of a (fictional) oral history of Buster "Rant" [who] becomes the leader of an urban demolition derby called Party Crashing, where on designated nights, the participants recognize each other by dressing their cars with tin-can tails, "Just Married" toothpaste graffiti, and other refuse, then look for designated markings in order to stalk and crash into each other. It’s in this violent, late-night hunting game that Casey meets three friends. And after his spectacular death, these friends gather the testimony needed to build an oral history of his short life. Their collected anecdotes explore the charges that his saliva infected hundreds and caused a silent, urban plague of rabies…." Definitely working on the same level of violence as Fight Club, only instead of bodies we have cars. Oh, and plus Rabies.
Don DeLillo: Falling Man. [June 07] Other than 288 pages and the ISBN, I don’t know a thing.
Annie Dillard: The Maytrees. [June 07] No, all of you who just sucked in a breath hoping for a non-fiction collection, this one is fiction. I know, I really wanted a non-fiction collection too, ever since I read a superb new essay by her in Harper’s a few years ago, post "For the Time Being", which gave me hope that a new non-fiction collection was in the works, but alas, not in 07. And not that her fiction is terrible, it’s just that her essays are world-class. It was Pilgrim at Tinker Creek that made me want to become a writer (I have such a beautiful 1st edition – one of my most valued books), but I reckon you can only go Thoreau when you’re young, without responsibilities, and as you grow older you it’s easier to make fictional adventures rather than take them yourself.