October 2017 Books to Read!

It’s already October! I love settling into autumn with good books, and here are the ones coming in October that have me most yearning for some quiet evening at home! Look: a few scary collections from Penguin Classics; the three final books by Henry Green in lovely new editions; many NYRB Classics; a few film books; lots of good books in translation. Which ones have I missed that you’re excited about?

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October 3

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling
by David Bordwell
University of Chicago Press

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Here is the blurb from the University of Chicago Press:

In the 1940s, American movies changed. Flashbacks began to be used in outrageous, unpredictable ways. Soundtracks flaunted voice-over commentary, and characters might pivot from a scene to address the viewer. Incidents were replayed from different characters’ viewpoints, and sometimes those versions proved to be false. Films now plunged viewers into characters’ memories, dreams, and hallucinations. Some films didn’t have protagonists, while others centered on anti-heroes or psychopaths. Women might be on the verge of madness, and neurotic heroes lurched into violent confrontations. Combining many of these ingredients, a new genre emerged—the psychological thriller, populated by women in peril and innocent bystanders targeted for death.

If this sounds like today’s cinema, that’s because it is. In Reinventing Hollywood, David Bordwell examines for the first time the full range and depth of trends that crystallized into traditions. He shows how the Christopher Nolans and Quentin Tarantinos of today owe an immense debt to the dynamic, occasionally delirious narrative experiments of the Forties. With verve and wit, Bordwell examines how a booming movie market during World War II allowed ambitious writers and directors to push narrative boundaries. Although those experiments are usually credited to the influence of Citizen Kane, Bordwell shows that similar impulses had begun in the late 1930s in radio, fiction, and theatre before migrating to film. And despite the postwar recession in the industry, the momentum for innovation continued. Some of the boldest films of the era came in the late forties and early fifties, as filmmakers sought to outdo their peers.

Through in-depth analyses of films both famous and virtually unknown, from Our Town and All About Eve to Swell Guy and The Guilt of Janet Ames, Bordwell assesses the era’s unique achievements and its legacy for future filmmakers. The result is a groundbreaking study of how Hollywood storytelling became a more complex art. Reinventing Hollywood is essential reading for all lovers of popular cinema.

Fresh Complaint: Stories
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

Jeffrey Eugenides’s bestselling novels have shown him to be an astute observer of the crises of adolescence, self-discovery, family love, and what it means to be American in our times. The stories in “Fresh Complaint” explore equally rich­­?and intriguing­­?territory. Ranging from the bitingly reproductive antics of “Baster” to the dreamy, moving account of a young traveler’s search for enlightenment in “Air Mail” (selected by Annie Proulx for Best American Short Stories), this collection presents characters in the midst of personal and national emergencies. We meet a failed poet who, envious of other people’s wealth during the real-estate bubble, becomes an embezzler; a clavichordist whose dreams of art founder under the obligations of marriage and fatherhood; and, in “Fresh Complaint,” a high school student whose wish to escape the strictures of her immigrant family lead her to a drastic decision that upends the life of a middle-aged British physicist. Narratively compelling, beautifully written, and packed with a density of ideas despite their fluid grace, these stories chart the development and maturation of a major American writer.

To the Back of Beyond
by Peter Stamm
translated from the German by Michael Hofmann
Other Press

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Here is the blurb from Other Press:

Happily married with two children and a comfortable home in a Swiss town, Thomas and Astrid enjoy a glass of wine in their garden on a night like any other. Called back to the house by their son’s cries, Astrid goes inside, expecting her husband to join her in a bit. But Thomas gets up and, after a brief moment of hesitation, opens the gate and walks out.

No longer bound by the ties of his everyday life — family, friends, work — Thomas begins a winding trek across the countryside, exposed as never before to the Alpine winter. At home, Astrid wonders where he’s gone, when he’ll come back, whether he’s still alive.

Following Thomas and Astrid on their separate paths, To the Back of Beyond becomes ultimately a meditation on the limits of freedom and on the craving to be wanted.

Peter Taylor: The Complete Stories
by Peter Taylor
The Library of America

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Here is the blurb from The Library of America:

Born and raised in Tennessee, Peter Taylor was the great chronicler of the American Upper South, capturing its gossip and secrets, its divided loyalties and morally complicated legacies in tales of pure-distilled brilliance. Now, for his centennial year, the Library of America and acclaimed short story writer Ann Beattie present an unprecedented two-volume edition of Taylor’s complete short fiction, all fifty-nine of the stories published in his lifetime in the order in which they were composed.

Volume one offers twenty-nine early masterpieces, including such classics as “A Spinster’s Tale,” “What You Hear from ’Em?,” “Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time” and “Miss Leonora When Last Seen.” As a special feature, an appendix in the first volume gathers three stories Taylor published as an undergraduate that show the early emergence of his singular style and sensibility.

Volume two presents thirty stories including many of his most ambitious works, among them “Dean of Men,” a monologue delivered by a middle-aged father to his long-haired son about the limits of idealism; “In the Miro District,” a parable of the Old South’s enduring persistence in the New; and “The Old Forest,” one of Taylor’s most celebrated works, the story of a young man who jeopardizes his impending marriage by consorting with a girl deemed beneath his station. Here too are all five of Taylor’s remarkable prose poems, stories in free verse that demonstrate that great fiction is, at its highest pitch, a line-by-line, image-by-image high-wire act. Two of the stories in this volume, “A Cheerful Disposition” and “The Megalopolitans,” are collected here for the first time.


October 10

A Working Woman
by Elvira Navarro
translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
Two Lines Press

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Here is the blurb from Two Lines Press:

Globally acclaimed as a relentless innovator and a meticulous explorer of the psyche’s most obscure alleyways, Elvira Navarro here delivers an ambitious tale of feminine friendship, madness, a radically changing city, and the vulnerability that makes us divulge our most shameful secrets. It begins as Elisa transcribes the chaotic testimony of her roommate Susana, acting as part-therapist, part-confessor as Susana reveals the gripping account of her strange sexual urges and the one man who can satisfy them. But is Susana telling the truth? And what to make of the story that follows, where Elisa considers her own life failures, blending her literary ambitions with her deep need for catharsis? And then, one last surprise makes us question everything we have just read. Masterfully uncovering the insecurity that lurks just beneath the surface of every stable life, A Working Woman shows Elvira Navarro’s strength for mordant storytelling and breathtaking insight into alienation, confirming her status as one of the leading voices of her generation.

The Best of Richard Matheson
by Richard Matheson
Penguin Classics

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Here is the blurb from Penguin Classics:

Among the greats of 20th-century horror and fantasy, few names stand above Richard Matheson. Though known by many for novels like I Am Legend and his sixteen Twilight Zone episodes, Matheson truly shines in his chilling, masterful short stories. Since his first story appeared in 1950, virtually every major writer of science fiction, horror, and fantasy has fallen under his influence, including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, and Joe Hill, as well as filmmakers like Stephen Spielberg and J.J. Abrams. Matheson revolutionized horror by taking it out of Gothic castles and strange cosmos and setting it in the darkened streets and suburbs we recognize as our own. He infused tales of the fantastic and supernormal with dark explorations of human nature, delving deep into the universal dread of feeling alone and threatened in a dangerous world. The Best of Richard Matheson brings together his greatest hits as chosen by Victor LaValle, an expert on horror fiction and one of its brightest talents, marking the first major overview of Matheson’s legendary career.

Dark Tales
by Shirley Jackson
Penguin Classics

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Here is the blurb from Penguin Classics:

After the publication of her short story “The Lottery” in the New Yorker in 1948 received an unprecedented amount of attention, Shirley Jackson was quickly established as a master horror storyteller. This collection of classic and newly reprinted stories provides readers with more of her unsettling, dark tales, including the “The Possibility of Evil” and “The Summer People.” In these deliciously dark stories, the daily commute turns into a nightmarish game of hide and seek, the loving wife hides homicidal thoughts and the concerned citizen might just be an infamous serial killer. In the haunting world of Shirley Jackson, nothing is as it seems and nowhere is safe, from the city streets to the crumbling country pile, and from the small-town apartment to the dark, dark woods. There’s something sinister in suburbia.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

North Station
by Bae Suah
translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith
Open Letter

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Here is the blurb from Open Letter:

A writer struggles to come to terms with the death of her beloved mentor; the staging of an experimental play goes awry; time freezes for two lovers on a platform, waiting for the train that will take one of them away; a woman living in a foreign country discovers she has been issued the wrong ID.

Emotionally haunting and intellectually stimulating, the seven stories in North Station represent the range and power of Bae Suah’s distinctive voice and style, which delights in digressions, multiple storylines, and sudden ruptures of societal norms. Heavily influenced by the German authors she’s read and translated, Bae’s stories combine elements of Korean and European storytelling in a way that’s unforgettable and mesmerizing.

Uncertain Glory
by Joan Sales
translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush
NYRB Classics

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Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Spain, 1937. Posted to the Aragonese front, Lieutenant Lluís Ruscalleda eschews the drunken antics of his comrades and goes in search of intrigue. But the lady of Castel de Olivo—a beautiful widow with a shadowy past—puts a high price on her affections. In Barcelona, Trini Milmany struggles to raise Lluís’s son on her own, letters from the front her only solace. With bombs falling as fast as the city’s morale, she leaves to spend the winter with Lluís’s brigade on a quiet section of the line. But even on “dead” fronts the guns do not stay silent for long. Trini’s decision will put her family’s fate in the hands of Juli Soleràs, an old friend and a traitor of easy conscience, a philosopher-cynic locked in an eternal struggle with himself.

Joan Sales, a combatant in the Spanish Civil War, distilled his experiences into a timeless story of thwarted love, lost youth, and crushed illusions. A thrilling epic that has drawn comparison with the work of Dostoyevsky and Stendhal, Uncertain Glory is a homegrown counterpart to classics such as Homage to Catalonia and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

The Power
by Naomi Alderman
Little, Brown and Company

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Here is the blurb from Little, Brown and Company:

What would happen if women suddenly possessed a fierce new power?

In The Power, the world is a recognizable place: there’s a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power–they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.

From award-winning author Naomi Alderman, The Power is speculative fiction at its most ambitious and provocative, at once taking us on a thrilling journey to an alternate reality, and exposing our own world in bold and surprising ways.


October 17

Nothing
by Henry Green
NYRB Classics

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Here is the NYRB Classics blurb:

Years ago, Jane Weatherby had a torrid affair with John Pomfret, the husband of her best friend. Divorces ensued. World War II happened. Prewar partying gave way to postwar austerity, and Jane and John’s now-grown children, Philip and Mary, both as serious and sober as their parents were not, seem earnestly bent on marriage, which John and Jane consider a mistake. The two old lovers conspire against the two young lovers, and nothing turns out quite as expected.

Nothing, like the closely related Doting, is a book that is almost entirely composed in dialogue, since in these late novels nothing so interested Green as how words resist, twist, and expose our intentions; how they fail us, lead us on, make fools of us, and may, in spite of ourselves, even save us, at least for a time. Nothing spills over with the bizarre and delicious comedy and poetry of human incoherence.

Doting
by Henry Green
NYRB Classics

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Here is the NYRB Classics blurb:

Doting, the last of Henry Green’s novels, is, as its title would suggest, a story of yearning and lusting and aging in which a wife and a brash young woman run hilarious circles around a hapless hardworking civil servant suddenly seized by long-dormant urges. Like its immediate predecessor, Nothing, it stands out from the rest of Green’s work in its brilliant, experimental use of dialogue. Green was fascinated with the extravagance, ambiguity, absurdity, and unintentional implications and consequences of everyday human communication, and in Doting language slips and slides the better to reveal the absurdity and persistence of love and desire, exciting laughter while troubling the heart.

The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick
by Elizabeth Hardwick
NYRB Classics

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Here is the NYRB Classics blurb:

Elizabeth Hardwick wrote during the golden age of the American literary essay. For Hardwick, the essay was an imaginative endeavor, a serious form, criticism worthy of the literature in question. In the essays collected here she covers civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s, describes places where she lived and locations she visited, and writes about the foundations of American literature—Melville, James, Wharton—and the changes in American fiction, though her reading is wide and international. She contemplates writers’ lives—women writers, rebels, Americans abroad—and the literary afterlife of biographies, letters, and diaries. Selected and with an introduction by Darryl Pinckney, the Collected Essays gathers more than fifty essays for a fifty-year retrospective of Hardwick’s work from 1953 to 2003. “For Hardwick,” writes Pinckney, “the poetry and novels of America hold the nation’s history.” Here is an exhilarating chronicle of that history.

Blood Dark
by Louis Guilloux
translated from the French by Laura Marris
NYRB Classics

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Here is the NYRB Classics blurb:

Blood Dark tells the story of a brilliant philosopher trapped in a provincial town and of his spiraling descent into self-destruction. Cripure, as his students call him—the name a mocking contraction of Critique of Pure Reason—despises his colleagues, despairs of his charges, and is at odds with his family. The year is 1917, and the slaughter of the First World War goes on and on, with French soldiers not only dying in droves but also beginning to rise up in protest. Still haunted by the memory of the wife who left him long ago, Cripure turns his fury and scathing wit on everyone around him. Before he knows it, a trivial dispute with a complacently patriotic colleague has embroiled him in a duel.


October 24

Boathouse
by Jon Fosse
translated from the Norwegian by May-Brit Akerholt
Dalkey Archive

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Here is the blurb from Dalkey Archive:

One of Jon Fosse’s most acclaimed novels, Boathouse is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator leading a largely hermit-like existence until he unexpectedly encounters a long-lost childhood friend and his wife. Told partially in a stream-of-consciousness style and with an atmosphere reminiscent of a gripping crime novel, Boathouse slowly unravels the story of a love triangle leading to jealousy, betrayal, and eventually death.


October 31

Concluding
by Henry Green
New Directions

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Here is the blurb from New Directions:

Concluding — set in a single summer day — has at its heart old Mr. Rock, a famous retired scientist: he lives in a cottage on the grounds of a girl’s boarding school. Living with him is Elizabeth, his somewhat unstrung granddaughter; his white cat; his white goose; and Daisy, his white pig. Miss Edge and Miss Baker — the two inseparable spinster harpies who run the school — scheme to dislodge him from the cottage. Concluding opens with the discovery that two of the schoolgirls have vanished in the night: searching, eavesdropping, worrying, jostling, and giggling all ensue. A love affair, a dance, that magnificent pig, small joys, and low ambitions all stream together, crowding up to the reader’s eye, as Henry Green brews up an enchanting, heartbreaking, and darkly sunny novel.

The Philosophical Hitchcock: “Vertigo” and the Anxieties of Unknowingness
by Robert B. Pippin
University of Chicago Press

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Here is the blurb from The University of Chicago Press:

On the surface, The Philosophical Hitchcock: Vertigo and the Anxieties of Unknowingness, is a close reading of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece Vertigo. This, however, is a book by Robert B. Pippin, one of our most penetrating and creative philosophers, and so it is also much more. Even as he provides detailed readings of each scene in the film, and its story of obsession and fantasy, Pippin reflects more broadly on the modern world depicted in Hitchcock’s films. Hitchcock’s characters, Pippin shows us, repeatedly face problems and dangers rooted in our general failure to understand others—or even ourselves—very well, or to make effective use of what little we do understand. Vertigo, with its impersonations, deceptions, and fantasies, embodies a general, common struggle for mutual understanding in the late modern social world of ever more complex dependencies. By treating this problem through a filmed fictional narrative, rather than discursively, Pippin argues, Hitchcock is able to help us see the systematic and deep mutual misunderstanding and self-deceit that we are subject to when we try to establish the knowledge necessary for love, trust, and commitment, and what it might be to live in such a state of unknowingness.

A bold, brilliant exploration of one of the most admired works of cinema, The Philosophical Hitchcockwill lead philosophers and cinephiles alike to a new appreciation of Vertigo and its meanings.

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