February 2018 Books to Read!

After a few months that are relatively slow publishing-wise, there are a lot of books coming out in February that have caught my eye that I wanted to direct your attention to.

Which ones have I missed that you’re excited about?

The links to Amazon.com are affiliate links, so if you purchase the book (or any item) by going there from this page, we’ll make a bit of money for the site. Do not feel obligated, of course — we’ll keep going regardless! Release dates are based on the U.S. release date, but I’ve linked to U.K. pages as well.

February 6

The Neighborhood
by Mario Vargas Llosa
translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

From the Nobel Laureate comes a politically charged detective novel weaving through the underbelly of Peruvian privilege. In the 1990s, during the turbulent and deeply corrupt years of Alberto Fujimori’s presidency, two wealthy couples of Lima’s high society become embroiled in a disturbing vortex of erotic adventures and politically driven blackmail.

One day Enrique, a high-profile businessman, receives a visit from Rolando Garro, the editor of a notorious magazine that specializes in salacious exposés. Garro presents Enrique with lewd pictures from an old business trip and demands that he invest in the magazine. Enrique refuses, and the next day the pictures are on the front page. Meanwhile, Enrique’s wife is in the midst of a passionate and secret affair with the wife of Enrique’s lawyer and best friend. When Garro shows up murdered, the two couples are thrown into a whirlwind of navigating Peru’s unspoken laws and customs, while the staff of the magazine embark on their greatest exposé yet.

Ironic and sensual, provocative and redemptive, the novel swirls into the kind of restless realism that has become Mario Vargas Llosa’s signature style. A twisting, unpredictable tale, The Neighborhood is at once a scathing indictment of Fujimori’s regime and a crime thriller that evokes the vulgarity of freedom in a corrupt system.

Feel Free
by Zadie Smith
Penguin Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Penguin Press:

Since she burst spectacularly into view with her debut novel almost two decades ago, Zadie Smith has established herself not just as one of the world’s preeminent fiction writers, but also a brilliant and singular essayist. She contributes regularly to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books on a range of subjects, and each piece of hers is a literary event in its own right.

Arranged into five sections–In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free–this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. What is The Social Network–and Facebook itself–really about? “It’s a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore.” Why do we love libraries? “Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay.” What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming? “So I might say to her, look: the thing you have to appreciate is that we’d just been through a century of relativism and deconstruction, in which we were informed that most of our fondest-held principles were either uncertain or simple wishful thinking, and in many areas of our lives we had already been asked to accept that nothing is essential and everything changes–and this had taken the fight out of us somewhat.”

Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, “Joy,” and, “Find Your Beach,” Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith’s own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive–and never any less than perfect company. This is literary journalism at its zenith.


February 13

Albert Murray: Collected Novels & Poems
by Albert Murray
The Library of America

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from The Library of America:

One of the leading cultural critics of his generation, Albert Murray was also the author of an extraordinary quartet of semi-autobiographical novels, vivid impressionistic portraits of black life in the Deep South in the 1920s and ’30s and in prewar New York City. Train Whistle Guitar (1974) introduces Murray’s recurring narrator and protagonist, Scooter, a “Southern jackrabbit raised in a briarpatch” too nimble ever to receive a scratch. Scooter’s education in books, music, and the blue-steel bent-note blues-ballad realities of American life continues in The Spyglass Tree (1991), Murray’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Tuskegee Undergraduate.” The Seven League Boots (1996) follows Scooter as he becomes a bass player in a touring band not unlike Duke Ellington’s, and The Magic Keys (2005), in which Scooter at last finds his true vocation as a writer in Greenwich Village, is an elegaic reverie on an artist’s life. Editors Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Paul Devlin round out the volume with a selection of Murray’s remarkable poems, including 11 unpublished pieces from his notebooks, and two rare examples of his work as a short story writer.

The Endless Summer
by Madame Nielsen
translated from the Danish by Gaye Kynoch
Open Letter

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Open Letter:

A passionate love story about a Danish woman and a much younger Portuguese artist, The Endless Summer confronts ideas of time, sexuality, and tragedy in a style reminiscent of both Proust and Lars Von Trier.

Emotional and visceral, the novel drifts through time and space, relating the lives, loves, and dissolutions of everyone who surrounds this unexpected couple, including the woman’s former husband who holds the family at gunpoint, her daughter and her lovers, who include a boy who finds himself and his true sexual identity in America, and the young boy who “is perhaps a girl, but does not yet know it,” who narrates it all.

Propelled by a captivating story, the real charm of the novel resides in its impeccable style and atmosphere, which gathers a sense of longing, a slight nostalgia for times that ache with possibility, while knowing that even the endless summer doesn’t last forever.

All for Nothing
by Walter Kempowski
translated from the German by Anthea Bell
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

In East Prussia, January 1945, the German forces are in retreat and the Red Army is approaching. The von Globig family’s manor house, the Georgenhof, is falling into disrepair. Auntie runs the estate as best she can since Eberhard von Globig, a special officer in the German army, went to war, leaving behind his beautiful but vague wife, Katharina, and her bookish twelve-year-old son, Peter. As the road fills with Germans fleeing the occupied territories, the Georgenhof begins to receive strange visitors–a Nazi violinist, a dissident painter, a Baltic baron, even a Jewish refugee. Yet in the main, life continues as banal, wondrous, and complicit as ever for the family, until their caution, their hedged bets, and their denial are answered by the wholly expected events they haven’t allowed themselves to imagine.

All for Nothing, published in 2006, was the last novel by Walter Kempowski, one of postwar Germany’s most acclaimed and popular writers.

Love
by Hanne Ørstavik
translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken
Archipelago Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Archipelago Books:

A mother and son move to a village in northern Norway, each ensconced in their own world. Their distance has fatal consequences.

Love is the story of Vibeke and Jon, a mother and son who have just moved to a small place in the north of Norway. It’s the day before Jon’s birthday, and a travelling carnival has come to the village. Jon goes out to sell lottery tickets for his sports club, and Vibeke is going to the library. From here on we follow the two individuals on their separate journeys through a cold winter’s night – while a sense of uneasiness grows. Love illustrates how language builds its own reality, and thus how mother and son can live in completely separate worlds. This distance is found not only between human beings, but also within each individual. This novel shows how such distance may have fatal consequences.


February 20

Memoirs from Beyond the Grave 1768 – 1800
by François-René de Chateaubriand
translated from the French by Alex Andriesse
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Written over the course of four decades, François-René de Chateaubriand’s epic autobiography has drawn the admiration of Baudelaire, Flaubert, Proust, Barthes, and Sebald. Here, in the first books of his massive Memoirs, spanning the years 1768 to 1800, Chateaubriand looks back on the already bygone world of his youth. He recounts the history of his aristocratic family and the first rumblings of the French Revolution. He recalls playing games on the beaches of Saint-Malo, wandering in the woods near his father’s castle in Combourg, hunting with King Louis XVI at Versailles, witnessing the first heads carried on pikes through the streets of Paris, meeting with George Washington in Philadelphia, and falling hopelessly in love with a young woman named Charlotte in the small Suffolk town of Bungay. The volume ends with Chateaubriand’s return to France after seven years of exile in England.

In this new edition (the first unabridged English translation of any portion of the Memoirs to be published in more than a century), Chateaubriand emerges as a writer of great wit and clarity, a self deprecating egotist whose meditations on the meaning of history, memory, and morality are leavened with a mixture of high whimsy and memorable gloom.

What Are We Doing Here?: Essays
by Marilynne Robinson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

Marilynne Robinson has plumbed the human spirit in her renowned novels, including Lila, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Gilead, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In this new essay collection she trains her incisive mind on our modern political climate and the mysteries of faith. Whether she is investigating how the work of great thinkers about America like Emerson and Tocqueville inform our political consciousness or discussing the way that beauty informs and disciplines daily life, Robinson’s peerless prose and boundless humanity are on full display. What Are We Doing Here? is a call for Americans to continue the tradition of those great thinkers and to remake American political and cultural life as “deeply impressed by obligation [and as] a great theater of heroic generosity, which, despite all, is sometimes palpable still.”


February 27

A Long Way from Home
by Peter Carey
Knopf

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Knopf:

The two-time Booker Prize-winning author now gives us a wildly exuberant, wily new novel that circumnavigates 1954 Australia, revealing as much about the country/continent as it does about three audacious individuals who take part in the infamous 10,000-mile race, the Redex Trial.

Irene Bobs loves fast driving. Her husband is the best car salesman in southeastern Australia. Together they enter the Redex Trial, a brutal race around the ancient continent, over roads no car will ever quite survive. With them is their lanky, fair-haired navigator, Willie Bachhuber, a quiz show champion and failed schoolteacher who calls the turns and creeks crossings on a map that will remove them, without warning, from the white Australia they all know so well. This is a thrilling high-speed story that starts in one way, and then takes you someplace else. It is often funny, more so as the world gets stranger, and always a page-turner even as you learn a history these characters never knew themselves.

Set in the 1950s, this is a world every American will recognize: black, white, who we are, how we got here, and what we did to each other along the way.

Imaginary Lives
by Marcel Schwob
translated from the French by Chris Clarke
Wakefield Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Wakefield Press:

Imaginary Lives remains, over 120 years since its original publication in French, one of the secret keys to modern literature: under-recognized, yet a decisive influence on such writers as Apollinaire, Borges, Jarry and Artaud, and more contemporary authors such as Roberto Bolaño and Jean Echenoz. Drawing from historical influences such as Plutarch and Diogenes Laërtius, and authors more contemporary to him such as Thomas De Quincey and Walter Pater, Schwob established the genre of fictional biography with this collection: a form of narrative that championed the specificity of the individual over the generality of history, and the memorable detail of a vice over the forgettable banality of a virtue.

These 22 portraits present figures drawn from the margins of history, from Empedocles the “Supposed God” and Clodia the “Licentious Matron” to the pirate Captain Kidd and the Scottish murderers Messrs. Burke and Hare. In his quest for unique lives, Schwob also formulated an early conception of the anti-hero, and discarded historical figures in favor of their shadows. These “imaginary lives” thus acquaint us with the “Hateful Poet” Cecco Angiolieri instead of his lifelong rival, Dante Alighieri; the would-be romantic pirate Major Stede Bonnet instead of the infamous Blackbeard who would lead him to the gallows; the false confessor Nicolas Loyseleur rather than Joan of Arc whom he cruelly deceived; or the actor Gabriel Spenser in place of the better-remembered Ben Jonson who ran a sword through his lung.

The Children’s Crusade
by Marcel Schwob
translated from the French by Kit Schluter
Wakefield Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Wakefield Press:

Marcel Schwob’s 1896 novella The Children’s Crusade retells the medieval legend of the exodus of some 30,000 children from all countries to the Holy Land, who traveled to the shores of the sea, which?instead of parting to allow them to march on to Jerusalem?instead delivered them to merchants who sold them into slavery in Tunisia or delivered them to a watery death. It is a cruel and sorrowful story mingling history and legend, which Schwob recounts through the voices of eight different protagonists: a goliard, a leper, Pope Innocent III, a cleric, a qalandar and Pope Gregory IX, as well as two of the marching children, whose naive faith eventually turns into growing fear and anguish.

Though it is a tale drawn from the early 13th century, Schwob presents it through a modern framework of shifting subjectivity and fragmented coherency, and its subject matter and its succession of different narrative perspectives has been seen as an influence on and precursor to such diverse works as Alfred Jarry’s The Other Alcestis, Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s “In a Grove,” William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Jerzy Andrzejewski’s The Gates of Paradise. It is a tale told by many yet understood by few, a mosaic surrounding a void, describing a world in which innocence must perish.

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By |2018-02-07T15:06:18+00:00February 6th, 2018|Categories: News|0 Comments

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