December (and November) 2018 Books to Read!

November came and went in a flash! It was so fast, in fact, that I neglected to do a November Books post. I’m hoping to make up for it with this post, which covers some exciting books from November and December. This is a good way to do it anyway, because December is usually a slower publication month. I hope that you’re all enjoying a lovely December wherever you are!

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.

November 6

The William H. Gass Reader
by William H. Gass
Knopf

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Knopf:

A literary delight — a reading feast; a Gassian celebration — the best of the best: more than fifty selections chosen by Gass himself from his essays, criticism, commentary, short stories, and novels.

It begins with his essays, in which Gass looks back at varying points in his writing life at those writers (from Plato, Hobbes, and James, to Joyce, Beckett, Stein, and Gaddis) whose work he found inspiring . . . and at those whose work he explores and embraces (Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy; Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End; Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain;Stendhal’s The Red and the Black). He writes (from A Temple of Texts) on the nature and value of writing (“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words”).

Here is a rich experience of Gass’s short fiction: from Eyes, his masterfully crafted novella, “In Camera,” about collecting, hording; about suspicions run amok . . . from Cartesian Sonata . . . and In the Heart of the Heart of the Country (1968), a mythical reimagining of America’s heartland.

And from his nimble, daredevil novels: Middle C (2013), the chronicle of an Austrian-born man who, as a child with his mother, relocates to America’s Midwest (Woodbine, Ohio), grows up a low-skilled amateur piano player to become a music professor at a small Bible college; his only hobby a fantasy life as the curator of his Inhumanity Museum . . . and from The Tunnel (“The most beautiful, most complex, most disturbing novel to be published in my lifetime” –Michael Silverblatt, Los Angeles Times).

Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp
by Jozef Czapski
translated from the French by Eric Karpeles
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

The first translation of painter and writer Józef Czapski’s inspiring lectures on Proust, first delivered in a prison camp in the Soviet Union during World War II.

During the Second World War, as a prisoner of war in a Soviet camp, and with nothing but memory to go on, the Polish artist and soldier Józef Czapski brought Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time to life for an audience of prison inmates. In a series of lectures, Czapski described the arc and import of Proust’s masterpiece, sketched major and minor characters in striking detail, and movingly evoked the work’s originality, depth, and beauty. Eric Karpeles has translated this brilliant and altogether unparalleled feat of the critical imagination into English for the first time, and in a thoughtful introduction he brings out how, in reckoning with Proust’s great meditation on memory, Czapski helped his fellow officers to remember that there was a world apart from the world of the camp. Proust had staked the art of the novelist against the losses of a lifetime and the imminence of death. Recalling that triumphant wager, unfolding, like Sheherazade, the intricacies of Proust’s world night after night, Czapski showed to men at the end of their tether that the past remained present and there was a future in which to hope.

Evening in Paradise: More Stories
by Lucia Berlin
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

A collection of previously uncompiled stories from the short-story master and literary sensation Lucia Berlin.

In 2015, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published A Manual for Cleaning Women, a posthumous story collection by a relatively unknown writer, to wild, widespread acclaim. It was a New York Times bestseller; the paper’s Book Review named it one of the Ten Best Books of 2015; and NPR, Time,Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and other outlets gave the book rave reviews.

The book’s author, Lucia Berlin, earned comparisons to Raymond Carver, Grace Paley, Alice Munro, and Anton Chekhov. Evening in Paradise is a careful selection from Berlin’s remaining stories?twenty-two gems that showcase the gritty glamour that made readers fall in love with her. From Texas to Chile, Mexico to New York City, Berlin finds beauty in the darkest places and darkness in the seemingly pristine. Evening in Paradise is an essential piece of Berlin’s oeuvre, a jewel-box follow-up for new and old fans.


November 13

The Females
by Wolfgang Hilbig
translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole
Two Lines Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Two Lines Press:

What can an irascible East German tell us about how society shapes relations between the sexes? A lot it turns out. Acclaimed as one of Wolfgang Hilbig’s major works, The Females finds the lauded author focusing his labyrinthine, mercurial mind on how unequal societies can pervert sexuality and destroy a healthy, productive understanding of gender. It begins with a factory laborer who ogles women in secret on the job. When those same women mysteriously vanish from their small town, the worker sets out on a hallucinatory journey to find them. Powerful and at times disturbing, The Females leaves us with some of the most challenging, radical, and enduring insights of any novel from the GDR.


November 20

John Updike: Novels 1959 – 1965
The Poorhouse Fair
Rabbit, Run
The Centaur
On the Farm
The Library of America

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from The Library of America:

Library of America launches its definitive multi-volume edition of John Updike’s novels with the four early works that signaled the arrival of one of the most gifted young novelists of the 1960s.

John Updike had already made a name as a contributor of stories and poems to The New Yorkerwhen, in January 1959, at the age of twenty-six, he published his first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, launching one of the most extraordinary literary careers in American letters. Now, Library of America inaugurates a multi-volume edition of Updike’s novels with this volume gathering his first four novels, including the landmark Rabbit, Run, chosen in 2010 by TIME Magazine one of the best 100 novels published in English since 1923. Set in the near future of 1978, The Poorhouse Fair stages a conflict between John Hook, a rebellious ninety-four-year-old former schoolteacher now a resident of a rural poorhouse, and young Mr. Conner, the utilitarian humanist who runs the facility, as an allegory of resistance in a world of systems and efficiencies. Updike’s legendary rejoinder to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Rabbit, Run (1960) introduces us to the author’s most enduring protagonist, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a onetime high-school basketball star who, on an impulse, deserts his wife and son, with tragic consequences. The Centaur, a comic-tragic father-son novel that mixes memory and myth, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1964. The novella Of the Farm (1965) is one of Updike’s loveliest performances, a kind of chamber music for four voices set during a single memorable weekend.

Camellia Street
by Mercè Rodoreda
translated from the Catalan by David Rosenthal
Open Letter Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Open Letter Books:

A major work from Mercè Rodoreda’s early, realistic period, Camellia Street is set in war-torn Barcelona of the 1940s and 50s and tells the story of Cecilia, who, abandoned as an infant, ends up fleeing her adoptive family in favor of a more unsettled life of fire-setting, poverty, one abusive man after another, prostitution, and, eventually, a tenuous note of rebirth. Building on the themes of The Time of the Doves, Rodoreda uses Cecilia’s difficult life to explore the strength of one woman in the face of male brutality. A classic work of feminist fiction that’s as charged today as when it was first published in Catalan back in 1966.

Love in the New Millennium
by Can Xue
translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen
Yale University Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Yale University Press:

The most ambitious work of fiction by a writer widely considered the most important novelist working in China today.

In this darkly comic novel, a group of women inhabits a world of constant surveillance, where informants lurk in the flower beds and false reports fly. Conspiracies abound in a community that normalizes paranoia and suspicion. Some try to flee—whether to a mysterious gambling bordello or to ancestral homes that can be reached only underground through muddy caves, sewers, and tunnels. Others seek out the refuge of Nest County, where traditional Chinese herbal medicines can reshape or psychologically transport the self. Each life is circumscribed by buried secrets and transcendent delusions.

Can Xue’s masterful love stories for the new millennium trace love’s many guises—satirical, tragic, transient, lasting, nebulous, and fulfilling—against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of commerce and industry, fraud and exploitation, and sex and romance drawn from the East and the West.


November 27

Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants
by Mathias Énard
translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell
New Directions

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from New Directions:

In 1506, Michelangelo?a young but already renowned sculptor?is invited by the Sultan of Constantinople to design a bridge over the Golden Horn. The sultan has offered, alongside an enormous payment, the promise of immortality, since Leonardo da Vinci’s design had been rejected: “You will surpass him in glory if you accept, for you will succeed where he has failed, and you will give the world a monument without equal.”

Michelangelo, after some hesitation, flees Rome and an irritated Pope Julius II?whose commission he leaves unfinished?and arrives in Constantinople for this truly epic project. Once there, he explores the beauty and wonder of the Ottoman Empire, sketching and describing his impressions along the way, and becomes immersed in cloak-and-dagger palace intrigues as he struggles to create what could be his greatest architectural masterwork.

Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants?constructed from real historical fragments?is a story about why stories are told, why bridges are built, and how seemingly unmatched pieces, seen from the opposite sides of civilization, can mirror one another.

Unclay
by T.F. Powys
New Directions

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from New Directions:

New Directions is proud to present one of the most spellbinding novels you will read this year, and certainly the weirdest.

First published in 1931, Unclay glows with an unworldly light?Death has come to the small village of Dodder to deliver a parchment with the names of two local mortals and the fatal word unclayupon it. When he loses the precious sheet, he is at a loss, and also free of his errand. Hungry to taste the sweet fruits of human life, Mr. John Death, as he is now known, takes a holiday in Dorsetshire and rests from his reaping. The village teems with the old virtues (love, kindness, patience) and the old sins (lust, avarice, greed). What unfolds is a witty, earthy, metaphysical, and delicious novel of enormous moral force and astonishing beauty.


December 4

Portraits without Frames
by Lev Ozerov
translated from the Russian by Maria Bloshteyn, Robert Chandler, Boris Dralyuk, and Irina Mashinski
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Isaac Babel, Dmitry Shostakovich, and Anna Akhmatova star in this series of portraits of some of the greatest writers, artists, and composers of the twentieth century.

“We stopped and Shklovsky told me / quietly, but clearly, / ‘Remember, we are on our way out. / On our way out.’ And I recalled / … the wall of books, / all written by a man / who lived / in times that were hard to bear.”

Lev Ozerov’s Portraits Without Frames offers fifty shrewd and moving glimpses into the lives of Soviet writers, composers, and artists caught between the demands of art and politics. Some of the subjects—like Anna Akhmatova, Isaac Babel, Andrey Platonov, and Dmitry Shostakovich—are well-known, others less so. All are evoked with great subtlety and vividness, as is the fraught and dangerous time in which they lived. Composed in free verse of deceptively artless simplicity, Ozerov’s portraits are like nothing else in Russian poetry.

Milkman
by Anna Burns
Graywolf Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Graywolf Press:

Winner of the Man Booker Prize.

In an unnamed city, middle sister stands out for the wrong reasons. She reads while walking, for one. And she has been taking French night classes downtown. So when a local paramilitary known as the milkman begins pursuing her, she suddenly becomes “interesting,” the last thing she ever wanted to be. Despite middle sister’s attempts to avoid him?and to keep her mother from finding out about her maybe-boyfriend?rumors spread and the threat of violence lingers. Milkman is a story of the way inaction can have enormous repercussions, in a time when the wrong flag, wrong religion, or even a sunset can be subversive. Told with ferocious energy and sly, wicked humor, Milkman establishes Anna Burns as one of the most consequential voices of our day.


December 10

Inhuman Land: Searching for the Truth in Soviet Russia, 1941 – 1942
by Josef Czapski
translated from the French by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

A classic work of reportage about the Katy? Massacre during World War II by a soldier who narrowly escaped the atrocity himself.

In 1941, when Germany turned against the USSR, tens of thousands of Poles—men, women, and children who were starving, sickly, and impoverished—were released from Soviet prison camps and allowed to join the Polish army being formed in the south of Russia. One of the survivors who made the difficult winter journey was the painter and reserve officer Józef Czapski.

General Anders, the army’s commander in chief, assigned Czapski the task of receiving the Poles arriving for military training; gathering accounts of what their fates had been; organizing education, culture, and news for the soldiers; and, most important, investigating the disappearance of thousands of missing Polish officers. Blocked at every level by the Soviet authorities, Czapski was unaware that in April 1940 the officers had been shot dead in the Katyn forest, a crime for which Soviet Russia never accepted responsibility.

Czapski’s account of the years following his release from the camp, the formation of the Polish army, and its arduous trek through Central Asia and the Middle East to fight on the Italian front is rich in anecdotes about the suffering of the Poles in the USSR, quotations from the Polish poetry that sustained him and his companions, encounters with literary  gures (including Anna Akhmatova), and philosophical thoughts about the relationships between nationalities.

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By |2018-12-04T17:36:59+00:00December 4th, 2018|Categories: News|2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Simon T December 4, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    Oo, interesting to see more TF Powys in print. I’ve had mixed success with him, but this does sound interesting. Also he and I share the trait of being the son of the vicar of Montacute!

  2. Trevor Berrett December 5, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    I think it sounds very interesting, too, Simon. I’ve got a copy I’ve been meaning to start — I will let you know. Sounds like your heritage means you have to read it regardless, though!

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