April 2019 Books to Read!

I missed doing this the last couple of months. I tell you: winter drains me a bit. But the daffodils outside are in bloom and there is a lot more sunshine in my day. I love it! I’ve been reading some great books, too. Here are a few coming out this month that I have my eye on. Please let me know what you recommend!

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.

April 2

A Wonderful Stroke of Luck
by Ann Beattie
Viking

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Viking:

At a boarding school in New Hampshire, Ben joins the honor society led by Pierre LaVerdere, an enigmatic, brilliant, yet perverse, teacher who instructs his students not only about how to reason, but how to prevaricate. As the years go by, LaVerdere’s covert and overt instruction lingers in his students’ lives as they seek some sense of purpose or meaning. When Ben feels the pace of his life accelerating and views his intimate relationships as less and less fulfilling, there seems to be a subtext he’s not able to access. And what, really, did Bailey Academy teach him?

While relationships with his stepmother and sister improve, and a move to upstate New York offers respite from his anxiety about love and work, LaVerdere’s reappearance in his life disturbs his equilibrium. Everything he once thought he knew about his teacher–and himself–is called into question. Written by one of our most iconic writers, known for casting a cold eye on her generation’s ambivalence and sometimes mistaken ambition, A Wonderful Stroke of Luck is a keenly observed psychological study of a man who alternates between careful driving and hazardous risk taking, as he struggles to incorporate his past into the vertiginous present.

The Dolphin Letters, 1970–1979: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Their Circle
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

The Dolphin Letters offers an unprecedented portrait of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick during the last seven years of Lowell’s life (1970 to 1977), a time of personal crisis and creative innovation for both writers. Centered on the letters they exchanged with each other and with other members of their circle?writers, intellectuals, friends, and publishers, including Elizabeth Bishop, Caroline Blackwood, Mary McCarthy, and Adrienne Rich?the book has the narrative sweep of a novel, telling the story of the dramatic breakup of their twenty-one-year marriage and their extraordinary, but late, reconciliation.

Lowell’s controversial sonnet-sequence The Dolphin (for which he used Hardwick’s letters as a source) and his last book, Day by Day, were written during this period, as were Hardwick’s influential books Seduction and Betrayal: Essays on Women in Literature and Sleepless Nights: A Novel. Lowell and Hardwick are acutely intelligent observers of marriages, children, and friends, and of the feelings that their personal crises gave rise to.

The Dolphin Letters, masterfully edited by Saskia Hamilton, is a debate about the limits of art?what occasions a work of art, what moral and artistic license artists have to make use of their lives as material, what formal innovations such debates give rise to. The crisis of Lowell’s The Dolphin was profoundly affecting to everyone surrounding him, and Bishop’s warning to Lowell?“art just isn’t worth that much”?haunts.


April 9

Rock, Paper, Scissors
by Maxim Ospiov
translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk, Alex Flemin, and Anne Marie Jackson
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Maxim Osipov, who lives and practices medicine in a town ninety miles outside Moscow, is one of Russia’s best contemporary writers. In the tradition of Anton Chekhov and William Carlos Williams, he draws on his experiences in medicine to write stories of great subtlety and striking insight. Osipov’s fiction presents a nuanced, collage-like portrait of life in provincial Russia—its tragedies, frustrations, and moments of humble beauty and inspiration. The twelve stories in this volume depict doctors, actors, screenwriters, teachers, entrepreneurs, local political bosses, and common criminals whose paths intersect in unpredictable yet entirely natural ways: in sickrooms, classrooms, administrative offices and on trains and in planes. Their encounters lead to disasters, major and minor epiphanies, and—on occasion—the promise of redemption.


April 23

Flowers of Mold & Other Stories
by Ha Seong-Nan
translated from the Korean by Janet Hong
Open Letter Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Open Letter Books:

On the surface, Ha Seong-nan’s stories seem pleasant enough, yet there’s something disturbing just below the surface, ready to permanently disrupt the characters’ lives.

A woman meets her next-door neighbor and loans her a spatula, then starts suffering horrific gaps in her memory. A man, feeling jilted by an unrequited love, becomes obsessed with sorting through his neighbors’ garbage in the belief that it will teach him how to better relate to people. A landlord decides to raise the rent, and his tenants hatch a plan to kill him at a team-building retreat.

In ten captivating, unnerving stories, Flowers of Mold presents a range of ordinary individuals—male and female, young and old—who have found themselves left behind by an increasingly urbanized and fragmented world.

The latest in the trend of brilliant female Korean authors to appear in English, Ha cuts like a surgeon, and even the most mundane objects become menacing and unfamiliar under her scalpel.

Machines Like Me
by Ian McEwan
Nan A. Talese

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Nan A. Talese:

Machines Like Me takes place in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first synthetic humans and—with Miranda’s help—he designs Adam’s personality. The near-perfect human that emerges is beautiful, strong, and clever. It isn’t long before a love triangle soon forms, and these three beings confront a profound moral dilemma.

In his subversive new novel, Ian McEwan asks whether a machine can understand the human heart—or whether we are the ones who lack understanding.

Picture
by Lilian Ross
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Lillian Ross worked at The New Yorker for more than half a century, and might be described not only as an outstanding practitioner of modern long-form journalism but also as one of its inventors. Picture, originally published in 1952, is her most celebrated piece of reportage, a closely observed and completely absorbing story of how studio politics and misguided commercialism turn a promising movie into an all-around disaster. The charismatic and hard-bitten director and actor John Huston is at the center of the book, determined to make Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage—one of the great and defining works of American literature, the first modern war novel, a book whose vivid imagistic style invites the description of cinematic—into a movie that is worthy of it. At first all goes well, as Huston shoots and puts together a two-hour film that is, he feels, the best he’s ever made. Then the studio bosses step in and the audience previews begin, conferences are held, and the movie is taken out of Huston’s hands, cut down by a third, and finally released—with results that please no one and certainly not the public: It was an expensive flop. In Picture, which Charlie Chaplin aptly described as “brilliant and sagacious,” Ross is a gadfly on the wall taking note of the operations of a system designed to crank out mediocrity.

Mac’s Problem
by Enrique Vila Matas
translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie B. Hughes
New Directions

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from New Directions:

Mac is currently unemployed and lives on his wife’s earnings from her furniture restoration business. An avid reader, he decides at the age of sixty to keep a diary. Mac’s wife, Carmen, a dyslexic born of dyslexic parents, thinks he is simply wasting his time and risking sliding further into depression?but Mac persists, and is determined that this diary will not turn into a novel. However, one day, he has a chance encounter with a near neighbor, a highly successful author who once wrote a collection of enigmatic, willfully obscure stories. Mac decides that, while he will not write his own stories, he will read, revise, and improve his neighbor’s, which are mostly narrated by a ventriloquist who has lost the ability to speak in different voices. As Mac embarks on this task, he finds that the stories have a strange way of imitating life. Or is life imitating the stories? As the novel progresses, Mac becomes stranger and more adrift from reality, and both he and we become ever more immersed in literature: a literature haunted by death, but alive with the sheer pleasure of writing.


And a couple I missed from February and March

The Nocilla Trilogy
by Agustín Fernández Mallo
translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

A landmark in contemporary Spanish literature, Agustin Fernandez Mallo’s Nocilla Trilogy?Nocilla Dream, Nocilla Lab, and Nocilla Experience?presents multiple narratives of people and places that reflect America and the world in the digital age of the twenty-first century.

In the middle of the Nevada desert stands a solitary poplar tree covered in hundreds of pairs of shoes. Farther along Route 50, a lonely prostitute falls in love with a collector of found photographs. In Las Vegas, an Argentine man builds a peculiar monument to Jorge Luis Borges. On the run from the authorities, Kenny takes up permanent residence in the legal non-place of Singapore International Airport, while the novelists Enrique Vila-Matas and Agustín Fernández Mallo encounter each other on an oil rig.

These are just a few of the narrative strands that make up Fernández Mallo’s Nocilla Trilogy?Nocilla Dream, Nocilla Experience, and Nocilla Lab. Greeted as a landmark in contemporary Spanish literature, the entire trilogy has not been available in English until now.

Max Havelaar: Or, the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company
by Multatuli
translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke and David McKay
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

A brilliantly inventive fiction that is also a work of burning political outrage, Max Havelaar tells the story of a renegade Dutch colonial administrator’s ultimately unavailing struggle to end the exploitation of the Indonesian peasantry. Havelaar’s impassioned exposé is framed by the fatuous reflections of an Amsterdam coffee trader, Drystubble, into whose hands it has fallen. Thus a tale of the jungles and villages of Indonesia is interknit with one of the houses and warehouses of bourgeois Amsterdam, where the tidy profits from faraway brutality not only accrue but are counted as a sign of God’s grace.

Multatuli (meaning “I have suffered greatly”) was the pen name of Eduard Douwes Dekker, and his novel caused a political storm when it came out in Holland. Max Havelaar, however, is as notable for its art as it is for its politics. Layering not only different stories but different ways of writing—including plays, poems, lists, letters, and a wild accumulation of notes—to furious, hilarious, and disconcerting effect, this masterpiece of Dutch literature confronts the fixities of power with the protean and subversive energy of the imagination.

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