June 2019 Books to Read!

June has arrived. I am a little sad, because I love May so much, and come June it feels as if the entire year is suddenly speeding by . . . which it is! Still, in June I go on holiday (next week), and I love that time away with my family. I’m packing a few books with me, and I am excited by many books that are coming out this month. Here are some I’m most excited about this month — just look at the four coming from NYRB Classics alone! Let me know what you’re looking forward to!

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.

June 4

Abel and Cain
by Gregor von Rezzori
translated from the German by David Dollenmayer, Joachim Neugroschel, and Marshall Yarbrough
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Appearing together in English for the first time, two masterpieces that take on the jazz age, the Nuremburg trials, postwar commercialism, and the feat of writing a book, presented in one brilliant volume.

The Death of My Brother Abel and its delirious sequel, Cain, constitute the magnum opus of Gregor von Rezzori’s prodigious career, the most ambitious, extravagant, outrageous, and deeply considered achievement of this wildly original and never less than provocative master of the novel. In Abel and Cain, the original book, long out of print, is reissued in a fully revised translation; Cain appears for the first time in English.

The Death of My Brother Abel zigzags across the middle of the twentieth century, from the 1918 to 1968, taking in the Jazz Age, the Anschluss, the Nuremberg trials, and postwar commercialism. At the center of the book is the unnamed narrator, holed up in a Paris hotel and writing a kind of novel, a collage of sardonic and passionate set pieces about love and work, sex and writing, families and nations, and human treachery and cruelty. In Cain, that narrator is revealed as Aristide Subics, or so at least it appears, since Subics’ identity is as unstable as the fictional apparatus that contains him and the times he lived through. Questions abound: How can a man who lived in a time of lies know himself? And is it even possible to tell the story of an era of lies truthfully? Primarily set in the bombed-out, rubble- strewn Hamburg of the years just after the war, the dark confusion and deadly confrontation and of Cain and Abel, inseparable brothers, goes on.

Aug 9 — Fog
by Kathryn Scanlan
MCD

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from MCD:

Fifteen years ago, Kathryn Scanlan found a stranger’s five-year diary at an estate auction in a small town in Illinois. The owner of the diary was eighty-six years old when she began recording the details of her life in the small book, a gift from her daughter and son-in-law. The diary was falling apart?water-stained and illegible in places?but magnetic to Scanlan nonetheless.

After reading and rereading the diary, studying and dissecting it, for the next fifteen years she played with the sentences that caught her attention, cutting, editing, arranging, and rearranging them into the composition that became Aug 9?Fog (she chose the title from a note that was tucked into the diary). “Sure grand out,” the diarist writes. “That puzzle a humdinger,” she says, followed by, “A letter from Lloyd saying John died the 16th.” An entire state of mourning reveals itself in “2 canned hams.” The result of Scanlan’s collaging is an utterly compelling, deeply moving meditation on life and death.

In Aug 9?Fog, Scanlan’s spare, minimalist approach has a maximal emotional effect, remaining with the reader long after the book ends. It is an unclassifiable work from a visionary young writer and artist?a singular portrait of a life revealed by revision and restraint.

Booth Tarkington: Novels & Stories
-The Magnificent Ambersons
-Alice Adams
-In the Arena: Stories of Political Life
The Library of America

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from The Library of America:

Much in need of rediscovery today, Booth Tarkington was among the most beloved and widely read writers of his era. In such classic novels as The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams, both winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Tarkington displayed a mastery of realism and an astute, strikingly modern feel for psychology, capturing crucial transformations in our national life as they were manifested in changing social customs and in the very landscape itself, altered irrevocably by industrialization and environmental degradation. Out of Tarkington’s prolific writings novelist and critic Thomas Mallon has selected three works that show Tarkington at his best. The Magnificent Ambersons, inspiration for Orson Welles’s classic film, is a tour-de-force study in egoism, depicting the fall from grace of George Minafer, wayward scion of the once-unassailable Amberson family. The titular protagonist of Alice Adams, portrayed unforgettably by Katharine Hepburn in what many consider her finest performance, is one of the great heroines of American literature: like Henry James’s Isabel Archer and the young women of Edith Wharton’s novels, she is a spirited, complicated young woman confronting the limits of her time and place with her own headlong desires. These novels are joined here by the story collection In the Arena: Stories from Political Life, published in 1905. The tales were read avidly by Theodore Roosevelt, inspiring perhaps his most famous speech–draw from Tarkington’s political career as a state legislator in Indiana, which lasted briefly but had a profound impact on him. Published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Tarkington’s birth, Novels and Stories contains the most enduring works of a Hoosier luminary and an estimable chronicler of the American Midwest.


June 11

Life with Picasso
by Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Françoise Gilot was in her early twenties when she met the sixty-one-year-old Pablo Picasso in 1943. Brought up in a well-to-do upper-middle-class family, who had sent her to Cambridge and the Sorbonne and hoped that she would go into law, the young woman defied their wishes and set her sights on being an artist. Her introduction to Picasso led to a friendship, a love affair, and a relationship of ten years, during which Gilot gave birth to Picasso’s two children, Paloma and Claude. Gilot was one of Picasso’s muses; she was also very much her own woman, determined to make herself into the remarkable painter she did indeed become.

Life with Picasso is an indispensable record of his thinking about art, as well as an often very funny account of his relationships with other artists and with dealers and hangers-on.  It is also about Françoise Gilot. This is a brilliant self-portrait of a young woman of enormous talent and exacting intelligence figuring out who she wants to be.

Stalingrad
by Vasily Grossman
translated from the Russian by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

In April 1942, Hitler and Mussolini meet in Salzburg where they agree on a renewed assault on the Soviet Union. Launched in the summer, the campaign soon picks up speed, as the routed Red Army is driven back to the industrial center of Stalingrad on the banks of the Volga. In the rubble of the bombed-out city, Soviet forces dig in for a last stand.

The story told in Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad unfolds across the length and breadth of Russia and Europe, and its characters include mothers and daughters, husbands and brothers, generals, nurses, political activists, steelworkers, and peasants, along with Hitler and other historical figures. At the heart of the novel is the Shaposhnikov family. Even as the Germans advance, the matriarch, Alexandra Vladimirovna, refuses to leave Stalingrad. Far from the front, her eldest daughter, Ludmila, is unhappily married to the Jewish physicist Viktor Shtrum. Viktor’s research may be of crucial military importance, but he is distracted by thoughts of his mother in the Ukraine, lost behind German lines.

In Stalingrad, published here for the first time in English translation, and in its celebrated sequel, Life and Fate, Grossman writes with extraordinary power and deep compassion about the disasters of war and the ruthlessness of totalitarianism, without, however, losing sight of the little things that are the daily currency of human existence or of humanity’s inextinguishable, saving attachment to nature and life. Grossman’s two-volume masterpiece can now be seen as one of the supreme accomplishments of twentieth-century literature, tender and fearless, intimate and epic.


June 25

A King Alone
by Jean Giono
translated from the French by Alyson Waters
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

A King Alone is set in a remote Alpine village that is cut off from the world by rugged mountains and by long months when the ground is covered with snow and the heavens with cloud. One such winter, villagers begin mysteriously to disappear. Soon the village is paralyzed by terror, which gives way to relief and eager anticipation when the outsider Langlois arrives to investigate. What he discovers, however, will leave no one reassured, and his reappearance in the village a few years later, now assigned the task of guarding it from wolves, awakens those troubling memories. A man of few words, a regal manner, and military efficiency, Langlois baffles and fascinates the villagers, whose different responses to him shape Jean Giono’s increasingly charged narrative. This novel about a tiny community at the dangerous edge of things and a man of law who is a man alone could be described as a metaphysical Western. It unfolds with the uncanny inevitability and disturbing intensity of a dream.

The Dry Heart
by Natalia Ginzburg
translated from the Italian by Frances Frenaye
New Directions

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from New Directions:

The Dry Heart begins and ends with the matter-of-fact pronouncement, “I shot him between the eyes.” Everything in between is a plunge into the chilly waters of loneliness, desperation, and bitterness?and as the tale proceeds, the narrator’s murder of her flighty husband takes on a certain logical inevitability.

In this powerful novella, Natalia Ginzburg’s writing is white-hot, fueled by rage, stripped of any preciousness or sentimentality; she transforms an ordinary dull marriage into a rich psychological thriller that might pose the question: why don’t more wives kill their husbands?

Happiness as Such
by Natalia Ginzburg
translated from the Italian by Minna Proctor
New Directions

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from New Directions:

At the heart of Happiness, as Such is an absence?an abyss that draws everyone nearer to its edge?created by the departure of a family’s wayward only son, Michele, who has fled from Italy to England to escape the dangers and threats of his radical political ties. This novel is part epistolary: his mother writes letters to him, nagging him; his sister Angelica writes to him too; so does Mara, his former lover, who gave birth to a child who could be his own. Left to clean up Michele’s mess, his family and friends complain and commiserate, making mistakes and missteps, attempting to cope in the only ways that they know how. With a few brushstrokes, Natalia Ginzburg can flesh out an entire existence and all its pitfalls and disappointments with unmatched clarity.

One of Natalia Ginzburg’s finest achievements, Happiness, as Such is an experimental, wise, raw, comic novel, written in powerful prose that cuts to the bone with surgical precision.

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