Monday, February 13, 2006

great books coming in May...

Your latest dispatch from the frontline of publishing.... OK, this is information freely available to anyone with a subscription to the Bookseller (or access to Amazon, thinking about it), but there are some good books coming out in the next few months so here's a quick heads up to the ones I'm getting excited about it.

First up, on the 4th of May, comes the new Philip Roth, Everyman, which is only 80 pages for a ten pound book, but it's likely to be worth every penny once it gets a few discounts; the Bookseller describes it thus: 'Taking it's title from a 15th Century allegorical play whose hero Everyman is intended to be the personification of mankind, it's the story of a lonely man with three ex-wives, described as a "savagely sad" tale of loss and regret'. Sounds like something by John Updike (except of course in his book the three wives would return to him reincarnated as sexually available fawns, or some such).

Amazon puff it up as a 'painful human story of the regret and loss and stoicism of a man who becomes what he does not want to be. The terrain of this savagely sad short novel is the human body, and its subject is the common experience that terrifies us all'. Ugh, I hate advertising blurbs.

The week after, meanwhile, Serpent's Tail are reissuing the first Lionel Shriver novel, but as I've not read We Need to Talk About Kevin yet, and as her column in the Guardian annoys me, that might have to wait. Either way, Double Fault will doubtless be good and publishes on the 8th May.

A book which publishes on the same day is getting one of those whispering campaigns in the publishing world, and I dunno if that's because of it's quality or because it's very deft marketing. Londonstani, apparently written in impeccable Hounslow patois by an unassuming, er, FT journalist (Gautam Malkani), is the book everyone is talking about. The novel is 'about many things: tribalism, aggressive masculinity, integration, cross-cultural chirpsing techniques, the urban scene seeping into the mainstream, bling bling economics, 'complicated family-related shit'. It is one of the most surprising British novels of recent years'. According to Amazon. Well, according to the press people at Fourth Estate, really. There, I described the book without once using the phrase 'the new Zadie Smith'. Good. Anyone know what 'chirpsing techniques' are, meanwhile?

Two non-fiction books catch the eye too, although I'm not sure that either will be very good. Alain de Botton veers from writing beautifully and insightfully (How Proust Can Save Your Life) to statin' the bleedin' obvious (Status Anxiety), and it's hard to tell in advance on which side of the fence his forthcoming The Architecture of Happiness will fall. But a book about buildings and the way they make us feel sounds - to me - potentially fascinating, and there's a C4 series to accompany the book. Hopefully better than his last one.

Niall Ferguson is a preening right-wing shit, but he's also a historian who is able - like Boris Johnson in his excellent recent series on Rome - to bring history to life, although everything I've seen of his so far has impressed only in bursts, as his tone often sabotages his narrative. He's got a new book too, however, and he's got a C4 series as well, and - suck on this, Alain, he's probably saying - his is primetime. His The War Of The World: History's Age of Hatred 'examines how and why the 20th Century, which dawned with such optimism, became the most violent and savage century in history'. Probably not got time for the book, but I might give the TV series a go.

Saving the best 'til last, David Mitchell's Black Swan Green finally arrives at the start of the month, and I really can't wait for it. I know everyone says it, but Cloud Atlas was just completely astonishing and a complete surprise. This time round Mitchell eschews the massive scope of his last book and concentrates on just over a year in the life of a teenage boy growing up in Worcestershire in the early 1980s. '13 chapters, each as self-contained as a short story, follow 13 months in his life as he negotiates the pitfalls of school and home and contends with bullies, girls and family politics. In the distance, the Falklands conflict breaks out; close at hand, the village mobilises against a gypsy camp. And through Jason's eyes, we see what he doesn't know he knows - and watch unfold what will make him wish his life had been as uneventful as he had believed. Vividly capturing the mood of the times - high unemployment, Cold War politics and the sunset of agrarian England - this is at once a portrait of an era and of an age: the black hole between childhood and teenagerdom.'

People are selling proof copies on ebay, I note, and I'm sorely tempted, because I don't want to wait. Bah. You mean I can't just download it? Pop music spoils me.


Stephen Newton said...

I'm finally reading Ghostwritten, having already read Number9dream and Cloud Atlas. Yes they're great, but it's beginning to feel a little contrived. I'm sorting of aching for him to play it straight.

jonathan said...

Although I've read neither Number9dream or Ghostwritten, I can imagine that slight weariness happening, yes. It sounds like the new one will be more linear, but you never know: I suspect it will be just as convoluted.

But one thing I really like about Mitchell is his ability to engage with these rather pretentious tropes. He's one of the few authors I read who seems as interesting off the page as he is on it.

Ben said...

Not read 'Cloud Atlas', but heard many good things about it - that'd be another one added to the list, then...

Roth's book sounds interesting - though 'Portnoy's Complaint' is still sat on my shelves awaiting reading.

And as for calling Niall Ferguson a "preening right-wing shit" - the expression "hitting the nail on the head" springs to mind...