Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Radar: J. K. Rowling, Junot Diaz, William T. Vollmann, Aryn Kyle, Herman Wouk, and Erik Larson

Book Radar rounds up some of the latest publishing deals which have caught my eye, gathered from reports at Publishers Marketplace, Galley Cat, office water-coolers and other places where hands are shaken and promises are made.  As with anything in the fickle publishing industry, dates and titles are subject to change.

By now, you’ve no doubt heard the news that J. K. Rowling will be coming out with her first adult novel (perhaps you’ve also heard that chewing gum you like is coming back into style).  The Casual Vacancy is a “blackly comic” tale about an idyllic town ripped apart by a parish council election.  The 480-page book will be set in Pagford, a dreamy spot with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey which becomes a town at war with itself.  I never made it through the Harry Potter books (and barely survived the Potter movies), but The Casual Vacancy actually sounds like something I’d pick up and spend a few hours with (tea and scones close at hand, of course).  The novel will appear in late September.

Junot Diaz also has a new book of fiction coming out this Fall.  His new story collection This Is How You Lose Her, “about the heartbreak and radiance that is love,” will be published by Riverhead on September 11.  Diaz hasn’t published a book since winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2008, so his fans are pretty thirsty for his words. Here’s what Riverhead had to say in its press release:
 [The stories] capture the heat of new passion, the recklessness with which we betray what we most treasure, and the torture we go through – “the begging, the crawling over glass, the crying” – to try to mend what we’ve broken beyond repair. They recall the echoes that intimacy leaves behind, even where we thought we did not care. They teach us the catechism of affections: that the faithlessness of the fathers is visited upon the children; that what we do unto our exes is inevitably done in turn unto us; and that loving thy neighbor as thyself is a commandment more safely honored on platonic than erotic terms. Most of all, these stories remind us that the habit of passion always triumphs over experience, and that “love, when it hits us for real, has a half-life of forever.”

It’s been seven years since his last novel--the National Book Award winner Europe Central--but now it appears William T. Vollmann has two forthcoming works of fiction: Last Stories, a collection of “ghost” stories: supernatural, metaphysical, and psychological tales about love, death, and the erotic, set all over this world and the next; and The Dying Grass, the next novel in his “Seven Dreams” series, which also includes The Rifles, The Ice-Shirt, and Argall.  According to my Publishers Lunch email, The Dying Grass explores “the clash between Native Americans and White settlers, [and is] set during the Nez Perce War of 1877 with flashbacks to the Civil War.”  This is a reminder to me that I need to crack open those other Vollmann “Dreams.”

Here's another deal that pinged sharply on my radar screen: a new novel by Aryn Kyle, author of The God of Animals.  Publishers Lunch says Hinterland is “the story of a turbulent platonic friendship between a married father and the gifted, troubled, charismatic woman he's known since college, and how her sudden death--one he feels he should have saved her from--changes the course of his life and that of his family: a story of friendship and family, obsession and devotion, failure and forgiveness, and love.”  If that sounds a little canned and cliche, consider the strength of the opening line of The God of Animals, her debut novel: Six months before Polly Cain drowned in the canal, my sister, Nona, ran off and married a cowboy.  I have no doubt Kyle can pull off a terrific narrative with verve and energy.

And here’s the most heartwarming, encouraging deal on my Book Radar: 96-year-old novelist Herman Wouk has sold his latest novel to Simon & Schuster.  The Lawgiver follows the production of a movie about Moses through “letters, memos, emails, journals, news articles, recorded talk, tweets, Skype transcripts, and text messages” sent between characters.  Publication is set for the fall.  It’s nice to see the The Winds of War author is still going strong.

And, finally, for all you fans of Erik Larson (In the Garden of Beasts and The Devil in the White City), you’ll be happy to hear he’s got another narrative history on the way.  Sea of Secrets is “a fresh take on the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915, which heightened tensions between the US and Germany and helped sway American public opinion in favor of entering the war."  Looks like you’ll have to wait a while, though--the New York Times says its tentative publication date is 2015.

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