Pardon me, I’m just coming down from the experience of taking in the new Colson Whitehead novel, The Nickel Boys, in one sitting and having a hard time focusing on my topic. When I first read about the book I knew it would be amazing, but it was even better than I expected. It’s moving, powerful, and suspenseful and I dare you to put it down. This book is most certainly not under the radar so you might want to put a hold on it quickly–this won’t linger on the shelves.
Anyhow, many of us here at RPL are fresh from the big annual American Library Association conference in DC, which means we’re probably up to our eyeballs in advance reader copies and still a little sore from carrying them around. Oh the adrenaline rush of the exhibit hall–the totebags! The buttons! The piles and piles of free books! Imagine Scrooge McDuck, diving into a pool full of cash, only it’s books. Ouch.
I stick to the indie press vendors because I love unusual stories and came home with an armload of exciting new fiction. I wanted to share a few of the most promising titles forthcoming from The Other Press to spill out of my suitcase. You may already have read The Hundred Wells of Salaga, new from The Other Press. If not, you should! From my to be read list, to yours:
“One night in 2012, executive Zhang Guo Xing takes a group of European clients to a fashionable nightclub in Shanghai. While there, he meets a strikingly beautiful young Western woman called Naemi Vieno Kuusela. The physical attraction between them proves irresistible, and they embark on an intoxicating affair. But Naemi is not what she appears to be…
To Zhang’s surprise, she veers between passion and wariness, conducting the relationship entirely on her own terms. He feels driven to find out more about her, and is swiftly drawn into a web of intrigue, mystery, and horror. Is she a ghost? A demon? Do the living dead walk the streets of twenty-first century Shanghai?
Written in spare, high-octane prose, NVK is the first in a series of dark, hypnotic novels that explore the roots of desire and the cruel costs of immortality.” (Goodreads)
“Hidden behind the Picassos and Vermeers, the Temple of Dendur and the American Wing, exists another world: the hallways and offices, conservation studios, storerooms, and cafeteria that are home to the museum’s devoted and peculiar staff of 2,200 people—along with a few ghosts.
A surreal love letter to this private side of the Met, Metropolitan Stories unfolds in a series of amusing and poignant vignettes in which we discover larger-than-life characters, and the powerful voices of the art itself. The result is a novel bursting with magic, humor, and energetic detail, but also a beautiful book about introspection, an ode to lives lived for art, ultimately building a powerful collage of human experience and the world of the imagination.” (Goodreads)
“Ten years after she was seriously injured in a terrorist attack, the pain comes back to torment Iris. But that is not all: Eitan, the love of her youth, also comes back into her life. Though their relationship ended many years ago, she was more deeply wounded when he left her than by the suicide bomber who blew himself up next to her.
Iris’s marriage is stagnant. Her two children have grown up and are almost independent; she herself has become a dedicated, successful school principal. Now, after years without passion and joy, Eitan brings them back into her life. But she must concoct all sorts of lies to conceal her affair from her family, and the lies become more and more complicated.
Is this an impossible predicament, or on the contrary a scintillating revelation of the many ways life’s twists and turns can bring us to a place we would never have expected to be?” (Goodreads)
The Siege of Troy
“Bombs fall over a Greek village during World War II, and a teacher takes her students to a cave for shelter. There she tells them about another war—when the Greeks besieged Troy. Day after day, she recounts how the Greeks suffer from thirst, heat, and homesickness, and how the opponents meet—army against army, man against man. Helmets are cleaved, heads fly, blood flows. And everything had begun when Prince Paris of Troy fell in love with King Menelaus of Sparta’s wife, the beautiful Helen, and escaped with her to his homeland. Now Helen stands atop the city walls to witness the horrors set in motion by her flight. When her current and former loves face each other in battle, she knows that, whatever happens, she will be losing.
Theodor Kallifatides provides remarkable psychological insight in his version of The Iliad, downplaying the role of the gods and delving into the mindsets of its mortal heroes. Homer’s epic comes to life with a renewed urgency that allows us to experience events as though firsthand, and reveals timeless truths about the senselessness of war and what it means to be human.” (Goodreads)
A few new translations you should also add to your list:
Bride & Groom
“From one of the most exciting voices in modern Russian literature, Alisa Ganieva, comes Bride and Groom, the tumultuous love story of two young city-dwellers who meet when they return home to their families in rural Dagestan. When traditional family expectations and increasing religious and cultural tension threaten to shatter their bond, Marat and Patya struggle to overcome obstacles determined to keep them apart, while fate seems destined to keep them together—until the very end.” (Goodreads)
This one grabs you and pulls you in right away, like being swept out to sea by witty dialogue and well constructed characters. Translated by Carol Apollonia and published by Deep Vellum Publishing, a “not-for-profit literary publisher that seeks to enhance the open exchange of ideas among cultures and to connect the world’s greatest contemporary writers with English-language readers.” Check it out!
Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was
“Máni Steinn is queer in a society in which the idea of homosexuality is beyond the furthest extreme. His city, Reykjavik in 1918, is homogeneous and isolated and seems entirely defenseless against the Spanish flu, which has already torn through Europe, Asia, and North America and is now lapping up on Iceland’s shores. And if the flu doesn’t do it, there’s always the threat that war will spread all the way north. And yet the outside world has also brought Icelanders cinema! And there’s nothing like a dark, silent room with a film from Europe flickering on the screen to help you escape from the overwhelming threats–and adventures–of the night, to transport you, to make you feel like everything is going to be all right. For Máni Steinn, the question is whether, at Reykjavik’s darkest hour, he should retreat all the way into this imaginary world, or if he should engage with the society that has so soundly rejected him.” (Goodreads)
Moonstone is completely engrossing, and travel-sized, and the “most accessible” of Sjón’s work (whatever that means), so pack it for a quick getaway and be transported to Iceland, which is always a fascinating setting. Check it out!
People in the Room
“A young woman in Buenos Aires spies three women in the house across the street from her family’s home. Intrigued, she begins to watch them. She imagines them as accomplices to an unknown crime, as troubled spinsters contemplating suicide, or as players in an affair with dark and mysterious consequences. ” (Goodreads)
What do you think? Anything on my list heading to yours?