Abracadabra: A Novel
David Kranes University of Nevada Press, 2017 Library of Congress PS3561.R26A63 2017 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Abracadabra is a fantastical and inventive addition to the tradition of noir writing, which not only delights and surprises at every turn but also raises important questions about identity, the human condition, the nature of evil, and the state of the union. The novel begins with a mystery, when Mark Goodson, a seemingly well-adjusted married man, disappears during a magic act, precipitating a series of events, encounters, and seemingly inexplicable occurrences, which it falls to a former professional football player, Elko Wells, to weave together into a story that is at once compelling and true. The concussion that ended Wells’ playing career left him open to hearing voices and discerning patterns of meaning helpful to his work as the owner of a missing-persons agency. He also owns a celebrity look-alike agency, which complicates matters in humorous ways, and his reliance on a string of cocktail waitresses called the Bloody Marys who are on the lookout for various people adds another level of intrigue.
Magicians and misdirection, gambling, down-on-one’s-luck, the crazed sense of possibility and impossibility, mistaken identity, impersonators and body doubles, people acting bizarrely with all sorts of chaos, collisions, and overlaps thrown in for good measure. Again and again the reader is swept into treacherous waters, always confident that the writer is in control of his material. Because the many twists and turns the plot takes are all but impossible to anticipate, the experience of reading Abracadabra is deliciously magical.
A novel told in short stories, The Affliction is an astounding fiction debut by an award-winning poet full of memorable characters across America and the Caribbean. Young beautifully weaves together the elaborate stories of many while holding together a clear focus: people are not always as they seem.
Afternoon Men: A Novel
Anthony Powell University of Chicago Press, 2014 Library of Congress PR6031.O74A73 2015 | Dewey Decimal 823.912
Written from a vantage point both high and deliberately narrow, the early novels of the late British master Anthony Powell nevertheless deal in the universal themes that would become a substantial part of his oeuvre: pride, greed, and the strange drivers of human behavior.
More explorations of relationships and vanity than plot-driven narratives, Powell’s early works reveal the stirrings of the unequaled style, ear for dialogue, and eye for irony that would reach their caustic peak in his epic, A Dance to the Music of Time.
In Afternoon Men, the earliest and perhaps most acid of Powell’s novels, we meet the museum clerk William Atwater, a young man stymied in both his professional and romantic endeavors. Immersed in Atwater’s coterie of acquaintances—a similarly unsatisfied cast of rootless, cocktail-swilling London sophisticates—we learn of the conflict between his humdrum work life and louche social scene, of his unrequited love, and, during a trip to the country, of the absurd contrivances of proper manners.
A satire that verges on nihilism and a story touched with sexism and equal doses self-loathing and self-medication, AfternoonMen has a grim edge to it. But its dialogue sparks and its scenes grip, and for aficionados of Powell, this first installment in his literary canon will be a welcome window onto the mind of a great artist learning his craft.
Agents and Patients: A Novel
Anthony Powell University of Chicago Press, 2014 Library of Congress PR6031.O74A74 2014 | Dewey Decimal 823.912
Unsavory artists, titled boobs, and charlatans with an affinity for Freud—such are the oddballs whose antics animate the early novels of the late British master Anthony Powell. A genius of social satire delivered with a very dry wit, Powell builds his comedies on the foibles of British high society between the wars, delving into subjects as various as psychoanalysis, the film industry, publishing, and (of course) sex. More explorations of relationships and vanity than plot-driven narratives, these slim novels reveal the early stirrings of the unequaled style, ear for dialogue, and eye for irony that would reach their caustic peak in Powell’s epic A Dance to the Music of Time.
In Agents and Patients, we return to London with the newly wealthy, memorably named Blore-Smith: an innocent, decent enough chap . . . and a drip. Vulnerable to the machinations of those with less money and more lust, Blore-Smith falls victim to two con artists whose ploys carry him through to the art galleries and whorehouses of Paris, Berlin, and beyond.
Written from a vantage point both high and necessarily narrow, Powell’s early novels nevertheless deal in the universal themes that would become a substantial part of his oeuvre: pride, greed, and what makes people behave as they do. Filled with eccentric characters and piercing insights, Powell’s work is achingly hilarious, human, and true.
Nikos Kazantzakis is no stranger to the heroes of Greek antiquity. In this historical novel based on the life of Alexander the Great, Kazantzakis has drawn on both the rich tradition of Greek legend and the documented manuscripts from the archives of history to recreate an Alexander in all his many-faceted images—Alexander the god; Alexander the descendant of Heracles performing the twelve labors; Alexander the mystic, the daring visionary destined to carry out a divine mission; Alexander the flesh-and-blood mortal who, on occasion, is not above the common soldier’s brawling and drinking.
The novel, which resists the temptation to portray Alexander in the mantle of purely romantic legend, covers his life from age fifteen to his death at age thirty-two. It opens with Alexander’s first exploit, the taming of the horse, Bucephalas, and is seen in great part through the eyes of his young neighbor who eventually becomes an officer in his army and follows him on his campaign to conquer the world.
The book, which was written primarily as an educational adjunct for young readers, is intended for the adult mind as well, and like the legends of old, is entertaining as well as instructive for readers of all ages. It was originally published in Greece in serial form in 1940, and was republished in a complete volume in 1979.
All That Road Going: A Novel
A. G. Mojtabai Northwestern University Press, 2008 Library of Congress PS3563.O374A58 2008 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
In the middle of the night, somewhere in Oklahoma—or is it Missouri?—a bus hurtles down an anonymous American highway. Its passengers, among them two children traveling on their own, a retired salesman, an unwed teenage mother, an unemployed chemist, and the driver who ferries and broods over all of them, are in the middle of their journeys. Soon, two of the passengers will be lost, and then the bus itself will lose its way.
The open road and, before that, the open frontier have long been part of the American romance, cherished features of the nation's traditional vision of itself. In her latest novel, A. G. Mojtabai stands this tradition on its head. Instead of the expansive thrust into unknown territory, the camaraderie of the open road, adventure, and the joys of vagabondage, we witness constriction, isolation, and fear. Instead of freedom, we find people fleeing from coast to coast in search of home and the ever-beckoning, ever-retreating promise of a better life. Richly drawn, evocative, and thought-provoking, All That Road Going is a challenging new departure from the road novel canon.
Traveling through China in 1989, not long after the Tiananmen Square massacre, Fanny hopes to make sense of her brother Bruno’s death in a motorcycle accident by finding a woman with whom he had exchanged letters. On her journey Fanny’s fate becomes entwined with a handsome British rogue, an American of Russian-Cuban descent returning to Tashkent, and two Chinese men—one who loves Charles Dickens, the other a budding, entrepreneurial con man—struggling to find their way in a country undergoing tumultuous transformation. Kathleen Lee’s debut novel explores the tension between the allure of the unfamiliar that draws us to distant lands and its unbidden tendency to reveal us to ourselves. With its rollicking sense of humor and slyly lyrical voice, as well as an extraordinary deftness in the rendering of place, All Things Tending towards the Eternal is an unforgettable ride.
Petra Hulová became an overnight sensation when All This Belongs to Me was originally published in Czech in 2002, when the author was just twenty three years old. She has since established herself as one of the most exciting young novelists in Europe today. Writings from an Unbound Europeis proud to publish the first translation of her work in English.
All This Belongs to Me chronicles the lives of three generations of women in a Mongolian family. Told from the point of view of a mother, three sisters, and the daughter of one of the sisters, this story of secrets and betrayals takes us from the daily rhythms of nomadic life on the steppe to the harsh realities of urban alcoholism and prostitution in the capital, Ulaanbaatar. All This Belongs to Me is a sweeping family saga that showcases Hulová's genius.
While many Jews have picked Florida as the perfect place to retire, Matt Glassman has chosen it as the place to begin his adulthood. Perhaps that's because the pressures of life have always reminded him about his grandfather who mysteriously disappeared from the family twenty years ago. Now, while he tries to begin a family of his own, he also builds a relationship with the one person who might know the truth about his grandfather?s disappearance: his grandmother. She's remained stubbornly reticent on the topic all these years, but when a familiar old man shows up at Glassman's office he thinks he may finally get some answers.
Originally published in 1975, The Apology and the Last Days is the final volume in a trilogy of novels—also including The Rise and Fall of Icarus Gubelkian and How to Quiet a Vampire—about the aftermath of World War II, by Borislav Pekić, one of the former Yugoslavia’s most important postwar writers. The narrator tells his story from prison, where he is serving time for the murder of a former Nazi official. As the novel unfolds, we learn that the victim was the same person whom the narrator, while a lifeguard during the war, saved from drowning, thus making him vulnerable to charges of collaboration. In this tragicomic tale, Pekic´ explores eternal questions of fate and individual responsibility.
Arc and the Sediment: a Novel
Christine Allen-Yazzie Utah State University Press, 2007 Library of Congress PS3601.L439A73 2007 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Gretta Bitsilly, a gin-steeped mother of two and self-proclaimed expert at standing just outside the margins of ethnicity and peering in, has been all but eclipsed by the world that eludes her—as a wife, as a writer, as a skeptic in "the other land of Zion," Utah. Gretta has set off to Fort Defiance, Arizona, where she hopes to convince her Navajo husband, who has escaped not from his family but from alcoholism, to come home. Over a sputtering two-steps-forward, one-step-back desert journey, Gretta is diverted by chance, by seizures, an inconstant memory, and the disjointed character of her irresolute quest. She is fueled by a volatile mix of rage and curiosity and is rendered careless by ambivalence toward her marriage—she knows a welcome mat will not be waiting for her, "that white girl" who can't seem to get anything right. On route Gretta fi nds herself lost in the landscape, in strange company, or in her own convolution of language and inner space. With a dictionary and a laptop she attempts to write herself into a better existence—a hopeful existence—and to connect points of intellectual, physical, even spiritual reference.
This tale, though dark and difficult, is infused with tart, twisted humor. Confused, disheveled, self-deprecating, and self-destructive, Gretta is also sharp and funny. Here, first-time novelist Christine Allen-Yazzie breaks apart her own narrative arc but with gritty reality seals it near-shut again, if in rearrangement, drawing us into Gretta's wrestling match with herself, her husband, her addiction, and the road.
The Arc and the Sediment received an honorable mention from the James Jones First Novel Competition, and it won the Utah Arts Council Annual Writing Competiton Publishing Prize.
Archipelagoes examines insularity as the space for adventure in the Spanish book of chivalry, much like the space of the forest in French chivalric romance. In this innovative work, Simone Pinet explores the emergence of insularity as a privileged place for the location of adventure in Spanish literature in tandem with the cartographic genre of the isolario.
Pinet looks closely at Amadís de Gaula and the Liber insularum archipelagi as the first examples of these genres. Both isolario and chivalric romance (libros de caballerías) make of the island a flexible yet cohesive framework that becomes intrinsic to the construction of their respective genres. The popularity of these forms throughout the seventeenth century in turn bears witness to the numerous possibilities the archipelagic structure offered, ultimately taken up by the grand genres of each discipline—the atlas and the novel.
Moving from verbal descriptions to engravings and tapestry weavings, and from the chivalric politics and ethics proposed in the Amadís de Gaula to the Insula Barataria episode in Don Quixote, Pinet’s analysis of insularity and the use of the island structure reveals diverging roles for fiction, illuminating both the emergence of the novel and contemporary philosophical discussion on fiction.
Murder and mayhem may seem like unreasonable company for Aristotle, one of the founding minds of Western philosophy. But in the skilled hands of Margaret Doody, the pairing could not be more logical. With her Aristotle Detective novels, Margaret Doody brings a Holmesian hero to the bloodied streets of ancient Greece, trading the pipe and deerstalker of Sherlock for the woolen chiton and sandals of Aristotle. Replete with suspense, historical detail, and humor, and complemented by an ever-growing cast of characters and vivid descriptions of the ancient world, Doody’s mysteries are as much lively takes on the figures and forms of the classics as they are classic whodunits in their own right.
In Aristotle Detective, we first meet Stephanos—naive Watson to Aristotle’s learned Holmes—a young landed Athenian and student of Aristotle. With the aid of his cunning, olive-loving teacher, Stephanos must clear his exiled cousin of murder and save his family’s honor in a tense public trial. Will Stephanos survive to cinch the case?
In her funny, idiosyncratic, and propulsive new novel, Art Is Everything, Yxta Maya Murray offers us a portrait of a Chicana artist as a woman on the margins. L.A. native Amanda Ruiz is a successful performance artist who is madly in love with her girlfriend, a wealthy and pragmatic actuary named Xochitl. Everything seems under control: Amanda’s grumpy father is living peacefully in Koreatown; Amanda is about to enjoy a residency at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and, once she gets her NEA, she’s going to film a groundbreaking auto-critical documentary in Mexico.
But then everything starts to fall apart when Xochitl’s biological clock begins beeping, Amanda’s father dies, and she endures a sexual assault. What happens to an artist when her emotional support vanishes along with her feelings of safety and her finances? Written as a series of web posts, Instagram essays, Snapchat freakouts, rejected Yelp reviews, Facebook screeds, and SmugMug streams-of-consciousness that merge volcanic confession with eagle-eyed art criticism, Art Is Everything shows us the painful but joyous development of a mid-career artist whose world implodesust as she has a breakthrough.
In this account of how the novel reorients philosophy toward the meaning of existence, Yi-Ping Ong shows that the existentialists discovered a radical way of thinking about the relation between the form of the novel and the nature of self-knowledge, freedom, and the world. At stake are the conditions under which knowledge of existence is possible.
This collection of prefaces, originally written for the 1909 multi-volume New York Edition of Henry James’s fiction, first appeared in book form in 1934 with an introduction by poet and critic R. P. Blackmur. In his prefaces, James tackles the great problems of fiction writing—character, plot, point of view, inspiration—and explains how he came to write novels such as The Portrait of a Lady and The American. As Blackmur puts it, “criticism has never been more ambitious, nor more useful.”
The latest edition of this influential work includes a foreword by bestselling author Colm Tóibín, whose critically acclaimed novel The Master is told from the point of view of Henry James. As a guide not only to James’s inspiration and execution, but also to his frustrations and triumphs, this volume will be valuable both to students of James’s fiction and to aspiring writers.
Arthouse: A Novel
Jeffrey DeShell University of Alabama Press, 2011 Library of Congress PS3554.E8358A89 2011 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Arthouse is an audacious transformation in prose of fourteen modernist films. From film to film, Jeffrey DeShell follows a forty-something failed film studies academic—The Professor. While The Professor is reinvented with each new chapter (or film), what remains is DeShell’s inventive deconstruction and representation of modern cinema. At times borrowing imagery, plot, or character elements, and at times rendering lighting, rhythm, costuming, or shot sequences into fictional language, The Professor’s journey sends him from the Southwestern town of Pueblo, Colorado, into the role of rescuer as he aids an attempted-rape victim, and finally to Italy. Ultimately though, The Professor is left alone, struggling to reconcile the real world with his life in cinema.
“The world is full of continuous conversations: Now is surrounded by Past, and both are encircled by Forever.” So states an unnamed narrator in Sara Greenslit’s new novel As if a Bird Flew by Me.
Celia lives in the contemporary Midwest. Ann is an accused witch, executed during the Salem witch trials. Two women separated by time and place, yet yoked by heritage and history. Set in three time periods, stories within stories unfold, and Greenslit’s language seamlessly weaves Celia’s modern life with the historical record of Ann’s demise alongside dazzling renderings of animal life. Greenslit’s hybrid of fiction and nonfiction occupies that rarest of airs: it is a book that illuminates, line by line and page by page, how it should be read.
The Athenaeum: A Novel
Raul Pompeia; Translated from the Portuguese by Renata R. M. Wasserman; Introduction by César Braga-Pinto Northwestern University Press, 2015 Library of Congress PQ9697.P655A813 2015 | Dewey Decimal 869.33
Originally published as O Ateneu in 1888, The Athenaeum is a classic of Brazilian literature, here translated into English in its entirety for the first time. The first-person narrator, Sergio, looks back to his time at the eponymous boarding school, with its autocratic principal and terrifying student body. Sergio’s account of his humiliating experiences as a student, with its frank discussion of corruption and homoerotic bullying, makes it clear that his school is structured and administered so as to reproduce the class divisions and power structure of the larger Brazilian society.
In its muckraking mode, the novel is in the spirit of Naturalism, imported from France and well-acclimated to Brazil, where it blossomed. At the same time, Pompéia maintains the novel’s credibility as a bildungsroman by portraying the narrator’s psychological development. The novel’s conclusion suggests both a doomed society and its possible redemption, indicative of a moment of upheaval and transition in Brazilian history.