From a tour of four Eastern megalopolises to a novel that looks inside the world of the French ultra-rich.
A History of Future Cities By Daniel Brook A cultural and historical examination of urban growth in major population centers of the East.Unprecedented growth in the East has yielded a lot of art, innovation, and global industries, but such growth has also been the cause of crime, poverty, and death. In A History of Future Cities, Daniel Brook examines trends across several Asian cities as they’ve tried (and in some ways succeeded) to emulate the West, and wonders what is being lost in the progress.
From a story collection of manhood in Southern California to some of the last books of Maeve Binchy and Vasily Grossman.
Middle Men by Jim GavinManhood in Southern California stalls along the highways in this story collection.Crisscrossing along the highways of Southern California is a legion of men, mostly young, mostly lost. Middle Men, Jim Gavin’s soberly perceptive debut short-story collection, follows these men between jobs, relationships, and friends. There’s Berkeley dropout Bobby, skating from one mental breakdown to the next. There’s 23-year-old Brian, who spends all his money following a girlfriend 10 years his senior from Los Angeles to Bermuda.
This week, stories of moving on, whether in the face of disaster, trauma, or soul-testing technology.
This Is Running For Your Life By Michelle OrangeA brilliant collection of essays on modern life, and ways that technology and connectivity are changing how we interact with the world.The title of a new collection of essays from critic Michelle Orange, This Is Running For Your Life, is so striking in part because it is such an unspoken but recognizable feeling about the way we currently spend our time on earth. As Orange brilliantly breaks down the state of modern life and how it stands in relation to technology and the commoditized image, she tells us much of what we already have intuited, but might have been afraid to admit to ourselves.
From J.G. Ballard’s memoir about his days interned in a Japanese POW camp to a Pulitzer-winning journalist’s autopsy of Detroit.
Miracles of Lifeby J.G. BallardHow the dystopian writer’s childhood in a Shanghai internment camp and his young wife’s death made him into the writer of ‘The Atrocity Exhibition.’James Graham Ballard’s science fiction has no robots and no rockets, and the future and the present are equally dystopian. It mirrors French postmodernist Jean Baudrillard’s hyperreal—the simulacrum is not a copy but a truer world than our own. It folds and divides, jumps and tunnels.
From the breakdown of a teen heartthrob and Jamaica Kincaid’s first new novel in 10 years to Rosie Schaap as she drinks with men.
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy WayneA pre-teen pop idol searches for his voice. It’s not easy being a tween. Eleven-year-old Jonathan Valentino—aka Jonny Valentine—isn’t good at talking to girls, doesn’t understand why his parents separated, and isn’t even allowed to use the Internet by himself. Given the choice (which he isn’t), he would much rather play his favorite video game, Zenon, than study math. After all, it’s hard to see the point of doing homework when your album has gone triple platinum.
This week, epistolary jeremiads, deadly Antarctic adventures, and a graphic memoir analyzing a legacy of abuse.
The Antagonist By Lynn Coady An intelligent and witty epistolary investigation of destiny and loyalty.Epistolary novels often function best as exercises in pacing. All is well with the correspondents in the beginning, before catastrophes begin to loom in small hints that they drop to each other, the danger revealing itself to the reader long before the characters. Not so in The Antagonist, a stunning new novel from Canadian Lynn Coady. The book opens with a drunken, vengeful email from a former hockey goon named Rank to his estranged friend from college, Adam, who has recently published a novel that poached details from Rank’s life, which he takes as a grave violation.
From Ali Smith mixing a ghost story with a meditation on writing to Bill Streever seeking out lava, burning coals, and other hot stuff.
Artful By Ali Smith Weaving between a ghost story and a meditation on literature, the British writer offers a master class in what creative writing is and does.“The arts babblative and scribblative,” the poet Robert Southey once said. It’s not so much declarative as demonstrative, a sentence that displays its point: the arts are dumb, and they don’t need to “say” anything. Artful is Southey expanded. Through four chapters, Ali Smith muses “On time,” “On form,” “On edge,” and “On offer and on reflection,” alternating between commentary—usually in bullet points like “Putting the For in Form”—and a story where her lover, once a writer, comes back from the dead and haunts her house.
From a memoir about how to make and lose friends to a new novel of graffiti rage by the author of ‘Go the F**k to Sleep.’
She Matters by Susanna SonnenbergThe author collects female friends like kitchenware, but engineers many interpersonal collapses. One of the earliest stories in this searing volume recalls the weekend when author Susanna Sonnenberg’s mother visits her in college, meets her roommate Amy, and sets out to discover her secrets. She succeeds. After Amy confesses she and her boyfriend are having sex, Sonnenberg’s mother plans a birth-control expedition to Planned Parenthood with the girls.
To bid farewell to 2012 and welcome 2013, here are some of the hottest books awaiting you in the first weeks of the new year.
The Physics of Wall Street By James Owen WeatherallA defense of more, not less, mathematics in finance, so that we know when models break down. But can that help prevent crashes altogether? The Black-Scholes-Merton equation made it possible to trade options before they mature by assigning an agreed value to it; in other words, it let investment banks manufacture derivatives. The renegade physicist Fisher Black’s move from academia to Goldman Sachs in 1984 initiated the era of the quants, changing finance forever.
From hip hop forefather Gil Scott-Heron's honest memoir to a novel based on Kafka's love letters, we collect some of our favorite hot-read reviews of the year. By Jimmy So, Mythili Rao, and Nicholas Mancusi.
The Last Holiday: A Memoir (reviewed Jan. 26) By Gil Scott-Heron Gil Scott-Heron’s death in May 2011 reminded us that hip-hop, a commerce machine today, once found at its center a devotion to righting social wrongs through the force of simple words. The musician and poet did not care for the label “godfather of hip-hop,” despite having released the still-powerful “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” But he should have found no shame in influencing second-generation rappers, like Chuck D, with his uncompromising political tongue.
For the holidays, a biography of the quintessential American playwright Thornton Wilder to the newly translated, wild novel of the new Nobel laureate Mo Yan.
Thornton Wilder By Penelope NivenA biography of the private man whom many consider the best American playwright of his day, a great writer hidden in plain sight. If we bump into Thornton Wilder at all in our lives, it is probably in high school, where his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey is still taught because it has “themes” and raises philosophical and theological questions that can be discussed in exams and term papers. Or we witness and perhaps take a role in Our Town, a mainstay of high- school drama clubs because it has enough parts for just about the whole club.
From Ruth Rendell’s novel exploring this century’s ‘progress’ of gays and women to a study of Marcel Proust’s favorite books.
The Child’s Child By Barbara VineRuth Rendell, writing as Vine, puts a ‘manuscript’ about a 1930s gay brother and a pregnant sister inside the narrative of a similar modern-day sibling pair.“There’s small choice in rotten apples.” That’s Shakespeare. Ruth Rendell, whether writing her mystery novels or molting into Barbara Vine and burrowing deep into réalité intérieure, has always written thoughtful novels on the consequences of our choices—on how we make decisions and how certain acts, whether of violence or adultery, haunts us.
This week, a fictionalization surrounding Kafka’s love letters and a history of a lesser-known crisis of Lincoln’s presidency. By Nicholas Mancusi.
Making an Exit By Sarah MurrayA journalist’s fascinating investigation into the different ways that various cultures of the world face death.If funereal practices are as much for the benefit of the living as they are for the deceased, then how we think about death says much about how we think about life. In Making an Exit, Financial Times contributor Sarah Murray attempts to catalog, in a lively manner very much in juxtaposition with the subject matter, the ways in which various cultures across the world approach death and mourning.
This week, before we prepare for 2013, we look back to works by old masters who have left us: José Saramago, John Updike, Caroline Blackwood, Natsume Sōseki, and Gore Vidal.
Raised From the Ground By José SaramagoThe Portuguese Nobel laureate’s 1980 novel of landless peasants is finally available in English in a translation by Margaret Jull Costa.Before the workers’-rights struggle began, life for the landless peasants on the Portuguese latifundios was brutal. Laborers were expected to work from dawn to dusk for next to nothing, facing backbreaking labor and, often, premature death. José Saramago’s Raised From the Ground, originally published in 1980 and now available in English, is an ode to the majesty of the land and the workers who poured their sweat and blood into it.
From a new translation of André Maurois’s semi-autobiographical 1928 novel to the letters of the charming and kind William Styron. By Mythili Rao.
Climates By André Maurois, translated by Adriana HunterA new translation of the bestselling 1928 French novel about a bourgeois man’s quest for the right atmosphere for love.Written in 1928 by French historian André Maurois, this semi-autobiographical novel chronicles the two marriages of Philippe Marcenat, a bourgeois paper-mill owner whose appetite for romance proves to be incompatible with his own happiness. Marcenat’s first love, the delicate beauty Odile, “more of a spirit than a woman,” is a prototypical “manic pixie dream girl.
Every week, we present brief but in-depth reviews of five fiction and non-fiction books.
Gchat as dialogue, endless drugs, misused words—welcome to the genius of Tao Lin’s new novel Taipei. Emily Witt on how he writes like we speak and text and drift.
Featuring Avery Corman, Patricia Bosworth, Michael Chabon, Jean Halberstam, and others. From Open Road Integrated Media.