Volumizer: The Week in Books, 10/3 – 10/9


Posted by Nick Curley

Having spent the last several months baffled as to where to go for a comprehensive yet pocket-sized digest of the day’s tomes-of-the-moment, I decided to draft one myself.  I’ll keep this up weekly for as long as it continues to entertain me and prove no burden. All books are fair game, including those newly reprinted.  To drop a dime about your new release or someone else’s, send all useful info to nick@vol1brooklyn.com or via direct message at twitter.com/therealcurley.

New Releases:

Nicole Krauss’ GREAT HOUSE (W.W. Norton, $24.95) stands as this week’s literary monolith of the week, to which all will bow down before throwing bones into the air 2001 style.  The much discussed novel divides four stories into eight separate chapters, at least a couple of which have previously seen the light of day as published short stories.  The connection between the quartet is an old desk that intertwines through the lives of many characters, containing secrets and lies within its spacious drawers and shelving units.  Even if furniture lit’s not your scene, Krauss’ selection of four novels worth reading on the Daily Beast is well worth a gander.

Philip Roth presents the latest in his series of parables on the topic of disease in American life: enter NEMESIS (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.00).  Set in WWII era Newark, a Polio epidemic strikes our feeble narrator, who details the woes of a 23 year old playground instructor named Bucky Canter, whose denial of the disease and attempts to rally his town against it prove models of 1940s America’s stubborn will and hope-gushing bravado.  A cool All Things Considered interview from Tuesday with Philip Roth can be heard here.

THE FALSE FRIEND (Doubleday, $25.95) Myla Goldberg is getting fair to middling reviews in the early rounds, with many critics admiring her prose but having some issues with the plot, revolving around a young girl Celia who allegedly witnesses her friend Djuna’s kidnapping, then twenty years later returns to her with a newly recalled interpretation of what really went down.  Like our spiritual cuddle muffin Bill O’Reilly, we’ll report and then let you decide.

Like marshmallow Peeps and the Detroit Lions’ entry into the fetal position, the annual wave of the “Best American” paperback archive series arrives at its own very special time of year.  Down Main Street in a parade of digests come THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2010 (ed. Richard Russo), THE BEST AMERICAN NONREQUIRED READING 2010 (ed. Dave Eggers), THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2010 (ed. Neil Gaiman), THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2010 (ed. Christopher Hitchens), THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2010 (ed. Lee Child), THE BEST AMERICAN SPORTS WRITING 2010 (ed. Peter Gammons), and THE BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING 2010 (ed. Bill Buford) to give you a roundup of the prior twelve months’ star-spangled splendors.

A nearly decade-old yarn of a Turkish private investigator living in Germany arrives on our shores!  More Altman’s Long Goodbye than the Pink Panther, Jakob Arkouni’s KISMET (Melville House, $15.00) is the fourth book in Arkouni’s adventures of detective Kemal Kayankaya, and the latest maltese falcon from Melville House, Brooklyn Heights’ atom bomb of the avant-garde.

AT HOME: A SHORT HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE (Doubleday, $28.95), Bill Bryson’s twenty-second book, examines the curious nature of where we live: how our houses not only as a place for our stuff, but as diagrams for what stuff we want and take comfort in.  Why have salt and pepper become our edible hallmarks, you ask?  I hear you asking that, o’er yonder, through our internet windchimes, and know of a certain newly released text that contains suitable answers!

Mythologiques abound in CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS: THE POET IN THE LABORATORY (Penguin, $29.95) by Patrick Wiliken, an exhaustive new study of the Structuralist suzerain who died at age 100 this time last year, but had a kickass century beforehand.  Venture with the esteemed anthropologist through the Amazon rainforest and Nazi pursuit into post-war French academia, where he served as mentor to Barthes and Lacan and as the mortal enemy of cross-eyed pipe smoker Jean-Paul Sartre.

Gish Jen’s WORLD AND TOWN (Knopf, $26.95) is a thorough tale of a Cambodia-born matriarch and recent widow moving her remaining family to a small Maine town, and may yet prove to be the book that will allow me to stop confusing Gish Jen with fellow fin de siècle upstart Ha Jin.  It’s like a Jennifers Grey and Beals parlor game over here.

HOW TO BEAT UP ANYBODY: AN INSTRUCTIONAL AND INSPIRATIONAL KARATE HANDBOOK BY THE WORLD CHAMPION (It Press, $17.95) may not sound like a title to be found between your first-edition Bolano and your muskiest Balsac, until we know that the book is the first foray into prose by dependably unkempt 30 Rock sensation Judah Friedlander.  Drink him in, people-soon-boarding-domestic flights-with-$17.95-to-spare.

STICKERS: FROM PUNK ROCK TO CONTEMPORARY ART, edited by DB Burkeman and Monica Locasio and featuring “contributions by Shepherd Fairey and Carlo McCormick” is the last word on the medium of adhering “Mean People Suck” to your guitar case, as well as that Big Punisher logo from like ’96 that you can still find to this day glued to NYC property.  No idea if either of those is discussed in the book, but you must admit: those are stickers.

Now in Paperback:

Chinua Achebe brings it back home again with THE EDUCATION OF A BRITISH-PROTECTED CHILD: ESSAYS (Anchor, $14.95), which collects several autobiographical essays from the life and times of the Things Fall Apart scribe, spanning from his upbringing in a Nigeria colonized by the Brits all the way to his take on living in the age of Obama.

Jake Edelstein’s TOKYO VICE: AN AMERICAN REPORTER ON THE POLICE BEAT IN JAPAN (Vintage, $15.95) happens to be a gorgeous looking look at a mild-mannered Jewish American who passed the difficult Japanese entry exam into the nation’s most prestigious newspaper (while paying the bills as a Swedish masseuse to Japanese workaholics, no less), and offers an up close view of the country’s immaculately dressed Mafioso, the Yazuza.

Philip Roth double dips into our hearts and minds this week with the softer, cheaper, but no less tenacious rendition of his slim 2009 novel THE HUMBLING (Vintage, $14.95) in which a retired actor undertakes a kinky upstate affair with his drama pal’s grown-up daughter.

New Editions and Collections:

THE ANNOTATED PERSUASION (Anchor, $16.95), a souped-up printing of the Jane Austen final novel tirelessly edited by David M. Shaphard, is so brimming with information that your prof will actually think you read the damned thing.  Ha, the classics!