20 April 2010

Books I'd Be Reading If I Had the Time


I'd intended to read a bunch of new fiction this spring, but then decided to reconfigure some of the classes I'll be teaching in the fall, which meant having to plunge into all sorts of other books (about which I'll be writing here soon, I expect).  I'm loving the research, since it appeals to a bunch of my various obsessions (e.g. how white people represent whiteness and non-whiteness), but it's left me with exactly no time for other reading.  By the summer, I'm hoping to have the research mostly done, and thus expect to be able to freely read all sorts of things, but until then, here are some of the books I'd be reading if I weren't reading other books...*
  •  A Book of Endings by Deborah Biancotti.  Deb very kindly sent me a copy of this collection of her short stories, and I've only had a chance to read a couple so far, which makes me sad, because I very much want to read them all -- not just because I've enjoyed what I've read so far, but because Deb is a great person who deserves the support and enthusiasm of readers.  And she puts up with my silly jokes about Australia being on the bottom of the world.  Because she knows North American boys are silly and ignorant about the fact that they themselves actually live on the bottom of the world.  A Book of Endings has gotten some great reviews, and even the less-than-great reviews have intrigued me -- I'm a big fan of stuff that's tasteless and improbable.  Because really, would you be compelled to read something somebody called "tasteful and probable"?  Not I!  In fact, I hope Deb subtitles her next collection "More Tasteless and Improbable Stories from Deborah Biancotti".  But I hope she doesn't release a new collection too soon, because I need to read this book first...
  • Eddie Signwriter by Adam Schwartzman.  This is a debut novel someone at Patheon sent me, thinking perhaps it would be my sort of thing, and it does indeed look like it could be -- the story of a guy born in Ghana, raised in Botswana, who ends up in Paris with a group of, according to Publisher's Weekly, "African immigrants who congregate at a secret club located in a cellar beneath a flower shop."  They also call it "a surprisingly upbeat treament of human trafficking and illegal immigration" and "gorgeously written".  I'll certainly be taking a look at this one this summer.
  • Life by Gwyneth Jones.  I've been reading around in Helen Merrick's excellent book The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms, and Merrick discussion of Life makes it sound like a kind of book I love: "centrally concerned with the language and conception of sciences like biology and the way science underwrites and reflects the sex-gender order".  
  • The Father and the Foreigner by Giancarlo De Cataldo.  I set this book aside when it arrived last year because it's short and the description included words like "mysterious", "dark", and "frightening", all of which are words I tend to gravitate toward.  And I like the publisher, Europa Editions, whose books are always beautifully produced.
  • Tails of Wonder and Imagination edited by Ellen Datlow.  This arrived just before my own cat, and our occasional reviewer, Ms. P. Martha Moog, headed off to the great catnip field in the sky, and I just haven't had the heart to open the book since.
  • The End of the Jews by Adam Mansbach. The back of the book calls this "The story of a family of artists who realize, too late, one elemental truth: Creation's necessary consequence is destruction."  That alone got me to stick the book on the "take a look at this eventually" pile.
  • The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist.  This book is described as "a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of a system geared toward eliminating those who do not contribute by conventional means, in which the 'dispensable' ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the 'necessary' ones.  It also looks deeply into the nature of the female psyche, at its resilience and creativity under dire conditions."  While the "female psyche" thing sounds a bit essentialist for my tastes, I'm nonetheless intrigued.
  • Who Would Have Thought It? by Maria Ampara Ruiz de Burton.  Not only is this called the "first Mexican-American novel" (I don't have the expertise to know if that claim is accurate), but it's partly set in New England during the Civil War era.  A Mexican-American woman in mid-19th Century New England?  Who, indeed, would have thought it...?
  • Fritz Leiber: Selected Stories edited by Jonathan Strahan and Charles N. Brown. I love some of Leiber's stories -- particularly "Smoke Ghost" and "Space-Time for Springers" -- but haven't read any for a while.  This collection offers a nice opportunity to catch up, and the contents are quite different from the old Best of Fritz Leiber, which was published before a few of his most famous stories had been written.
  • Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin.  The press release for this book addressed me as "Dear Producer", and I was so flattered that the folks at Random House so overestimated my power and influence that I couldn't help but set this book aside for later perusal.  I'm a slave to flattery.  And the story, about the young girl who inspired Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, also seemed worth at least a glance.
  • The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To by DC Pierson.  It was the title that caught my attention with this one.  The press release describes it as "at once a poignant coming-of-age tale and a madcap paranoid conspiracy sci-fi thriller".  I don't much care for coming-of-age tales, but madcap paranoid conspiracy sci-fi thriller can be fun if they actually live up to that label (so often, they're not very madcap, paranoid, or thrilling).
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I first set this aside because I thought Justin Cronin was Jeremy Cronin, and I was really curious to see what a South African Communist poet would write that would get a blurb from Stephen King.  Then I read the publicity materials, and even after I realized I was thinking of Jeremy and not Justin Cronin, I was still interested in how the book was described, so figured it wouldn't hurt me to give it 50 pages and see if I wanted to keep reading.  But then I didn't have time.  Later, later...
  • The Theory of Light and Matter by Andrew Porter.  This is a collection of short stories, and I kept it for two reasons: Porter's story "Azul" was first published in One Story shortly before my own story "Blood" appeared there, and I'm curious to read more of Porter's work.  Also, Kevin Brockmeier gave the book a glowing blurb, and I trust Kevin's taste and enthusiasms, because they've not yet led me wrong.
  • Death in Spring by Marce Rodoreda.  I picked this up in New York last year because I didn't have any of Open Letter's books, and various people I know and trust had recommended them.  This one looked like a particularly strange and evocative story, so I bought it.  And here it is, still waiting for me a year later...
  • The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw.  A couple of people recommended this book to me, and the premise seemed like it would offer good opportunities for weird resonances, and I like weird resonances.  When I thought I was going to have lots of spring reading time, I requested a copy from the good people at Henry Holt & Co., they kindly sent one on, and then I had no time to read it.  I try hard not to request books I don't have time to read, so now I feel guilty.  Which means I will certainly find time to read it in the future, but the future is not now.
Well, that's quite a list.  If one of you out there could create a way to add an extra ten or twenty hours to every day, I'd really appreciate it!

*Links in this post are once again to Amazon because Book Depository is currently unavailable in North America because the volcanic eruption under the Eyjafjallajoekull glacier has caused supply and distribution problems for them, so they've suspended their website for the moment.  Once things are cleared up, posts here will link to Book Depository again, because it's a wonderful service.

5 comments:

  1. Katie Freeman4/20/2010 11:26 AM

    Well, we at Pantheon certainly hope you get to EDDIE SIGNWRITER-- Adam's a poet, and his lyrical sensibilities really come through in his novel about a man making his way through many cultures. And speaking of Kevin Brockmeier, he's got a new novel coming in the spring...!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've only read a couple of books on the list, although several others sound interesting. One of the ones I have read though, The End of the Jews, was exceptional, maybe the best thing I read in 2008.

    ReplyDelete
  3. >"More Tasteless and Improbable Stories from Deborah Biancotti"

    Oh, hell yes. I am totally doing that even if I have to set up my own press to do it.

    Thank-you, upside-down boy! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jason Vermillion4/21/2010 8:29 AM

    Dear Producer,

    Just ignore your regular responsibilities. You will find that the hours miraculously add up this way!

    ReplyDelete
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