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With turning leaves come turning pages, and so here we have assembled thirteen literary highlights forthcoming this fall — ranging from nonfiction to fiction, from the extensively researched to the intensely personal.
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Hanging Man: The Arrest Of Ai Weiwei
by Barnaby Martin
Faber & Faber (September 17, 2013)
In 2011, Ai Weiwei was imprisoned, without charge, for 81 days, and subsequently barred from granting interviews, presumably as an attempt to impede word of his treatment while in detention from getting out. But not long after his release, and despite the ban, Barnaby Martin managed to meet with Weiwei, and together the two produced a record of Weiwei’s penal experience. Hanging Man: The Arrest Of Ai Weiwei is therefore an account of Weiwei’s incarceration as well as his work, but, more broadly, it’s Martin’s attempt to sketch the state of art, freedom, and society in today’s China. “We wanted to get down every detail, every conversation he could remember,” Martin said in an interview with Huffington Post. “It’s a surreal story, very frightening and thoroughly gripping. The people interrogating him didn’t understand who he was and what his art meant. They thought he was a hooligan, a junk salesman in trouble. He had to convince them. That was one of the themes that ran through the interviews.”
by Thomas Pynchon
Penguin (September 17, 2013)
Though by now there may be some sort of inevitability to the output of the “reclusive” novelist, this is no less a reason to anticipate Bleeding Edge, Pynchon’s ninth book. Though the baroque realist’s work is deeply engaged with contemporary conditions, this is the writer’s first direct charge at the Internet and its culture. Set in New York’s Silicon Alley during the dot com bust, the book at the very least promises to offer up Pynchon’s idiosyncratic take — highly studied, effortlessly overwrought — on a milieu and industry which has, over the course of the man’s career, slowly assumed a monolithic position in American life. —MH
by Jhumpa Lahiri
Knopf (September 24, 2013)
Rich in lyricism, The Lowland relates a moving story of converging yet divergent histories — between nations, geography, political movements, and the familial bonds that bind two unlike siblings. Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, The Lowland is another acclaimed work by the talented author, already a Pulitzer Prize Winner for her debut book, Interpreter of Maladies, and surely on the path to further literary laurels.
How to Read a Novelist
by John Freeman
FSG Originals (October 8, 2013)
In How to Read a Novelist, John Freeman fully assumes his mantle as one of our most visible literary critics, one who has contributed to over 200 newspapers and currently presides over the venerable Granta. Though the arts at large are given to the perennial over-hyped yet minimally insightful “survey” book, Freeman’s prolific output as a critic ensure that he has truly learned by doing — which should make his report on the state of literature at minimum as comprehensive a survey as we’re going to get, at least for a while. And given how trends in thought and style in the the arts tend to cross-pollinate, the book may appeal to a readership broader than the devoted literati. —MH
How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit
by Witold Rybczynski
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 8, 2013)
The “How [blank] works” genre can quickly feel routine and reference-booky. Thankfully, How Architecture Works appears to have leapfrogged the pedantic pitfall, freshly discussing the history, ideas, and myriad ways of understanding architecture and the built environment without dulling it or the reader. An appealing and illuminating entry for those looking for some footing and insight in the growing and shifting world building up and all around them.
The Traymore Rooms
by Norm Sibum
Biblioasis (October 15, 2013)
The 608 pages of poet Norm Sibum’s debut are as good a reminder as any that the monumental novel has far from faded as a literary haymaker. The book weaves the stories of several lives as they intersect in the titular Traymore rooms, a residential building in Montreal. Though not a high-profile release in the official sense of the term, The Traymore Rooms has enticed a number of prominent critics — Canada’s The National Post, for instance, has celebrated the book as a totem of Sibum’s technical control and narrative acumen, and literary website The Millions included it in their roundup of the most anticipated books of the latter half of 2013. —MH
Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment
by Anita Elberse
Henry Holt and Co. (October 15, 2013)
On-the-rise Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse plumbs the high-stakes landscape of popular culture. The blockbuster model of hugely expensive projects, a model which abounds across the entertainment industries — from sports to moviemaking and publishing — is perilously both a financially lucrative method and a destructive one. Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment takes a close took into why this is the case and whether it can last very much longer.
On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History
by Nicholas A. Basbanes
Knopf (October 15, 2013)
Paper — we take notes on it, doodle, sketch, share our thoughts, enshrine laws, nail it to doors, paste it on walls, record history with it, and increasingly shirk it in favor of digital surfaces. Exploring the past and unfolding the future of our favorite plant based writing material, On Paper is an energetic accounting of paper and the enormous trail it’s left on our lives, flipping from its invention in China two millennia ago to printed money to the NSA and its secret documents.
Heart of Darkness (Illustrated)
by Matt Kish
Tin House Books (October 21, 2013)
Matt Kish delighted many with his illustrated Moby Dick in Pictures (2011), and now he’s back, giving the same treatment to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Though his aesthetic may be excessively precious for certain acolytes of Conrad’s, there is something redeeming and positive in giving new visual life to classic works of fiction, and Heart of Darkness — that virtuosic work of 19th century letters that gave rise to one of the greatest film efforts of the 20th — could stand to drop its sordid weight on a new pool of unsuspecting readers in the 21st. And, enthusiasts (of illustration, if not of Conrad) might be pleased to know that Kish’s original works for the book are available for sale in his Etsy store. —MH
by Donna Tartt
Little, Brown and Company (October 22, 2013)
A lot can happen in 11 years. “Reclusive” novelist (the second writer described thusly on this list) Donna Tartt harnessed the past decade (+1) to produce her next novel, The Goldfinch. At nearly 800 pages, the years may seem to have buried themselves into the book, but Tartt is a gifted author and The Goldfinch looks to be a mysterious, singular entry into the familiar world of the coming-of-age drama. From the beginning, art plays a central role — thirteen-year-old protagonist Theo Decker loses his mother to an explosion in the Metropolitan Museum and gains a painting: the titular The Goldfinch, a Dutch masterwork that becomes an object of obsession and enigma for the boy and the reader.
Johnny Cash: The Life
by Robert Hilburn
Little Brown and Company (October 29, 2013)
Gone but not forgotten, September 12, 2013 will mark 10 years since Johnny Cash passed away. Written by celebrated music critic and longtime friend of Cash, Johnny Cash: The Life is a comprehensive (nearly 700 pages) and regenerative (“even Johnny would have learned something about himself if he were here to read it,” producer Rick Rubin wrote of the book) biography, recounting a non-mythic tale of one of America’s great, storied musicians. A proper way, potentially, to commemorate Cash, the man, 10 years on.
by Hilton Als
McSweeney’s (November 12, 2013)
Fourteen years after his first book, The Women, New Yorker staff writer Hilton Als returns with White Girls, an extraordinary collection of essays focusing on its eponymous roster of counter-intuitive “white girls” — Flannery O’Connor, Louise Books, Eminem, Richard Pryor, Malcolm X, Michael Jackson, among others — and what they refract about art, celebrity, race, gender, sexual orientation. At the very least, White Girls promises to be a discursive, generative work; at it’s very best, if Junot Diaz is to be a trustworthy arbiter, it threatens to be the “read of the year.”
Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times
by Lucy Lethbridge
W. W. Norton & Company (November 18, 2013)
For the Downton Abbey addict in need of a history fix, Lucy Lethbridge’s Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times seems like just the ticket. Well researched and slyly written, Lethbridge breathes life and nuance into the pop cultural phenomena, enriching both the readers’ understanding of the era’s most distinctive class cleavage in addition to stimulating the Downton fan ahead of the forthcoming season.
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With contributions by Mostafa Heddaya.