Here we find ourselves, already past the halfway point of 2012, and I thought it an appropriate time to take a look at what the next six months or so of publishing has in store for us. The first half gave us Nathan Englander’s superb What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, Richard Ford’si Canada, Lee Martin’s Such a Life, and another historical novel from Hilary Mantel. We were also privy to the whole John D’Agata controversy and the hullabaloo surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey. I hope that the literary world stays this entertaining through the holidays.
In keeping with traditions sacred and mysterious, I’m going to limit my listing to ten lucky books, so pre-apologies to anyone left off. Also, you’ll notice a dearth of poetry among my choosings (I thought about including Frederick Seidel’s new volume on the list because I—knowing next to nothing about poetry—enjoy his work, but then I didn’t want to upset all the poets who’ve told me I’m mistaken in my regard for him) so, again, apologies; I thought it best to confine myself to the realms I’m familiar with. I implore poets to let me know what titles they’re looking forward to in the second half of 2012 in the comments. Finally, let me say that I know my interest in book lists is sick and wrong and goes against everything my liberal arts education was supposed to instill in me—I know that such lists simplify a whole six months of publishing and reading into a few paragraphs and focus on certain books and not others for all the wrong reasons, and I know they’re a poor substitute for the slogging through of the literary marketplace that a diligent reader is supposed to do on his or her own—but damn it, I like them anyway.
So, in no particular order, here are ten books I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for in the second half of 2012:
Woes of the True Policeman—I don’t know what it is about Roberto Bolaño, but I can’t resist his prose. Even when his plots go nowhere but in circles, and some of the characters are all just thinly disguised tough guys, and even when the work is something of a mess that Bolaño left unfinished when he died. Even Monsieur Pain (2010), which left me feeling like someone had dumped a box of puzzle pieces out on the floor of my living room, had that weirdly intoxicating feeling. Maybe that’s just the anticipation that a reader feels when they think they might be reading a book that reaches the same heights as The Savage Detectives (2007) or 2666 (2008). (Comes out November 13th 2012.)
Telegraph Avenue—My history with Michael Chabon’s work goes like this: first I read The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (2007), and liked it enough, then I accidentally read part of Gentlemen of the Road (2007), which I did not develop an affinity for, and then I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000), which was really good, just shy of great. I know chronology isn’t on my side here, but from my vantage Chabon is on the upswing, so I’m looking forward to his novel set in the Bay Area, about a white family and a black family, the fathers of which co-own a used record store. My love for music writing is noted elsewhere in this post (see Fear of Music). Excerpt courtesy of the Millions here. (Comes out September 11th 2012.)
This is How You Lose Her—I am aware that I’m in the minority here, but I prefer Junot Díaz’s short story collection, Drown (1996), to his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007). Thus, I’m not at all disappointed to see that Díaz is going short for his next project. (Comes out September 11th 2012.)
Fear of Music—Jonathan Lethem’s meditation on the Talking Heads’ album of the same name looks at why we fall in love with certain works of art and New York City in the late 1970’s. (Okay, I know, this one came out on June 1st, but I love a good piece of music writing and I confess to being a Lethem fanboy, so I’m going to sneak this one in.)
Dear Life: Stories—Alice Munro has staked her claim to the title Master of the Short Form, so a new collection by her is officially a bona fide literary event. (Comes out November 13th 2012.)
The Silent House—Orhan Pamuk. Nothing I’ve read of Pamuk’s since he won the Nobel Prize in 2006 has been quite as good as those pre-Prize novels, like Snow (2005) and My Name Is Red (2002). This is why I’m excited that this novel, which originally appeared in Turkey in 1983, has finally been translated to English. (Comes out October 9th 2012.)
It’s Fine by Me—Per Petterson. I’ve been making my way through Out Stealing Horses (2007) as of late, and it’s already good enough that I was tickled to hear about the forthcoming release by Graywolf Press of one of Petterson’s earlier novels (it was originally published in Sweden in 1992), about a teenage boy who moves from Olso out into the sticks. (Comes out October 31st 2012.)
Tenth of December: Stories—George Saunders’ stories often make me laugh out loud in bookstores, which attracts the wrong kind of attention from passersby. George Saunders’ soon-to-be-released collection is getting all the right kind of attention, as evidenced by this interview that he did with The New Yorker, and the appearance of the title story of his new collection in that very same magazine. (Comes out January 13th 2013.)
Both Flesh and Not—I can’t say that I’ve read a ton of Foster Wallace’s work, but between the fiction (Girl with Curious Hair, 1989) and the nonfiction (A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, 1997) of his that I’ve been through, I prefer the truth to the lies. That’s why I’m looking forward to this new, posthumous collection of essays more so than I did The Pale King (2011). (Comes out October 30th 2012.)
Battleborn—Claire Vaye Watkins. I know Claire and her work from when she was here at OSU, and I can tell you her stories are something worth getting excited over. Here’s an interview she did with One Story about her short “Man-O-War,” and a nonfiction piece she wrote for Granta about her family’s history in Nevada. Oh, and here’s a story she published, also in Granta. (Comes out August 2nd 2012.)
Happy reading, folks, stay safe out there.