This month, bookstores are throwing parties for Harper Lee’s To Set a Watchman. There are pre-orderings, readings, Southern fried chicken dinners, and screenings of the film based on Lee’s first book, To Kill a Mockingbird.
I hesitate to buy an early work that has not yet been reviewed. (I’m waiting to see what people think.) But I am looking forward to the publication of four other new booksthis summer. Surely these are worth a midnight party at a bookstore.
1. Ann Beattie’s The State We’re In: Maine Stories. (Aug. 11)
Ann Beattie’s witty, elegant short stories have been popular since they were first published in the 1970s in The New Yorker. In her minimalist fiction, she explores the lives of drop-outs, divorcees, yuppies, uninspired teachers, widows, couples whose children have died, dog owners, adulterous professors and their student lovers, and rich people who are sometimes admirable but often obnoxious. Although she is best known for her trademark ironic short stories, characterized by witty dialogue and breathtaking imagery, she has also written remarkable novels. In Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life, she deconstructs scenes of Pat Nixon’s life based on history and imagination. My favorite of her novels is Falling in Place (but that’s another story, and I’ll write about it another time).
Beattie has won an award for excellence from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the short story form.
Here is the description of her new book. “From a multiple prize–winning master of the short form: a stunning collection of brand-new, linked stories that perfectly capture the zeitgeist through the voices of vivid and engaging women from adolescence to old age.”
And we can even have a film screening at the bookstore: there’s Joan Micklin Silver’s Head Over Heels, based on Beattie’s first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter. Chilly Scenes of Winter (1976), the story of Charles, a depressed, underemployed civil servant, Laura, the married librarian with whom he is in love, and his friend Sam, an unemployed jacket salesman.
2. Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, trans. by Oliver Ready (Penguin Classics Deluxe) July 14
At 18 I read the Constnce Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment. Did I like it? No. And so I’m looking forward to the new translation by Oliver Ready, which has received rave reviews in England.. A. N. Wilson at the Spectator said, “Ready’s version is colloquial, compellingly modern and—in so far as my amateurish knowledge of the language goes—much closer to the Russian…”
3. Amitav Ghosh’s Flood of Fire (third of the Ibis trilogy) Aug. 4
What a perfect book to attend a midnight party for! We can reread Books 1 and 2, discuss them at bookstores, and then show up to get our copy of the third book on Aug. 4! Ghosh was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize for the stunning first book in the trilogy, Sea of Poppies. The award went to the wrong book that year.
Here’s a paragraph from the description of Flood of Fire:
“It is 1839 and China has embargoed the trade of opium, yet too much is at stake in the lucrative business and the British Foreign Secretary has ordered the colonial government in India to assemble an expeditionary force for an attack to reinstate the trade. Among those consigned is Kesri Singh, a soldier in the army of the East India Company. He makes his way eastward on the Hind, a transport ship that will carry him from Bengal to Hong Kong.”
4. Sara Paretsky’s Brush Back (A V.I. Warshawski Novel) July 28
Paretsky, a Chicago writer, was one of the first American writers of hardboiled mysteries to star a female detective. V. I. Warshawksi is tough, the daughter of a Polish-American cop, a runner, a former lawyer, very smart, and politically leftist. I can’t wait to read the new Paretsky. So why doesn’t a bookstore sponsor a Paretsky party?
From her website (and it’s all true):
Sara Paretsky revolutionized the mystery world in 1982 when she introduced V I in Indemnity Only. By creating a believable investigator with the grit and the smarts to tackle problems on the mean streets, Paretsky challenged a genre in which women typically were either vamps or victims.
And we can have a film screening of V. I. Warshawski (1991) with Kathleen Turner.
What new books are you looking forward to?
I am first in line for the Paretsky at my local library and the day it arrives I shall lock the doors brew a very large pot of tea and refuse to speak to anyone until I’ve finished it. I was looking at that new edition of ‘Crime and Punishment’ in a bookstore only this morning, but not having any Russian I’m afraid I have no idea whether it is a good translation or not.
I do love Paretsky! Yes, I also want to spend a nice day with V. I.:) I have no idea about Russian translations but if A. N. Wilson SAYS it’s good: I trust his judgment.
You have much more faith in new books than I do! Having said that, I’ve just read a brand new novel that I actually liked – a lot! (Motherland by Jo McMillan). I loved the Penguin translations of Crime and Punishment I have (not Garnett) so I think I’ll probably stick with those!
Oh, i wish I could say I take more chances: but these are all tried and true writers! Beattie is one of my favorites. I’ve never heard of Jo McMillan but will look for it.