Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, November 17, 2015


From My Shelf

Little Brown and Company: The Store by James Patterson

Vintage Books & Anchor Books: Reading Group Center Book Club Giveaway

Larry Correia's Quest

A fantasy epic has a central requirement: a quest. It can be, on the surface, a search for a kingdom, a queen, a treasure, a secret; more deeply, it's a search for meaning or a hidden identity. Son of the Black Sword (Baen Books, $25), the first volume of Larry Correia's new series, Saga of the Forgotten Warrior, delivers requisite epic elements: gods, demons, a mysterious dream, a terrified populace, rebels, an ancient blade named Angruvadal and its wielder, Ashok, who has magic in his blood. Correia effectively draws on Indian imagery with place names like Gujara and Uttara and a stratified society that includes the "casteless." The hero, Ashok--a Protector who serves the Law, which has long ago replaced religion--is sent on a journey and, as in all good quest sagas, it's not the voyage he expects.

Larry Correia

Larry Correia took a somewhat unexpected journey on his way to becoming a bestselling author. He self-published his first book, Monster Hunter International, when he was an accountant and a gun dealer, and discovered how fundamental handselling is, along with a bit of luck. Don Blyly of Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore in Minneapolis, Minn., asked for a copy, read it and finished it in one night. He purchased a large number of POD (print on demand) copies for the store and handsold them. Then fate appeared. The week Uncle Hugo's began selling the book, Entertainment Weekly ran the store's bestseller list, with Monster Hunter International at #3. Toni Weisskopf, publisher of Baen Books, speedily signed Larry to a one-book deal, which turned into 16 in less than six years. In addition, while promoting his POD edition, Correia traveled throughout the Mid- and Southwest, becoming a bookseller favorite. He's launching Son of the Black Sword with a tour that started in New England, continued to the Pacific Northwest, then traveled down the West Coast and across the desert, wrapping up in Scottsdale, Ariz. A voyage victory lap. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers


Nation Books: Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi


Book Candy

Games for Book Nerds

The book game: Inviting players to "get ready to pick up some peg people in the form of literary agents and publishers (if you're going the traditional route) and spin that dial," Quirk Books imagined the Game of LIFE: The Writer's Edition.

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And Bustle noted that a newly released video game "has endeared itself to book nerds everywhere, because Fallout 4 players must return overdue library books in order to fully complete the game."

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"Celebrating heroines real and imagined," New York magazine "asked five novelists to share their favorite characters from literature and then dress the part."

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Reading over shoulders. Buzzfeed asked: "How does the way you read compare to everyone else?"

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"Can we guess how old you are based on your favorite books?" asked the Independent.    
    
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"Sylvia Plath's 9 most memorable quotes." BBC Culture readers shared their favorite lines from the poet.


Doubleday Books: Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby


The Writer's Life

Mary Beard: Wrestling with the Romans

photo: Robin Cormack

Mary Beard is a professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, classics columnist for the TLS, and a popular blogger and television presenter. She is the author of many books, including Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures and Innovations. Her new book is S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome (see our review below), a sweeping history covering Rome from its mythical foundation in 753 BCE to the Edict of Caracalla in 212 CE, which granted citizenship to all free men living within the Roman Empire. S.P.Q.R. is a Latin acronym for Senatus Populusque Romanus, or "The Senate and People of Rome."

You've been writing for a long time about specific aspects of ancient Roman history. What prompted you to write a general history of ancient Rome?

To be absolutely personal about that, I've been teaching Roman history now for about 40 years. Over that time, you teach different bits of it--you teach different people at different levels and gradually build up a sense that you've got something to say about Roman history. You have a point of view. You get a line on it. To be very frank, if you're going to write a big history of ancient Rome, you can't do it when you're very young because you don't know the stuff. And if you get to be 59 or 60, you have to do it now. Otherwise, you might not live to do it. In a sense, I think that it was a quintessentially but proudly middle-aged project.

You write that you no longer believe we have a lot to learn directly from the Romans, but by engaging with the history of the Romans we can learn a great deal. Can you explain that distinction?

I don't mean that Roman history is not worth doing; otherwise I would have just wasted my life. What I mean is I think there's a tendency for people, particularly classicists, often when they want to justify the study of Roman history and money being put into it, they tend to look at Roman history and say "we can learn from the Romans." I don't think there are actually direct lessons to be learned.

You know, it's no good looking at the problems that Cicero had in 63 BCE effectively about terrorism and say "we can learn from him" either by doing what he did or not doing what he did. I think that where Roman history is very good is in a way at the next level up. By thinking about those issues--and of course we share many, many problems and debates about how to run a human community with the Romans--I think that they make us more sensitive about our own problems. They make us see our politics and our culture and our certainties in a different light and they help us get different perspectives.

So, in that sense, I think that's a learning experience but I don't think--to put a very crude example--the fact that Roman legions had trouble in Iraq was a good reason for us not going into Iraq. There were many, many reasons for us not to go into Iraq; it wasn't anything to do with the Roman experience. It's a very popular journalistic subject whenever a kind of issue that can be paralleled in Rome pops up to ring up your favorite classicist and say "tell us how the Romans would do here!" I think the Romans can teach us how to think harder; I don't think they can tell us what to do.

Do you ever miss what might be called "old-school history" where writers such as Edward Gibbons could proclaim "this is how it was?" Do you ever miss that kind of certainty?

I think inevitably you feel a little ambivalent about it. I mean, parts of me get quite angry at it or at least feel very alienated from it. "Come on guys, you don't know!" On the other hand, I think you have a sneaking admiration for the certainty and the claims to command and the claims to knowledge, although it's something I could never honestly do myself. I think my book would have been less interesting if I had simply disdained that kind of history. I feel very suspicious of it, I don't want to do it myself, but I can see its appeal.

I thought about this the hardest in regard to all the stories of wickedness, sadism and immorality that surround the Roman emperors because there are all kinds of reasons that I think those are likely to be more fiction than people want to realize. On the other hand, I think that even in Roman terms, they're very important fictions; they're very important political fictions. But also I think that one doesn't want to remove from people the fun and engagement of those stories, you know: Nero fiddling while Rome burned, Domitian murdering flies. You don't want to have to say to people "you just have to forget those, that's not Roman history," because I think that's removing something that is a part of Roman history even if it isn't true.

And not all history is true, history is also about what people said later, how they elaborated, what kinds of whopping lies they chose to tell. So you want to give people a way of enjoying some of that traditional Roman narrative while also being able to stand outside it and see what it might be doing. And I think that's a bit like what you're saying with Gibbon and traditional history. You know, one of the excitements of Roman history is that so many people have had a go at it. I think it would be appallingly arrogant if I just said we're chucking this out and starting again. And I think it wouldn't be fair on the readers.

You write a lot about Roman origin myths, which you argue give some clues as to how the Romans conceived of themselves. In the U.S., stories about our founders are almost deifying, but Roman origin myths such as Romulus and Remus and the Rape of the Sabines are entirely different.

Even Aeneas, in another origin myth, at the end of the Aeneid brutally murders somebody who's surrendered to him and it's horrible. Overall what I was wanting to do was to say that the fact that these stories are not true--they're not bloody true, they are myths, but that doesn't mean that they don't have a hugely important historical point in helping us think about how the Romans debated who they were. Britain is rather short of foundation myths--we have a bit of King Arthur and a bit of King Alfred--but I think it is quite interesting that U.S. foundation stories, let's call them, are usually hero-izing.

These are not hero-izing. This is one of the things that is particularly interesting to me about Rome: there is a sense of Rome actually looking at it itself quite dispassionately in these stories. You know, what is it like to be a city that is built on fratricide and rape and desertion and brutality. They aren't glorifying myths. Roman writers aren't saying Romulus killed Remus and that's a jolly good thing. They worried about it so they create stories to worry about, just like they worried about the Rape of the Sabines.

I suppose there's a tendency where, particularly since the late 18th century, the onward rise of Hellenism has somehow placed the Romans as rather thuggish creatures who built roads and invented concrete but were not thinkers. If you want the thinkers of the ancient world, you pop off to Greece and you find the Athenians and they're the intellectuals of antiquity. But I think we've just been very bad at seeing where and in what context the Romans did raise all those awkward issues about themselves, and often it's in those stories that they tell about their early history or what we would call myth. How you would negotiate what Rome is, what its problems are, how to run a community--all big questions, you know? Is all marriage rape? These are big questions.

When you read Roman writing, how do you tell when the author isn't being truthful? Do you look at archeology and other accounts and see how and why this person would use this situation to their own advantage?

I don't think there's a magic bullet there. I don't think there's a magic bullet that historians can teach somebody or that historians have a unique access to. I think that a basic rule of thumb of looking at all history is to say "what would the other side say here?" What would the other side look like? I think once one is accustomed and, in fact, thinks it's rather odd not to pose that question, then I think that the complexities open themselves up much more easily. I don't think that it's particularly difficult.

Another great thing about Roman history is that with a bit of help and a bit of opening up, I think everyone can enjoy it. I've spent a lot of my life hanging out in Pompeii with not much to do. And I've listened there for tour guides with their groups and I've listen to the kind of things they say and the kinds of questions that are asked and some of the tour guides are very good and some are not. But one thing that's become clear to me is almost all the questions that people have when they're inside a Roman bath building and they're looking around and they're trying to work out how it works, almost all the questions that the most amateur, uninformed people ask are good ones. You know, they say "so how did that work, then?" And it's very interesting because the good guide can take up those questions and run with them and the bad guides just shut people up. But it's always struck me that a lot of this is about having the confidence to say "that doesn't quite add up to me." "How come there's a door there?" And history's a bit like that: "Come on, that doesn't make sense to me." Follow your instincts, I try to say to people. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books


Matchup by Gayle Lynds


Book Review

Fiction

Numero Zero

by Umberto Eco, trans. by Richard Dixon


One of Umberto Eco's defining features as a writer is his boundless intellect, which allows him to leap nimbly through history and various academic disciplines with infectious glee. His novel Numero Zero is of a piece with the rest of his work, albeit much shorter and more caustic. Unlike the massive historical epics that helped put Eco's name on the map, Numero Zero could easily be classified as a novella. It's remarkable, then, how many big ideas Eco manages to stuff inside of it.

Set in 1992, the book's formal plot involves a hack writer who is hired to help create a newspaper dedicated to extortion and slyly conducted libel. The plot also features a vast conspiracy theory spun by a paranoid reporter working for the newspaper. In The Prague Cemetery, Eco showed he is obsessed with the idea of shadowy events and organizations that underpin our everyday reality. In Numero Zero, the conspiracy sprawls to include both real and implausible ideas, like Mussolini's supposed faked death, the terrorist attacks that plagued Italy during the turbulent '60s and '70s, the controversial Cold War program Operation Gladio and, as ever, the Masons.

In this slim volume, Eco somehow also takes the time to deconstruct media and its reality-warping tendencies. Numero Zero viciously satirizes the forces that go into dishonest news-making as well as the gullible Italian public that eats it up. Eco's criticisms might seem a shade elitist if he didn't take equal time satirizing the truth-seekers who wind up paralyzed by their own paranoia. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: Numero Zero is a brief, cutting satire soaked through with paranoia.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, hardcover, 9780544635081

Melville House Publishing: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer


The Muralist

by B.A. Shapiro


After The Art Forger, B.A. Shapiro reenters the world of art with The Muralist, a historical novel about the birth of the Abstract Expressionist movement. The Muralist is filled with avant-garde artists of the era like Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko and Krasner, but the novel is primarily centered on the fictional Alizée Benoit, who hung out with the others at the Village's Jumble Shop, and eventually convinced Eleanor Roosevelt to provide Works Progress Administration funding for two murals in the city. On the verge of fame, Benoit disappeared, leaving only rumors and two paintings inherited by her great-niece Dani Abrams, the novel's narrator. Dani lethargically works for an auction house among low-level cataloguers "with undergraduate art degrees from classy colleges and no real marketable skills." When a box of early unsigned Abstract Expressionist works is dropped at her cubicle to research and authenticate, Dani begins a quest to tie these paintings to her lost great-aunt and prove Benoit to be an early participant in the Abstract Expressionist art movement.

The Muralist is partly the study of the ravages of the Great Depression, the largesse of Roosevelt's WPA program and the politics of a largely isolationist U.S. population that was set against entry to millions of mostly Jewish refugees. It is also a story of the first indigenous American art style, a drama of family secrets in the wake of the Holocaust, and a passionate love story of Benoit and Rothko. A novel of art, romance, timely historical issues and family legacies, The Muralist smoothly bridges the literary/popular fiction gap. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: With an imaginative blend of political and art history, The Muralist tells of a fictional Abstract Expressionist who disappeared from New York during the Holocaust.

Algonquin, $26.95, hardcover, 9781616203573

Counterpoint Press: A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton


The Japanese Lover

by Isabel Allende


Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits; Maya's Notebook) presents a beautiful, complex story of love, sacrifice and redemption in The Japanese Lover.

In 1939, an eight-year-old Polish girl named Alma is sent from Poland as the Nazis advance, to live with her aunt and uncle in opulent circumstances in San Francisco. There she meets a Japanese boy her age, Ichimei, who will be her great love, and her older cousin Nathaniel, who will be her best friend. Alma's story--and her convoluted relationships with Ichi and Nat--is revealed from a distance of many years, when a young Eastern European woman named Irina takes a job at the senior residence Alma has just moved into. Slowly, Irina wins the trust of the prickly elderly Alma, and the unsolicited devotion of Alma's grandson Seth. These and other characters are wrought with tenderness, humor and nuance in Allende's characteristic lyric style, as the story of Alma's love unfolds in a narrative alternating between passionate old age and the passions of youth.

Allende ruminates over lifelong love, in its various forms and bound by destiny; the sacrifices love does and does not compel; and the ugly realities of war and racism--while Alma emigrates to flee war, Ichimei and his family are interned in the United States following Pearl Harbor, and Irina's personal history is touched by trauma and displacement that is revealed only late in the book. This novel of fervent feeling, reflection and multiculturalism will please Allende's many fans. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Isabel Allende's latest masterpiece explores war, race relations, forbidden love and reconciliation.

Atria, $28, hardcover, 9781501116971

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan


Broken Sleep

by Bruce Bauman


The secrets, lies and mysteries in Bruce Bauman's novel Broken Sleep circle around and build on each other in a story that is frenetic and disorienting. From a single, simple plot point, one man is disconnected from the world he'd been living in, and every time he seems to be close to finding his way back, he gets pulled further out.

At the beginning of Broken Sleep, Moses Teumer is told that, in order to keep his leukemia in remission, he must find a bone marrow donor. His search for a match leads him to discoveries about his perceived reality that shatter both his hopes for survival and his own worldview. After Moses discovers that his Jewish mother is not his birth mother, he is stunned to learn next that he was actually born to a gentile, avant-garde visual artist committed to a mental facility, and that he has a rock star and political dissident for a half-brother.

As Moses searches deeper into his familial history, answers lead to more questions so that finding his bone marrow match becomes the least of his problems. In a narrative that takes a hard look at contemporary definitions of identity, meaning, sex, love and devotion, Moses discovers his own connection to domestic terrorists, Nazi Germany and Greta Garbo.

Although Moses Teumer loses his way among a swelling cast of characters, Bauman (And the Word Was) never loses his authorial way. As the plot spins out of control, Bauman is always, somehow, bringing his characters back home again. --Josh Potter

Discover: In this mind-bending work of fiction that entwines generations and continents, each character represents contemporary life's most existential crises.

Other Press, $16.95, paperback, 9781590514481

Biography & Memoir

Letters to Véra

by Vladimir Nabokov, edited and translated by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd


Véra Nabokov was the wife and assistant to the great Russian expatriate novelist Vladimir Nabokov. She was his closest confidante and adviser, and his grandest love. Almost all of these previously unpublished Letters to Véra are from the years 1923 to 1950, throughout their courtship and the first and most difficult half of their marriage. After that, during the years of Vladimir Nabokov's greatest literary fame, they were rarely separated and had no need to correspond.

The earliest letters in particular are wonderfully expressive, full of gorgeous imagery, dialogues and "imaginary nonsense." In 1926, Véra went to a sanatorium to be treated for anxiety, depression and weight loss, and Vladimir wrote to her almost every day. Those letters are flooded with his ardent love, and perhaps with his concern to entertain her and lift her mood. "I more than adore you. You are my happiness and life. When I think about you, I get so happy and light, and since I think about you always, I'm always happy and light."

Letters to Véra was edited by Nabokov scholar Brian Boyd and translated with sensitivity and skill by Olga Voronina. Boyd introduces the volume with a long satisfying biographical essay on the Nabokovs' marriage. In a translator's preface and in some of the endnotes, Voronina describes the challenges presented by Nabokov's word play across multiple languages, his puzzles and quirks of style. Thorough annotation, an excellent index, a biographical timeline and many photographs and reproductions of letter excerpts round out a book that will be a joy to both scholars and literary fans. --Sara Catterall

Discover: Novelist Vladimir Nabokov's brilliant and loving letters to his wife illuminate their long devoted marriage and provide fresh perspectives on the author.

Knopf, $40, hardcover, 9780307593368

The White Road: Journey into an Obsession

by Edmund de Waal


English ceramic artist Edmund de Waal has installed his white porcelain works in prestigious museums and galleries across the world, but at heart he still thinks of himself as a potter, who apprenticed for two years before sidestepping his love of ceramics to read for a university degree in English. Under his master Geoffrey Whiting, he learned to make "pots for use... cheap enough to drop... beautiful enough to keep for ever" before he later became obsessively focused on the difficult art of throwing and glazing porcelain. The White Road is a personal and philosophical memoir of de Waal's research into the history of this traditionally treasured symbol of royalty and nobility. He journeys to the porcelain's original source in Jingdezchen, China; its first European factories in Dresden, Germany; and finally its first English manufacturing center in Cornwall. As de Waal's research and visits uncover, the first masters of porcelain were scientists, alchemists and pharmacists, rather than artists, seeking the holy grail of beauty to please their emperors and kings.

De Waal may be a potter and renowned artist, but he is also a reflective student of history, philosophy and literature. His 2013 study of his family history as told through its legacy collection of netsuke carvings, The Hare with Amber Eyes, won both the Ondaatje Prize and the Costa Book Award. The White Road again reveals de Waal to be a renaissance man, with a storytelling gift that illustrates how well-mixed and well-shaped kaolin clay, petunse stone and water could be a deserved passion of both ancient kings and modern kitchen moms. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: De Waal's travel to three key sites in the making of white porcelain is also an expedition into the philosophy and history of his own ceramic art.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, hardcover, 9780374289263

History

S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome

by Mary Beard


Writing about ancient peoples relies on such scant evidence that it often resembles a feat of interpretation or well-reasoned guesswork rather than a stately reconstruction of events. Thankfully, Mary Beard (Laughter in Ancient Rome) is a master interpreter, and her history of ancient Rome, S.P.Q.R., brilliantly integrates her various talents in a successful search for a more personal, accessible Rome.

Beard has written piecemeal about the classical world for decades and has a well-earned reputation as Britain's greatest living classicist. S.P.Q.R.--an acronym for Senatus Populusque Romanus, or "The Senate and People of Rome"--is, in part, a summation of all those years of research and of a very particular point of view on our modern relationship with the classics. As Beard writes at the conclusion of the book: "I no longer think, as I once naively did, that we have much to learn directly from the Romans.... But I am more and more convinced that we have an enormous amount to learn... by engaging with the history of the Romans."

With that perspective in mind, Beard uses S.P.Q.R. to correct modern myths about the Romans and to examine carefully ancient myths that the Romans often accepted as historical fact. Beard's skillful exegesis of Rome's strange founding story reveals far more about the Roman character than dry retellings of countless military campaigns, and she characterizes Rome and its various contemporary chroniclers as unreliable narrators who reveal just as much as they obscure with their self-serving exaggerations, propaganda and outright lies. Beard recasts hoary old Romans as dynamic people and ancient history as a continuing conversation with distant, yet familiar, participants. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: S.P.Q.R. is a lively, adept work of history that promotes a continued conversation with "the Senate and People of Rome."

Liveright, $35, hardcover, 9780871404237

The Eastern Question: A Geopolitical History in 108 Maps and Drawings

by Ted Danforth


In the weeks after 9/11, self-described "scholar-printer" Ted Danforth struggled to understand why the attacks occurred. He found his first clue in Osama bin Laden's statement that the attacks were revenge for the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and Islam's subsequent humiliation at the hands of the West. That statement led Danforth to look at 9/11 as a "continuation of patterns woven into the warp of historical time," rather than as an individual event. In The Eastern Question: A Geopolitical History in 108 Maps and Drawings, Danforth traces those patterns from ancient Mesopotamia to the modern day.

The format of the book is deceptively simple: a brief essay opposite a map or illustration drawn in a naive style reminiscent of the maps in fantasy novels. In fact, Danforth's work is neither simple nor naive. In his pursuit of answers to "the eastern question," he considers topics as diverse as ancient and modern geopolitical theories, the inherent conflict between nomadic and settled peoples, the differing uses of time and space in churches and mosques, and the nature of empires. There are some errors of fact in the text, but the illustrations are consistently illuminating, whether Danforth is demonstrating the parallel development of Russia and the United States in the 19th century or the historical influence of Greek language and literature. 

What begins as a history of 1,400 years of conflict between Islam and the West broadens into a charming and ambitious history of the world. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: A visual history of the world that grew out of a desire to understand the conflict between Islam and the West.

Anekdota, $29.95, paperback, 9780692308400

Children's & Young Adult

Calvin

by Martine Leavitt


Seventeen-year-old Calvin's first baby gift was a stuffed tiger named Hobbes, his best friend is named Susie, and he was born the very same day Bill Watterson's last Calvin and Hobbes comic was published. It's little wonder, then, that he thinks he is the blond-haired Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes come to life. And that would also explain why Hobbes the tiger is actually talking to him.

Canadian novelist and National Book Award finalist Martine Leavitt (Heck Superhero; My Book of Life by Angel) skillfully reflects the daily agony of a funny, charming, creative, hyper-intelligent young man who just wants to be normal, not a guy who talks to a tiger, not a guy who's diagnosed with schizophrenia. Calvin decides that if he can persuade Bill Watterson to write just one more comic--one with no Hobbes, and where Calvin is 17 and healthy--then he will be cured. And, if he walks from his home in Leamington, Ontario, across the frozen top of Lake Erie to where Watterson lives, in Cleveland, Ohio, the cartoonist won't be able to refuse his request. Calvin's childhood (and only) friend, Susie, decides to join him.

Their treacherous, icy journey blurs into a dreamlike, profoundly romantic, odyssey. They talk about beauty, bullying, overpaid athletes, poverty, war, zebra mussels, injustice... and the possibility of changing the world. But to do that they need to survive. Leavitt's Calvin is a hopeful, exquisite and exciting exploration of the human mind--both well and sick--and the slippery nature of reality. --Karin Snelson, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: National Book Award finalist Martine Leavitt tells the mesmerizing story of a schizophrenic boy named Calvin who talks to an imaginary tiger named Hobbes.

Margaret Ferguson/FSG, $17.99, hardcover, 192p., ages 12-up, 9780374380731

The Nonsense Show

by Eric Carle


The book's title is The Nonsense Show and the cover image is a yellow duck emerging from a banana peel, so the "absurd, odd, preposterous, foolish, weird, surreal" nature of Eric Carle's (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) bold foray into the world of wordplay is made plain from the start. (All those adjectives appear in a boy's cartoon bubble of "gobbledegook" on the final spread.)

"Welcome, friends!/ Don't be slow./ Step right up to/ The Nonsense Show!" A rabbit magician pulls a boy out of a hat, a trick that kicks off the topsy-turvy journey ahead, where a fish is stuck in a birdcage and a mouse leads a cat around on a leash. Sometimes the "twist" is not a standard switcheroo like the previous examples, it's just random silliness: "What a funny-looking ball/ Thought the tennis ace/ And wound up/ With applesauce/ In her face." Carle gleefully dares to rhyme "ought-er" with "water" in one poem about a rubber duck with human feet, and in one particularly pleasing spread, Mr. Up is seated up on the ceiling eating cake and Mrs. Down is seated down on the floor eating cake: "It's not a mistake,/ It's just how they eat cake."

Carle's cut-paper artwork, with its chunky shapes and vibrant colors, is the right match for the simple, absurdist scenarios. Early sketches of the final artwork populate the endpapers--from the man in a doghouse to the upside-down cake eater--one more clever design touch to reflect the freewheeling spirit of this playful ode to nonsense. --Karin Snelson, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Eric Carle gets surreal with a cut-paper-collaged collection of wordplay and poetry, where antlers sprout flowers and tennis balls are apples.

Philomel/Penguin, $18.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-7, 9780399176876

Humor

Oh the Moon: Stories from the Tortured Mind of Charlyne Yi

by Charlyne Yi


In Oh the Moon: Stories from the Tortured Mind of Charlyne Yi, musician, comedian and writer Charlyne Yi has written and illustrated a delightful set of interconnected allegorical tales that is anything but tortured. Yi is best known for her supporting roles in films like Knocked Up and This Is 40, and Oh the Moon proves that the magic she imbues into her comedy routines becomes just as addictive on paper as in person.

In "Forgive Me," the opening story, the world's tiniest boy meets and defends the world's largest boy against an angry mob of villagers who see any differences from the norm as threatening. The drawings in this story are childlike and simple, but the narrative is powerful and symbolic. "Particles" unfolds as a Genesis-like parable in which a "runaway" particle returns to its star of origin after documenting the rise and fall of civilizations. In "Strange Love," the alcoholic Leonard meets the pregnant Marie and spends the night talking about relationships and what it means to love even in the face of heartbreak. Besides "She's All Legs" (a bizarre and strangely triumphant story about a misfit woman with just head and legs who battles the devil alongside an Elvis-impersonator to reclaim a lost soul), "Strange Love" represents the most realized vision of love and loss for Yi. Her increasingly complex drawings become a visual map in which to view the budding arsenal of emotions.

With Oh the Moon, Yi proves herself to be a gifted storyteller, unafraid to explore forbidden areas with tenderness and an open heart. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Charlyne Yi writes of love and heartbreak in a series of connected fairy tales.

Harper Perennial, $16.99, paperback, 9780062363299

Art & Photography

Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir: With the Lost Photographs of David Attie

by Truman Capote, photographs by David Attie


Truman Capote's essay about Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., filled with clever observations in his familiar style, was first published by Holiday magazine in the 1950s. It was reprinted in 2001, with a foreword by George Plimpton, which is included here. However, the singular contribution of Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir: With the Lost Photographs of David Attie is those photographs, discovered in 2014 by the late photographer's son in dusty wooden boxes. The story Eli Attie tells in his afterword is as compelling as Capote's witty and winning portrait of Brooklyn. Capote's career was distinctly tied to Attie's when the latter was hired to photo-illustrate Breakfast at Tiffany's for its scheduled appearance in Harper's Bazaar, which Eli learned only decades after his father's death.

Capote's essay is of course brilliant in its scenes, characters and language. "Sunstruck scraps of reflected river-shine" and the lovely alliteration of "plenipotentiaries from the pearl-floored palace of Poseidon or mariners merely" exhibit his decorative, evocative way with words. The historic contribution of this glimpse at a place in time is significant; and the same must be said of Attie's documentary photographs, which perfectly complement Capote's text. Since Harper's Bazaar ultimately cut the novella, the included images went unpublished, including several of a young Capote, framed against the "beautiful staircase floating upward in white, swan-simple curves to a skylight of sunny amber-gold glass" in the house where Capote lived (in the basement).

This marriage of Capote's glimmering words with Attie's harmonizing photographs is perfected by the younger Attie's narrative, in this unparalleled addition to the Capote canon. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A superb Capote essay with never-before-seen photographs originally commissioned to accompany it make an ideal match--and a great story.

Little Bookroom, $29.95, hardcover, 9781936941117

The Boy Who Saw
by Simon Toyne
ISBN-13: 978-0062329752
William Morrow
07/04/2017


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Simon Toyne
 

In THE BOY WHO SAW and your other thrillers, there is a richness to the atmosphere, to your descriptive passages. Is that a priority in your writing? 

“I do work very hard on the language because I think it’s as much part of the enjoyment of reading as following the story and a key part of the storytelling. Writing for TV, which I did for nearly 20 years, is all about structure and dialogue so you never get to exercise your descriptive muscles as far as languages goes, which was one of the reasons I wanted to try writing novels. But whenever I describe things in my books, I always try and do it in the most efficient way possible so as not to get in the way of the story or the pace, which are paramount in thrillers. For setting, I normally make a place up so that I can have free license with it.  For this book though I felt I needed to anchor it in reality as much as possible because of the theme of learning the lessons of history, so I used a town in France called Cordes-sur-Ciel, which I know very well as I live there for some of the year.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

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