Fall 2009: Six Books To Look Forward To

Fall 2009 promises to be a big season for fiction. Here are six books I’m particularly excited about:

Summertime by J. M. Coetzee
Dead serious even at his most metafictional, J. M. Coetzee is one of the most important writers in the field today. Summertime is another third-person autobiographical outing, continuing the thread begun with Boyhood and Youth.

Generosity: an Enhancement by Richard Powers
Richard Powers’ latest query into human nature involves an Algerian refugee and a “happiness gene”. Will it equal his last novel, the resonant Echo Maker? We’ll find out.

True Confections by Katharine Weber
I can’t wait to tell you more about enigmatic novelist Katharine Weber’s wild new book, which I’ve already read (though it won’t be out for a few months). Crazy people running a candy company. Delicious.

The Cry of the Sloth by Sam Savage
Another great one I’ve already read — a pitch-perfect literary satire about a failed writer who edits a failed journal called Soap, from the author of Firmin.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
So what do you want from me? I like Dan Brown. I enjoyed Da Vinci Code, even though I knew the history was goofy. The new book appears to take place in Washington DC, lately my own adopted city, which makes it extra interesting for me. Note: the fact that I approve of Dan Brown does not imply that I approve of Tom Hanks.

Then, finally: the writer I mention so much here that you all probably want to shut your ears when you hear the first syllable. What can I say? I like this writer very much:

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
Baker’s spin on the poetic mind may have something in common with Sam Savage’s literary satire (or it may not — I haven’t read it yet).

That’s my list. I plan to write more here about each of these titles later this year.

So what about you — what are you reading now, and what do you plan to be reading soon?

16 Responses

  1. I also like Dan Brown’s
    I also like Dan Brown’s books. I continue to be a “wannabe” when it comes to this mystical type of fiction. I have written a copyrighted two part “creative nonfiction” novel called EXPERIENCE FOR SALE. It has some supernatural events in it.

    I am considering checking ANGELS AND DEMONS out of the library and think that THE LOST SYMBOL might be a good read, too. Like yourself, I also liked THE DA VINCI CODE. It was a good piece of religious historical fiction. Believe it or not, I still haven’t seen the movie. But I liked the reviews. The “Angels and Demons” movie also looks interesting. Perhaps, I’ll “bite the bullet” and rent both of them at the video store if ‘time and the river’ permits.

  2. Interesting coinage: your
    Interesting coinage: your word, metafictional. I love that word. Kind of gets me in a metaphysical or mystical mood. Ever read any stuff by Philip K. Dick, like the THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH?

  3. *Swoon*

    something about your

    something about your Dan Brown confession is deeply winning. I read that book when babe #2 was a week old and totally loved it: it’s crazy, but exciting books are exciting sometimes.

  4. Like John Updike, JM Coetzee
    Like John Updike, JM Coetzee writes pretty good essays, criticism. But their fiction doesn’t grab me.

    Nikos Kazantzakis is more my speed, not Dan Brown

  5. I like crappy books, too,
    I like crappy books, too, sometimes, but Dan Brown is such a terrible writer, I couldn’t even drag myself through The Da Vinci Code, let alone any of his other books.

    He’s a good plotter, but that’s about it.

  6. new coetzee is always
    new coetzee is always welcome. i was lukewarm toward his last book but ‘youth’ was terrific and i’m looking forward to ‘summertime’. jmc is a world-class novelist, one of the best.

    still haven’t read powers. i’ll have to change that. you’ve piqued my curiosity about weber and baker. and hello from arlington and welcome to the area.

    good luck with your new book, bill. big up kazantzakis, dlt.

    dan brown, i have a symbol. it’s raised and in your schlocky cliched face.

    i’ve been reading–

    the tin house 10th anniversary issue. so far steve almond is the standout. also has a good if rough one from an undergraduate dfw.

    i read ‘the kindly ones’. overall it’s good and has a few sections i would call brilliant, but posterity won’t annoit it with literary greatness. the introduction floored me and made me excited to read it., but that was the best bit, and littell plainly wrote it last. vast swathes of the middle are taken up with a play by play of the nazi invasion of russia, subsequent retreat, and ultimate fall. it’s written in a reporting style, with some facility, but still gives the impression of a history book. the protagonist, aue, meets the major players of the regime and does his best to survive their machinations. his personal life is the more interesting, his relations with his family and the few exceptional people he meets in the party. the novel presents a peculiar thesis on the holocaust, as it is from the nazi point of view: given the dictates of monsieur moustachio, the constraints of a war on multiple fronts, and the german pride in efficiency, the only possible solution was the final solution. littell massages the device of character empathy, and so as the deportations give way to camps this heightens the tragedy and the revulsion in the reader’s mind. another successful bit of the book was how the novel stayed true to itself. littell could have gone a number of predictable ways with the ending, a screaming action blow-up, a pull out into the meta, an ambiguous psychological dilemma — but he resisted and gave us a noir-slapstick ending that i initially rejected but, sitting there staring at the page, found myself smiling at, feeling satisfied. it’s worth reading and i will read his next one.

    i’ve checked out a couple other contemporary frenchies. amelie nothomb is apparently very popular but i found her writing slight and presented without insight. i read 2 of her novels, which couldn’t have run to more than 20,000 words a piece. for a good one, check out emmanuel carrere sometime. he has great control. i’ve only found one of his translated, ‘the adversary’, but it was very well done. i’ve heard good things about ‘europeana’ by patrik ourednik and when i track it down it’s next.

  7. Dan,
    I partially agree with

    I partially agree with your reading of The Kidnly Ones, but would add Littell brilliantly inserts, with grace, long brilliantly researched historical digressions that fascinated me, especially the digressions on the language groups of the Caucusus. This novel may not be considered a masterpiece, but you can tell he is going to be an important writer.

    I’ve read Eurpeana and it was amazing! I wish the Dalkey Archive would publish more of Ourednik’s works.


  8. Maybe think of Dan Brown as
    Maybe think of Dan Brown as the anti-pynchon. The Da Vinci Code has an excellent premise and the promotion was brilliant, showing those paintings, almost like a Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not feature, drawing people into the fun of the mystery. Who can blame Brown (or maybe his publisher) for deciding to enlarge the tent to include young readers and/or people who seldom read? My own son took an interest in history because of this book. It doesn’t matter if Da Vinci really believed the stuff, the point is, it’s fun to speculate.

  9. tom, fair points. that
    tom, fair points. that particular character, the linguist, is one of the stars of the book. and littell is certainly an important writer. i’d like to see his next one come more from his muse and less from his notes. hearing your words on ‘europeana’ is like midmorning in the office, someone is eating something good, and you’re hungry already.

  10. Oh, and Steve, I’m a Philip
    Oh, and Steve, I’m a Philip K. Dick fan. I’ve read The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch but my favorite is VALIS.

  11. Levi, there is an excerpt
    Levi, there is an excerpt from the new Coetzee book in the current issue of Harper’s magazine.

    And, I’m definately getting the new Sam Savage. Firmin was a really nice book, very humanistic even if it was about a rat. A humanist rat, one could say.

    Also, the new Pynchon, mentioned in the NYTBR sounds good. Come on – a doper detective in 70s LA with homage to Chandler and Hammett? What’s not to like? Plus according to the times it’s only 300 some pages. A short story!

  12. Two
    Two words:



    The willingness to read past page 2 of the DaVinci Code is proof the reader’s taste is null and void.

  13. Point well taken about the
    Point well taken about the evil albino. I keep forgetting that part.

    Which reminds me, whatever happened to Johnny Winter?

  14. I’m going to go out on a limb
    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that your Tom Hanks clarification was aimed at Jamelah and/or Caryn.

  15. Vollmann’s IMPERIAL.

    I think
    Vollmann’s IMPERIAL.

    I think I might be reading this for all of 2010 as well.

    And I just subscribed to the Archipelago Books series, so I’ll have something new and delicious and unknown arriving periodically as a respite.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What We're Up To ...

Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!