Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Fitzgerald, Jacobs, Stevens, and More

July 19, 2022 | 2 books mentioned 4 min read

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Isaac Fitzgerald, Liska Jacobs, Nell Stevens, and more—that are publishing this week.

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Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dirtbag, Massachusetts: “Journalist Fitzgerald (How to Be a Pirate) weaves a raucous mosaic of a rough-and-ready New England rarely seen with a transfixing story of his path to finding himself. In a series of essays, he recounts his impoverished childhood in 1980s Massachusetts and follows his escape from it through a litany of jobs and identities. In ‘Family Stories,’ he charts the ‘stained and tattered map’ of his dysfunctional Catholic parent’s lives and their bumpy road from ‘city poor to country poor.’ A poster child of the ‘classic New England family, incapable of discussing… things openly,’ Fitzgerald buried his past in drinking, drugs, and porn: bonding relationships,’ he writes in ‘The Armory,’ ‘were based on the consumption of porn and communal jerking off.’ By his mid-20s, he was ‘on the other side’ starring in pornos. As he takes readers along on his search for salvation, he barrels through many venues—from San Francisco to Southeast Asia to Brooklyn to Kilimanjaro—recounting the ‘conversations that changed me’ and eventually helped him overcome old ideals of masculinity and untangle his complicity in a racist society (in his case, ‘hipster racism’). ‘To any young men out there who aren’t too far gone,’ he writes. ‘I say you’re not done becoming yourself.’ The result is a marvelous coming-of-age story that’s as wily and raunchy as it is heartfelt.”

The Pink Hotel by Liska Jacobs

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Pink Hotel: “Jacobs (The Worst Kind of Want) returns with an amusing if over-the-top satire of the überwealthy. After a chance meeting at a hospitality conference, small-town newlyweds Keith and Kit Collins befriend the tony Richard and Ilka Beaumont, who invite the couple to honeymoon at their renowned Beverly Hills establishment, the Pink Hotel. Once Keith and Kit check in, Keith, who works as the general manager of his uncle’s restaurant and hotel, is enamored of the elite scene and agrees to help Richard attend to guests in hopes of securing a job offer, leaving Kit to spend time with a hard-partying young socialite who’s also staying at the hotel. Complications arise when Keith develops a crush on Richard’s mistress, Coco, whose cousin Sean (a construction worker helping with an expansion at the hotel) takes a liking to Kit after she faints from heatstroke and lands in his arms. Then things go off the rails as encroaching wildfires and rolling blackouts stir up angry mobs outside the hotel gates, while, inside, a guest’s exotic cats go on the attack, shots ring out, and tensions boil over. The chaotic climax is something to behold, but thinly drawn characters water down the satire’s potency, and the class commentary is a bit predictable. Readers who can look past a few wobbles will be easily carried along by the rollicking madcap sensibility.”

Shmutz by Felicia Berliner

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Shmutz: “Berliner’s memorable debut concerns a young Brooklyn Hasidic woman who becomes addicted to porn. Despite the community’s strict laws against the internet, Raizl, 18, receives a laptop as part of her accounting scholarship to Cohen College, and her naive initial Google searches quickly lead her to more explicit corners of the web. Each night, after her younger sister Gitti falls asleep, Raizl watches porn under the covers with the volume off. More transgressions follow, as she befriends a group of goth classmates and eats a bacon and egg roll from a street vendor. Meanwhile, Raizl endures a series of matchmaker-arranged ‘dates’ with potential husbands. After two failed dates, Berliner writes, ‘the matchmaker must have smelled the fear on [Raizl’s] mother because the next boy she sends… is a clammy snail in a suit.’ Meanwhile, Raizl’s porn addiction affects her grades; she stops sleeping, watching ‘video after video until morning,’ and her attempts to quit prove unsuccessful. Berliner shines in her depictions of a deeply religious life, both in its inequities and its enchantments. If the plot is at times a bit sparse, the prose is inventive, notably in how it uses Raizl’s native Yiddish (and her application of it to porn) to great effect. This brave, eye-opening tale is full of surprises.”

Briefly, a Delicious Life by Nell Stevens

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Briefly, a Delicious Life: “Stevens (Bleaker House: A Memoir) makes her fiction debut with a smart and haunting outing that immerses readers in Valldemosa, Mallorca, over four centuries. The story revolves around the ghost of a 14-year-old girl named Blanca, who died in the 15th century and is captivated by the appearance of author George Sand and her lover, composer Frédéric Chopin, on vacation in the late 19th century. Blanca is attracted to both men and women, and her playful, sensuous narration describes the centuries she’s spent observing the trysts of monks in the monastery where she lives. Sand’s masculine dress particularly excites Blanca, though it elicits disgust of the villagers. As Chopin becomes gravely ill, Stevens alternates the lovers’ story with Blanca’s memories of her own life and death, and Blanca dwells on feelings of blame toward the man who got her pregnant during their affair. Eventually, the stories entwine, as Blanca uses her ghostly powers to intercede in Chopin’s fate. Though Stevens’s idealized view of Sand can feel a bit Mary Sue–ish, for the most part it credibly reflects Blanca’s romanticizing of a woman who ‘dressed like a man, kissed like a man, smoked like a man.’ This will entice readers.”

Also out this week: The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories by Jamil Jan Kochai and Amanat edited by Zaure Batayeva and Shelley Fairweather-Vega.

is a staff writer for The Millions. He lives in New York.

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