Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Everett, Dunn, Als, and More

November 1, 2022 | 5 books mentioned 4 min read

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Percival EverettKatherine Dunn, Hilton Als, and more—that are publishing this week.

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Dr. No by Percival Everett

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dr. No: “The immensely enjoyable latest from Booker-shortlisted Everett (The Trees) sends up spy movie tropes while commenting on racism in the U.S. The narrator is Wala Kitu, a Black mathematics professor researching the substance of ‘nothing,’ which yields endless clever riffs (in his search for nothing, he has ‘nothing to show for it’). Kitu is recruited by John Sill, a Black billionaire and aspiring supervillain hoping to use the power of ‘nothing’ to terrify the nation, all in retaliation for the murder of his parents by a white police chief. Intrigued by the possibilities of furthering his research, Kitu joins Sill and is whisked to a Miami lair to begin plotting the attack on Fort Knox, which Sill claims contains no gold, just a powerful ‘nothing.’ Along for the ride is Kitu’s sheltered white colleague, topologist Eigen Vector, whom Sill drugs into becoming his arm candy. As Kitu learns more about Sill’s plan and witnesses his ruthlessness, he tries to escape and save Eigen. Another Sill associate, Gloria, a Black woman with an ‘enormous afro’ who also seems to be under Sill’s spell, tells Kitu her brother was shot for ‘standing around being Black.’ Throughout, Everett boldly makes a farce out of real-world nightmares, and the rapid-fire pacing leaves readers little time to blink. Satire doesn’t get much sharper or funnier than this.”

Toad by Katherine Dunn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Toad: “Dunn (1945–2016) leaves readers a throwback to the 1960s counterculture scene in this pungent precursor to her 1989 National Book Award finalist Geek Love. Sally Gunnar, middle-aged and living alone with her goldfish, reminisces about her student days spent on the periphery of the cool kid scene at a small liberal arts college in the northwest. She relives moments steeped in magic mushroom dust and unwashed bodies with her friend Sam, who rarely goes to class and never follows the rules. She looks with disgust, not on his filthy student digs or the horsemeat he serves, but on his circle of friends as they party and pose. She is filled with rage at their inauthenticity and the way they seem to themselves not exist unless someone is looking—except Sam. And then Carlotta appears. She and Sam move to a farm, then to Montana, and eventually tragedy strikes. Sally goes through a string of lovers, slits her wrists, and breaks the law with a violent act, all in an attempt at some kind of self-realization. The story has moments of hilarity, its raw prose fresh with unpretty evocations of stale rooms and bad poetry. It amounts to a sobering look at the reality of what one’s glory days actually entailed, shot through with the unmistakable undertow of pain and self-loathing.”

The Islands by Dionne Irving

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Islands: “The characters in Irving’s penetrating collection (after the novel Quint), many of whom are Jamaican Canadians, navigate the persistent hurdles of their family relationships as they attempt to build new lives while reckoning with the past. In ‘Waking Life,’ Jamaican Canadian travel writer Po meets her Jamaican British mother, Janice, for the first time since early childhood, and her mother’s uncompromising independence fuels Po’s hope of keeping alive her own fragile romantic relationship. In ‘Canal,’ a Jamaican Panamanian Canadian woman, Pilar, travels to Panama from Canada to settle her childhood maid’s affairs, realizing only as an adult that it was her maid’s history as a Holocaust survivor that shaped the fierce protection she gave Pilar during the 1965 riots that led to her family’s emigration. ‘It is hard to be the last one left,’ Pilar thinks. Throughout, and in lucid prose, Irving depicts her characters’ chilly shocks over unexpected gaps in intimacy with their loved ones as they work to fit into non-immigrant Black spaces, making for stories that are both class-conscious and richly atmospheric. Irving’s inviting combination of subjects and style heralds a welcome new voice.”

Small Game by Blair Braverman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Small Game: “Braverman’s spellbinding debut follows a cast of five as they film an ill-fated survival-reality series called Civilization. Mara works as an instructor at a survival-style camping school, which comes easily to her after having been raised by prepper parents. She joins Civilization hoping the prize money will improve her life. Her fellow cast members, all handpicked by the show’s producers for their archetypal value, include gorgeous, inexperienced Ashley, who wants to be famous; validation-seeking Eagle Scout Kyle; gruff carpenter Bullfrog, who hopes his estranged daughter will see him on TV; and James, who books it soon after filming begins at the show’s unidentified wilderness location. Clashes with insecure Kyle ensue, though Mara doesn’t anticipate falling for Ashley, whose sweet demeanor has a dark side. Mara also surreptitiously accepts food from Tom, a crew member who takes a shine to her. Braverman does a good job demonstrating how Mara’s expertise is constantly undermined by touchy would-be survivalists both on and off the show, and how the cast members’ relationships change once things get real and the crew mysteriously disappears. With danger setting in, the author keeps up a terrific sense of suspense about whether the crew’s abandonment is intentional. Like the best TV, readers won’t want this to end.”

My Pinup by Hilton Als

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about My Pinup: “Pulitzer winner Als (White Girls) brings serpentine prose and acerbic wit to this slim, two-part take on Prince, desire, and loss. Als fashions Prince as the avatar of his own lovers, as well as Als’s many changing selves (‘I saw his difference. It was like yours, Prince. Was I in love with him or with you when I met you backstage in St. Louis or saw you in Texas?’), and these strands of sexuality mingle with confusion and injustices, among them Prince and other Black artists’ forfeiture of their own work to their record labels. Meanwhile, Als examines how poet and cultural critic Dorothy Parker haunted Prince as the subject of his 1987 song, and by extension Als as he tries to understand Parker’s role in Prince’s life and his own; she could be the lover that they both seek, or the self that they portray to others. Als also recounts watching Prince pander to white audiences and producers and then return to a more recognizable version of himself with his 2004 album Musicology. Don’t be fooled by the page count, Als conjures entire worlds between these covers. Readers are sure to find pleasure and pain in this bite-size delight.”

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

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