Don Quixote

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Coetzee, Masad, Jollett, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of J.M. Coetzee, Ilana Masad, Mikel Jollett, and more—that are publishing this week.
Death of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Death of Jesus: “The thoughtful, clear-eyed final installment of Nobel laureate Coetzee’s Jesus trilogy picks up three years after The Schooldays of Jesus. David, now age 10, remains an enigmatic prodigy, skilled at soccer, dance, and arcane mathematics, and living under the watchful eye of his ruminative adopted father, Simon—who again narrates—and Ines, his protective adoptive mother. The family, living in a Spanish-speaking town called Estrella in an unnamed country, is disrupted when Dr. Julio Fabricante, the director of a local orphanage, challenges David and his friends to play soccer against the orphans’ team. Almost immediately, David is enchanted by the orphans, and runs away to live with them. After David comes down with a mysterious neurological disorder that makes him prone to sudden falls, he returns home to Simon and Ines. Simon notices changes in David; he is aloof with Simon and Ines and unsettled by questions about the afterlife. David has also attracted a band of followers who treat him with messianic devotion as he recites stories from Don Quixote. Like in previous volumes, Coetzee’s simple, clean prose is guided by philosophical questions, and Simon’s humanistic reflections provide a thrilling contrast to David’s bumpy journey of faith and acceptance of his mortality. This is an ambitious and satisfying conclusion.”
All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about All My Mother’s Lovers: “A tragic accident leads to soul-searching in Masad’s smart, heartfelt debut. Maggie Krause is enjoying an intimate moment with her girlfriend when her younger brother, Ariel, calls to say that their mother, Iris, has died in a car accident. Scrambling to get home to her brother and her dad, Maggie reflects on her complicated relationship with her mother, who was never comfortable with Maggie’s sexuality. After Maggie flies home to California, she finds college-age Ariel struggling to deal with their father, Peter, who is almost catatonic with grief. Because no one else will do it, Maggie makes arrangements for Iris’s funeral and shivah. Then Maggie finds Iris’s will, and with it, a small stack of letters Iris wanted to be mailed in the event of her death. But Maggie doesn’t recognize any of the men the letters are addressed to—and is upset and insulted that her mom would have written letters to strange men but not to her children. Maggie decides to deliver the letters by hand, and as she meets the recipients, she learns that Iris’s life was nothing like what Maggie thought it was. This remarkable portrait of a daughter’s opaque relationship with her mother reflects the strangeness and beauty of coming to see one’s parent fully as a human being.”
Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Hollywood Park: “In this arresting debut memoir, Jollett, frontman of the indie band Airborne Toxic Event, writes of escaping a California cult named Synanon—where he lived in the 1970s until age five—with his mentally unstable mother and older brother. He recalls his impoverished, lonely youth; his family’s struggles with addiction; his challenging relationship with his parents; and the ways music and therapy saved him. Synanon started out as a commune and a drug and alcohol treatment facility (Jollett’s father was treated there for heroin addiction) but became a cult when the facility’s leader became more domineering and began forcing parents and their children to live in separate locations. While there, Jollett and his brother were left in the care of various cult members and rarely saw their parents. Jollett engagingly narrates his story, which includes living, after leaving Synanon, in Oregon with his mother, a needy narcissist who brainwashed him into believing that kids take care of their moms, not the other way around; loving his father while hoping to never be like him; and dealing with his addict brother. Jollett also talks about turning pain into music, getting help for abandonment issues, and finding love and starting a family. All this results in a shocking but contemplative memoir about the aftermath of an unhealthy upbringing.”
The First Actress by C.W. Gortner

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The First Actress: “Gortner (The Romanov Empress) captures the drama and pathos of legendary actor Sarah Bernhardt’s life in this enchanting work. The illegitimate child of a Jewish courtesan, Bernhardt is raised in Brittany until her wet nurse can no longer house her. In 1852, Sarah’s mother, Julie, sends her unloved, eight-year-old daughter to boarding school in Versailles. After Sarah’s theatrical gifts shine in a school play, one of her mother’s longtime patrons helps arrange acting training for her as well as a contract with the august Comédie-Française. The school’s rigid adherence to tradition clashes with Sarah’s questioning approach, and she leaves the Comédie in the first of many stormy changes from one theatrical company to the next. Becoming pregnant by Comte Émile de Kératry, an aristocratic paying lover, she decides to keep the baby—her only child, Maurice—despite the social taboo and the comte’s rejection. After Bernhardt does heroic work as a volunteer nurse and infirmary manager during the Franco-Prussian War, she becomes one of the most acclaimed actors of her age through a mix of talent, hard work, and savvy self-promotion. Skillful first-person narration evokes Bernhardt’s fierce energy and tempestuous liaisons, the vulnerability borne of her wounding childhood, and her struggles against misogyny and anti-Semitism. Gortner does justice to this trailblazing celebrity and her fascinating era.”
Red Dress in Black and White by Elliot Ackerman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Red Dress in Black and White: “In Ackerman’s wry if convoluted latest (after Waiting for Eden), the story of an unhappy marriage is suffused with pointed commentary on Turkey in the months following the 2013 Gezi revolt. Catherine, an American, lives in Istanbul with her Turkish husband, Murat, a real estate developer, and their adopted seven-year-old son, William. Catherine and Murat each sacrificed early artistic ambition, she for the marriage and he for his career, and she finds comfort in an affair with Peter, a freewheeling American photojournalist on a Cultural Affairs grant for a loosely defined art project. After Catherine hatches a plan to flee to the United States with Peter and William, Murat intervenes with the help of an American diplomat. Much of the book’s action takes place on the day Catherine tries to leave in November 2013, interspersed with flashbacks to pivotal moments in the characters’ lives—Peter’s coverage of the protests to contest the development plan for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park, Murat’s complicated dependence on Istanbul’s ‘reliably corrupt’ government for business, and the shocking disclosure of William’s birth mother’s identity—that add weight to the story of a marriage and a city embroiled in conflict. Still, the big reveal arrives too late and doesn’t quite offer enough payoff to justify such dense plotting. This falls short of Ackerman’s best work.”

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