Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Patricia Lockwood, Zak Salih, Roberto Bolaño, and more—that are publishing this week.
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about No One Is Talking About This: “Lockwood’s debut novel comes packed with the humor, bawdiness, and lyrical insight that buoyed her memoir Priestdaddy. The unnamed narrator—made famous by a viral post that read, ‘Can a dog be twins’—travels the world to speak on panels, where she explains such things as why it’s better to use the spelling ‘sneazing’ (it’s “objectively funnier”). While in Vienna for a conference, her mother urges her to come home to Ohio, where the narrator’s younger sister is having complications with her pregnancy and may need a late-term abortion. There, in the book’s shimmering second half, the internet jokes continue between the sisters as a means of coping with uncertainty, and resonate with the theme of life’s ephemerality vs. the internet’s infinitude. Throughout, a fragmented style captures and sometimes elevates a series of text messages and memes amid the meditations on family (‘I’m convinced the world is getting too full lol, her brother texted her, the one who obliterated himself at the end of every day with a personal comet called Fireball’). This mighty novel screams with laughter just as it wallops with grief.”
Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Let’s Get Back to the Party: “The shifting landscape for gay men in America animates Salih’s heartfelt debut. In 2015, with gay marriage protected by the Supreme Court, 30-something Virginia high school art teacher Sebastian Mote wouldn’t mind a life of domesticity, but he’s just broken up with his boyfriend of three years. After the suicide of a gay student, Sebastian devotes himself to his students, especially 17-year-old Arthur, whose open sexuality Sebastian secretly envies while he works to make the school more LGBTQ inclusive. Sebastian hopes that luck has finally favored him when, at a wedding, he bumps into Oscar Burnham, a friend from childhood. But Oscar laments the end of a hedonistic lifestyle and complains that every gay man he knows is ‘a victim of marriage fever now.’ The closest Oscar comes to the life he pines for is in his friendship with Sean Stokes, an author in his 60s famous for books that document the abandon of previous decades. There’s a varied cast, though many of the support players come across as generic: an uncle disapproving of him expressing his gay identity, the loving but conflicted mother, and so on. But Sebastian’s and Oscar’s twinned dilemmas add fascinating complexity to the goings on. The party may be changing, but reasons for celebration remain, as evidenced by Salih’s passionate evocation.”
American Delirium by Betina González (translated by Heather Cleary)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about American Delirium: “Argentinian González anatomizes in her skillful English-language debut an American community’s pursuit of enlightenment and the violence and madness left in its wake. The novel takes place in a moribund, near-future unnamed U.S. city where only the university and the natural history museum have survived a devastating depression. The residents, increasingly attuned to ‘early cultural signs of the final imbalance, of how the entire planet would eventually rise up against us,’ have embraced a more resourceful lifestyle by taking up hunting. Among them, Vik, an ailing taxidermist from the fictional Caribbean island of Coloma, discovers that a possibly dangerous intruder has been living in his closet; the acerbic Beryl instructs those, like her, over 70, in marksmanship after crazed deer begin assaulting people; and a young girl, Berenice, looks for a new caretaker after her mother abandons her to join a cultish back-to-nature group. The story lines gradually converge around the prevalence of a hallucinogenic Coloma plant called albaria that ‘closes your eyes and sets you down in a ray of light where time doesn’t exist.’ This has the makings of a zany psychedelic romp, but instead the delirium is marvelously controlled and administered in doses just potent enough to ease patient readers into this off-kilter world. González’s distorted utopian vision is a memorable trip.”
Girls of a Certain Age by Maria Adelmann
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Girls of a Certain Age: “Adelmann’s uneven debut collection focuses on young women facing difficult choices to varying degrees of impact. In ‘Elegy,’ one of the most powerful pieces, a young woman who’s just had a double mastectomy reflects on the death of her aunt from breast cancer, and the near death of her mother as well. In ‘First Aid,’ the narrator details her self-harm, referring to her cuts as gills ‘because they help me breathe.’ In ‘Pets Are for Rich Kids,’ a young girl contrasts her own life and relative poverty with that of a wealthy friend while also trying to understand why her father abandoned her. Less successful are stories about 20-somethings, whether searching for meaning after a job layoff (‘None of These Will Bring Disaster’) or having relationship troubles (‘Middlemen’ and ‘Human Bonding’), though a standout among these is the lyrical and whimsical ‘Unattached,’ in which a young woman suddenly finds herself and her world turned literally upside down. While some stories could have been left on the cutting room floor, Adelmann offers an abundance of insights on the vicissitudes of life.”
Cowboy Graves by Roberto Bolaño (translated by Natasha Wimmer)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cowboy Graves: “An appealing if inchoate episodic collection emerges from Bolaño’s archives (after The Spirit of Science Fiction). In the title novella, Arturo Belano emigrates from Chile to Mexico City at 15 in 1968 to live with his father. There, Arturo befriends a transient man nicknamed the Grub, whom Bolaño fans will remember from Last Evenings on Earth. After the 1973 coup, Arturo returns to Chile to fight on behalf of the leftists. In ‘French Comedy of Errors,’ the book’s most linear story, a French Guianese teenager receives an unexpected call in a phone booth from a group of literally underground writers called the Clandestine Surrealist Group who are waiting to start a revolution. ‘Fatherland,’ narrated by a 20-something Rigoberto Belano who differs only slightly from Arturo, transmutes from an account of Belano’s family and a love affair disrupted by the Chilean coup into fragmentary lectures on a sadistic poet and a mélange of recollected dreams, letters, and detective-style case files. While the loosely connected vignettes in each novella fail to fully cohere, they show a writer working to capture the fragility of identity and relationships in revolutionary settings. These drafts reveal Bolaño (1953–2003) perfecting the literary obsessions that became his emblems.”
Also on shelves this week: Promoteo by C. Dale Young.