Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel

New Price: $12.99
Used Price: $2.00

Mentioned in:

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Saunders, Enríquez, Gurganus, and More

-

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from George Saunders, Mariana Enríquez, Allan Gurganus, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: “Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo) offers lessons from his graduate-level seminar on the Russian short story in this superb mix of instruction and literary criticism. In surveying seven stories by Anton Chekhov, Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, and Nikolai Gogol, Saunders concludes that the secret to crafting powerful fiction is, ‘Always be escalating. That’s all a story is, really: a continual system of escalation.’ Each story is presented in full, along with Saunders’s commentary: on Chekhov’s ‘In the Cart,’ Saunders asks, ‘why we keep reading a story,’ and on Tolstoy’s ‘Master and Man,’ he writes that facts can ‘draw us in’ when the ‘language isn’t particularly elevated or poetic.’ Saunders’s teaching style, much like his fiction, is thoughtful with touches of whimsy, as when he breaks the action of Turgenev’s ‘The Singers’ into a table and compares the short story writer to a roller-coaster designer. The writing advice, meanwhile, is expansive: revising, he writes, involves intuition, and he views a story as a conversation. His closing note for writers is to ‘go forth and do what you please.’ Saunders’s generous teachings—and the classics they’re based on—are sure to please.”

Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Aftershocks: “In her enthralling memoir, Whiting Award–winner Owusu (So Devilish a Fire) assesses the impact of key events in her life via the metaphor of earthquakes. The biracial daughter of an Armenian mother and Ghanaian father, Owusu’s early life was fractured by her parents’ divorce and multiple moves necessitated by her father’s U.N. career. Living in Rome at age seven, she was visited by her long-absent mother on the day a catastrophic quake hit Armenia, seeding an obsession with earthquakes ‘and the ways we try to understand the size and scale of impending disaster.’ She believed ‘an instrument in my brain’—a kind of emotional seismometer—picked up vibrations and set off protective alarms. Her shaky relationship with her stepmother Anabel, meanwhile, worsened in her teens after her father’s death from cancer. College in Manhattan offered escape, but at 28 she was devastated by Anabel’s claim that her father died of AIDS: ‘Although… Anabel was a liar… the alarm continued to sound.’ A subsequent breakup with a boyfriend released long-suppressed anxiety, and she spent a week sitting in a chair in her apartment—’almost like sitting in my father’s lap,’ and it was only then that she could contemplate the complex love she, her mother, and her stepmother felt for her father. Readers will be moved by this well-wrought memoir.”

The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata by Gina Apostol

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata: “Filipino writer Apostol (Insurrecto) revises her playful 2009 novel, winner of the Philippine National Book Award and appearing in the U.S. for the first time, to highly entertaining effect. Framed as the expansive, postmodern memoir of the visually impaired Raymundo Mata, the book combines Mata’s reminiscences of the 1890s revolution against Spanish colonial forces and his involvement with the secret revolutionary Katipunan society with references to revered real-life 19th-century nationalist Filipino writer Jose Rizal. In a note commenting on the new edition, Apostol describes the book’s eccentric intricacies by noting how it was ‘planned as a puzzle: traps for the reader, dead end jokes, textual games, unexplained sleights of tongue.’ The narrative is studded with hilarious argumentative footnotes between an editor, a translator, and a scholar of Mata’s work, producing dueling Nabokovian narratives: Mata’s diaries and the conflicting commentaries, all suffused perfectly with Apostol’s dense, demanding style. As the story of the revolution faces off with literary histrionics, all is resolved with a gut-punch conclusion. Apostol’s unique perspective on facts versus fiction would make for a perfect Charlie Kaufman movie.”

That Old Country Music by Kevin Barry

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about That Old Country Music: “Irish writer Barry follows Night Boat to Tangier with a rather mixed story collection. ‘The Coast of Leitrim’ and ‘Deer Season’ tread well-worn romantic territories, depicting doomed and all-too familiar relationships. ‘Who’s-Dead McCarthy,’ about a morbid townie chatterbox, is entertaining, yet it ends with a punch line that falls flat. On the other hand, the title story, which follows a pregnant teen as she waits for her criminal fiancé to return from a robbery, pulses with electricity and emotion, despite its abrupt conclusion. ‘Toronto and the State of Grace’ showcases the author’s gift for dialogue and wit, as a brash son and his elderly mother hold court in a sleepy pub, drinking their way through the pub’s liquor and showering the barkeep with stories. And ‘Roma Kid’ transforms what initially seems to be a depressing runaway child story into a fairy tale of finding family and purpose. As always, Barry can’t write a bad sentence (‘A light rain began to fall and it spoke more than anything else of the place through which she moved’), but the too-tepid stories don’t do justice to the author’s considerable talents. This won’t go down as one of Barry’s finer works.”

Hades, Argentina by Daniel Lodel

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Hades, Argentina: “An Argentinian American unspools his dark memories of the Dirty War in Loedel’s mesmerizing debut. Tomás Orilla, a naive medical student, was drawn into Argentina’s dangerous political miasma in 1976 to impress his first love, the left-wing activist Isabel. The reader first meets Tomás in 1986 in New York City, where Tomás had fled 10 years earlier with a forged passport. Now married to an American woman, he shares with her a conveniently selective version of his story (‘the full, fleshed-out story still wasn’t one I was eager to examine, much less hand over’). Tomás returns to Buenos Aires after receiving a call from Isabel’s mother, who is terminally ill with cancer. There, he encounters what appears to be the ghost of a former mentor who takes him to a crypt underneath an old detention center, where he relives a series of horrifying events, some of which he was party to in the lead-up to a difficult choice he made for his own survival. The theme of ghosts is bent a few ways—ghosts appear in memories, the crypt, and on the street—and it becomes an apt, poignant descriptor for the people who were disappeared and the agony of their loved ones who had to carry on without knowing what happened to them. Loedel’s unflinching look at human frailty adds a revelatory new chapter to South American Cold War literature.”

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Detransition, Baby: “Peters’s sharp comedy (after Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones) charts the shifting dynamics of gender, relationships, and family as played out in three characters’ exploration of trans femininity. Reese, a trans woman from the Midwest now living in New York City, is in the throes of an affair with a kinky, dominant, and married man. Ames, Reese’s ex who has detransitioned since their breakup three years earlier, is now with his boss, a divorced cis woman named Katrina. When Katrina gets pregnant, Ames must reckon with his gender once again. Katrina intends to get an abortion if Ames leaves her, and he comes up with a solution so crazy it just might work. He cannot be a father, but he can be a parent (‘He knew, however, that Katrina didn’t have the queer background to allow for that distinction’), and Reese, more than anything, wants to be a mother; desperate, Ames asks Reese if she will be a co-mother; he also confesses to Katrina that he once lived as a woman. As Reese, Katrina, and Ames reckon with the possibility and difficulties of forming a family, their quick wit gets them through heavy scenes (Reese on Katrina’s ‘AIDS panic’: ‘How retro’). Peters conceives of a world so lovable and complex, it’s hard to let go.”

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Summerwater: “Moss’s taut latest (after Ghost Wall) turns a rain-drenched park in the Scottish Highlands into a site of tension and unease for a group of vacationing strangers. The book opens with a middle-aged woman going for a run in the early morning, her family still asleep in their rented cabin. As she follows the trail past an illegally pitched tent, she considers the trope of a dangerous man in the woods. From here on out, each chapter introduces a new point of view among the mix of English tourists and Scots who watch and pass judgment upon one another without interacting, and situations such as a teenage boy’s ill-advised kayak trip across a rough loch and a teenage girl’s sneaking out at night keep the reader wondering if this is the kind of book where the worst thing will happen. As the noises of late-night revelry from one cabin draw attention from all others, many of whom describe its dwellers wrongly as ‘foreign’ or ‘those Romanians,’ the suspense builds. Meanwhile, a series of lyrical interludes describing the park’s elements of nature and eons of evolution provide delightfully ironic contrasts to the small human dramas. Readers unafraid of a bit of rain will relish this.”

Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Inland Sea: “Australian writer Watts punctuates her eloquent debut with deep-seated anxiety about climate change. For the most part, the story follows a young woman’s downward spiral after she graduates from college and faces a bleak future. The unnamed protagonist finds work as an operator at a call center connecting those in need to appropriate organizations. The rote job turns daunting when calls suddenly pour in, saturating her in horrific reports of floods, fires, and violence. Meanwhile, her personal life remains chaotic as she continues her relationship with an emotionally abusive ex, and indulges in heavy drinking along with nightly hookups, of which she observes, ‘I wanted to be undone. I wasn’t interested in protecting myself.’ Snapshots of her childhood reveal an angry father and her parents’ messy divorce, and the journal entries of real-life 19th-century explorer John Oxley, the narrator’s great-great-great-grandfather, find their way into the story. Oxley’s search for Australia’s inland sea is mirrored in the narrator’s bleak outlook on the future (‘The sea need only rise a few meters for… the rock and sand and red gibber plains to become submerged once more’). While the narrative moves haphazardly, the prose is consistently rich and loaded with imagery. Watts’s bold, unconventional outing makes for a distinctive entry into the climate fiction genre.”

Life Among the Terranauts by Caitlin Horrocks

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Life Among the Terranauts: “Vigorous and supremely crafted, Horrocks’s second collection (after the novel The Vexations) explores human frailties, desires, and mechanisms for survival. In ‘The Sleep,’ family man Al Rasmussen persuades the fellow residents of his moribund Midwestern town to sleep through the winter (‘ ‘Don’t try to convince me,’ Al said, ‘that anything worthwhile happens in this town during January and February. I’ve lived here as long as you have’ ’). A posse of high school girls are haunted by their favorite fortune-telling games in ‘Better Not Tell You Now,’ and a former-cult member turned real estate agent takes his estranged son on a Boston-area college tour in ‘Chance Me.’ After a gruesome act of violence in ‘Teacher,’ an elementary school teacher considers whether one can really know how a student will turn out. The title story, one of the most arresting and inventive of the bunch, follows a small group of scientists, engineers, and a philosopher who live in an isolated artificial ecosystem, vying for the chance to win a small fortune. With 187 days to go and their faith in survival unraveling into disorder, the possibility of cannibalism becomes increasingly likely. Horrocks’s linguistic finesse and narrative range is impressive, and she brings incisive humor, pathos, and wit to her characters and their predicaments. The result is an immersive and engaging work that astutely captures the complexities of the human condition.”

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez (translated by Megan McDowell)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: “The alleys and slums of Buenos Aires supply the backdrop to Enriquez’s harrowing and utterly original collection (after Things We Lost in the Fire), which illuminates the pitch-dark netherworld between urban squalor and madness. In the nightmarish opener, ‘Angelita Unearthed,’ the bones of a rotting child reanimate after being dug up; likewise, in ‘Back When We Talked to the Dead,’ the dead foretell dread using a Ouija board. Themes of obsession and the arcane come to light in ‘Our Lady of the Quarry,’ where a band of teenage girls turn to witchcraft to snare the object of their desires; ‘Meat,’ which follows two grave-robbing fans of a recently deceased rock star; and ‘Where Are You, Dear Heart?’, in which a self-described ‘heartbeat fetishist’ gets off by holding a stethoscope to a diseased man’s chest. Things grow darker still in ‘Rambla Triste,’ as the victims of a pedophile ring are resurrected in Barcelona as “incarnations of the city’s madness,” and in ‘Kids Who Come Back,’ the book’s epic and visceral centerpiece, in which the missing, damned, and destitute begin returning home. (Which isn’t to discount the grotesque title story or the exorcism at the heart of ‘The Well.’) Finally, there are the pair of film fanatics who undertake made-to-order pornography only to quickly get in over their heads in ‘No Birthdays or Baptisms.’ Enriquez’s wide-ranging imagination and ravenous appetite for morbid scenarios often reaches sublime heights. Adventurous readers will be rewarded in these trips into the macabre—and hopefully they’ll be able to find their way back.”

The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus by Allan Gurganus

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus: “Gurganus’s vital collection (after Lost Souls) portrays small-town Americans, mostly oddballs and misfits, at moments of self-discovery as recounted in their own authentic voices. Several stories take place in fictional Falls, N.C., once called ‘the Athens of This Far into Eastern North Carolina,’ according to the tour guide in ‘The Deluxe $19.95 Walking Tour of Historic Falls (NC).’ Small-town residents like Falls’ know each other’s secrets and relish the telling. In ‘The Mortician Confesses,’ a 60-year-old undertaker has sex with a corpse, and the man’s sad story is colorfully told by the cop who caught him. In ‘Unassisted Human Flight,’ a reporter investigates a local legend of a man said to have flown almost a mile as a boy of eight. The characters can also be heroic, as when a 65-year-old widower rescues his neighbors during Hurricane Floyd in ‘Fourteen Feet of Water in my House,’ and an Ivy League doctor saves a Midwestern town from cholera in ‘The Wish for a Good Young Country Doctor,’ set during the 1850s. Among the greatest entries in this stellar work are ‘My Heart Is a Snake Farm,’ featuring a spinster whose life in a crumbling Florida motel brightens when a slippery charmer opens a reptile tourist attraction, and ‘He’s at the Office,’ which details a son’s efforts to help his 80-year-old father, a WWII veteran mentally stuck in the 1940s. Simultaneously funny and compassionate, literary and lowbrow, Gurganus’s stories trawl the mysteries of the human heart and surface with wonderful results.”

Also on shelves this week: Pedro’s Theory by Marcos Gonsalez.

Surprise Me!

BROWSE BY AUTHOR