Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Nick Flynn, Daisy Johnson, Jason Diamond, and more—that are publishing this week.
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This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire by Nick Flynn
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire: “In this outstanding work, poet and playwright Flynn bookends his first memoir, 2004’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, with this unsparing look at his early childhood and his mother, who died by suicide when Flynn was 22 years old. He makes a series of visits to his hometown of Scituate, Mass., with his young daughter and describes his solitary childhood spent living with his mother in a small, ‘ugly’ house that she bought after she left Flynn’s father. When Flynn was seven years old, his mother set fire to the house, an event he is still trying to understand: ‘Maybe my mother set our house on fire not merely to collect the insurance money, but simply to see what it was that she was losing.’ His return trips are not only a chance to tell his daughter ‘where your father came from’ but also to deal with his own unhappiness that led him to cheat on his wife. He comes to a realization that ‘we are so lost inside ourselves sometimes that it is impossible to think of other people, even those we love.’ Readers will devour this powerful memoir of letting go.”
Sisters by Daisy Johnson
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sisters: “Johnson (Everything Under) returns with a well-crafted, consistently surprising psychological thriller. September and July are teenage sisters, born 10 months apart. After an incident at their Oxford school, its dark details hinted at as the story unfolds, their mother, Sheela, whisks them away to the dilapidated house where September was born, on the desolate coast of the North York Moors, and holes up in her room, ill-advisedly leaving July at the mercy of her sister. September bullies, intimidates, and cruelly manipulates the passive, compliant July, daring her to perform increasingly dangerous acts in the form of games like ‘September Says.’ September taunts a man who comes to set up their internet, and when the girls get online, they seduce men on dating sites and pretend to have entrapped them as part of a police sting. Sheela, meanwhile, writes and illustrates children’s picture books, and her deep depression contributes to her neglectful parenting (‘I will always love you, she says. And if you need me you come get me. But I need some time,’ July narrates). The sisters share an eerie, symbiotic relationship; they seem at times to share a single consciousness, and even a single body. In achingly lyrical prose, Johnson employs alternating narratives, divulging and withholding information by turns, keeping the reader unsure of what to believe. When the revelations hit, they are intensely powerful. Readers of classic gothic fiction will find a contemporary master of the craft here.”
The Sprawl by Jason Diamond
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Sprawl: “In this insightful work of narrative nonfiction, journalist Diamond (Searching for John Hughes) draws from personal experience, history, and media to consider the significance of the suburbs in American culture. Revisiting the Chicago-area towns in which he grew up in the 1980s, Diamond finds signs of economic decline in the familiar big-box stores and movie theaters that are now shuttered. He considers suburban conformity through stories of new arrivals who received unfriendly receptions, and describes incidents in which violence upended the presumption of the suburbs as a safe haven, recounting a 1977 murder in Long Grove, Ill., where he once lived. Throughout, he engages with writers like John Cheever, who ‘shaped so many of our ideas of what the suburbs were like’ in the post-WWII era, and Shirley Jackson, who ‘explained the suburban condition better than nearly any other writer before or after,’ as well as suburban-set movies—he deems the villains of the Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street horror series as particularly suburban bogeymen. Though Diamond occasionally strays into repetition with his personal reflections—such as repeated observations that he now lives in New York City and views the suburbs as an outsider—his cultural criticism is consistently astute. This is a smart, enjoyable study that will be particularly appreciated by other suburban expats.”
An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky (translated by Jackie Smith)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about An Inventory of Losses: “Schalansky’s inspired latest (after Atlas of Remote Islands) melds history, memoir, and fiction into something new and extraordinary: a museum of the extinct, the missing, and the forgotten. Chronicled in 12 short pieces, each based on a ‘lost’ object—among them an early-20th-century film, fragments of Sappho’s poetry, destroyed Italian villas, demolished East German government buildings—the narratives are distinct, memorable, and, at their best, spellbinding. Some are highly researched, meticulously reconstructing historical places such as the the Villa Sacchetti at Castelfusano in Rome and figures such as 18th-century British explorer James Cook, who, in search of a then-mythical southern continent, “had ploughed the southern seas in huge, sweeping zigzags and discovered nothing but mountains of ice.” Other tales take on the flavor of impressionistic, contemporary memoirs, rooted in the narrative of a Schalansky-like writer-researcher as she explores the topic at hand. Still others have the feel of speculative fiction, so detailed in their histories that they feel like memories. In one, wild animals are brought to fight one another before the massive audiences of Rome; another follows the moments, both dramatic and mundane, of a day in the life of an East German couple. With this collection of illuminating meditations on fact and fiction, Schalansky cements her reputation as a peerless chronicler of the fabulous, the faraway, and the forgotten.”
Count Luna by Alexander Lernet-Holenia (translated by Jane B. Greene)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Count Luna: “Austrian writer Lernet-Holenia (Mona Lisa, 1897–1976) addresses guilt over WWII in this masterly novel, originally published in 1955. Nearly a decade after the war, Alexander Jessiersky, the head of an Austrian transport business, travels to Rome, enters the catacomb beneath a church, and disappears. Lernet-Holenia then rewinds to the beginning of Jessiersky’s fateful journey. WWII has erupted, and his company’s board of directors encourages anti-Nazi Jessiersky to purchase a parcel of railroad-adjacent property from the reluctant Count Luna, an aristocratic heir. Jessiersky refuses, and the board, determined to satisfy wartime demand, has Luna shipped to a concentration camp for alleged anti-Germanness. Jessiersky sends care packages to Luna, and by war’s end, Luna is assumed dead. Years later, Jessiersky’s children claim to have seen Luna alive, and after one falls mysteriously ill, Jessiersky convinces himself Luna has survived the war and is out for revenge. While waiting for Luna to resurface, he retreats into his library to read about Luna’s family. A series of strange happenings, such as the sound of footsteps in the attic, stoke Jessiersky’s paranoia, and he goes on a disastrously quixotic offensive before going into hiding. Lernet-Holenia’s dark humor propels the narrative, and Jessiersky’s obsession is expertly handled, leading to a wholly unexpected conclusion. Driven by intense psychological descriptions, this tale of inaction against injustice has aged quite well.”
Also on shelves this week: Summer by Ali Smith.
Bonus Links:—I Didn’t Have a Plan: The Millions Interviews Nick Flynn—The Space Between Silence & Enough: Featured Poetry by Nick Flynn—A Year in Reading: Nick Flynn—The Dark Side of Daisy Johnson—Rethinking Suburbia: The Millions Interviews Jason Diamond—A Year in Reading: Jason Diamond—Rites of Spring: Does the Latest in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet Satisfy?—Things Fall Apart: On Ali Smith’s ‘Autumn’ and ‘Winter’—Wordsmith: The Beguiling Gifts of Ali Smith