Rilke in Paris

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Tuesday New Release Day: Bhattacharya, Mechling, Rilke, Ginzburg, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Nabarun Bhattacharya, Lauren Mechling, Rainer Maria Rilke, Natalia Ginzburg, 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 sign up to be a member today.

Harbart by Nabarun Bhattacharya (translated by Sunandini Banerjee)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Harbart: “This nimble novel from Bhattacharya (1948–2014), his first translated into English, follows a young man in Calcutta who claims he can communicate with the dead. Readers know in the first chapter that Harbart has killed himself, and the reasons why unfold over the course of the book. Harbart, whose parents died when he was young and who has been largely ignored by his other family members, becomes close with his cousin Binu until Binu is shot and killed by the police. Soon after, Harbart has a vivid dream in which Binu speaks to him and reveals the location of his secret diary. This moment convinces Harbart of his ability to channel the dead, and soon others from around the world are visiting Harbart to communicate with deceased loved ones. Eventually, Harbart receives a letter that leads to his downfall, but the narrative has one final surprise up its sleeve in its closing pages. Bhattacharya’s slippery narrative slithers forward and sideways through time, and is complemented by the clever, often coarse prose (‘Harbart saw that he was kneeling before ten enormous toenails growing out of someone’s two enormous feet’), resulting in an acute, idiosyncratic reading experience.”

How Could She by Lauren Mechling

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about How Could She: “Mechling turns a sharp eye on the relationships between women in her first adult novel (after YA novel Dream Life). Geraldine Despont, Sunny MacLeod, and Rachel Ziff—all 37—are old friends. They all met while working as junior staff at a Toronto weekly newspaper in their 20s, and their paths have wildly diverged since. Sunny is the most obviously successful of the trio, making a career as a watercolor artist and ensconced in a picture-perfect marriage to an architect husband. Rachel, a native New Yorker, is struggling as a young adult novelist but has a beautiful daughter and an adoring husband. Geraldine, once engaged to the owner of the paper where they all met, is feeling stalled personally and professionally. Her decision to move to New York and get into podcasting has surprising consequences for her, Sunny, and Rachel’s relationships, opening old wounds and dredging up past betrayals. Mechling is particularly insightful when it comes to the envy and affection that marks friendship, and clearly delights in writing Geraldine as the New York ingénue. Though the characters’ shallowness and relatively minor problems may turn off some readers, this is nevertheless a breezy, entertaining romp.”

Rilke in Paris by Rainer Maria Rilke and Maurice Betz (translated by Will Stone)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Rilke in Paris: “French publisher and translator Betz’s 1941 account, here in its first English translation, of Rainer Maria Rilke’s time spent living in Paris, provides an intriguing if less than fully satisfying glimpse of early-20th-century literary Paris. Betz, who translated many of Rilke’s works into French, begins by explaining that the poet first arrived in Paris in 1902 in order to write about Rodin, becoming the sculptor’s sometimes abject disciple: ‘Most revered master… My soul opens to your words.’ Later, Rilke and Rodin had a break, and Rilke came to love Paris itself, intermittently residing in the city until 1914, and returning there in 1925, when he and Betz met. Modern readers will likely find the grand pronouncements Betz quotes Rilke making—’Paris is… so content with its greatness and smallness that it can’t distinguish between them’—rather bizarre. A strong plus for this volume is Rilke’s fine ‘Notes on the Melodies of Things,’ included at the end, a short series of aphoristic ruminations inspired by his studies of Italian Renaissance painting. While Stone’s introduction provides some explanation of this book’s background, a lay reader is likely to crave more context for its significance to Rilke’s work, and a stronger rationale, beyond Rilke’s fame, for its belated publication in English.”

Chaos by Tom O’Neill (with Dan Piepenbring)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Chaos: “In his riveting debut, journalist O’Neill, assisted by coauthor Piepenbring, offers sensational revelations about the Tate-LaBianca murders at the hand of Charles Manson and his so-called family in Los Angeles in 1969. What began as a feature assignment for Premiere magazine on the 30th anniversary of the crime turned into O’Neill’s 20-year obsession with the murders. He questions the official narrative of the case, that Manson hated blacks and wanted to make it look as though the murderers were black revolutionaries, for instance, by writings pigs, a popular slang term for cops at that time, on the walls of both houses in the victims’ blood. O’Neill interviewed more than 500 witnesses, reporters, and cops in the course of his meticulous research. O’Neill suggests that drug dealers who knew Manson may have hired him to initiate ‘a vengeful massacre’ on actor Sharon Tate and the other victims. O’Neill also uncovered the inexplicable leniency shown Manson and Susan Atkins before the murders by their parole officers when they broke the terms of their parole yet were never jailed for the offenses. In addition, O’Neill posits that Manson might have been one of the subjects of the CIA’s LSD/hallucinogens experiments. True crime fans will be enthralled.”

Happiness, as Such by Natalia Ginzburg (translated by Mina Zallman Proctor)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Happiness, as Such: “This magnificent posthumous novel from Ginzburg (1916–1991), set in the early ’70s, is told almost entirely through a series of letters from one disconnected Italian family member to another. At the center of the epistolary drama is Michele, the son who has fled Italy for England. Michele’s mother, Adriana, constantly worries about his whereabouts and well-being. Michele’s sisters, meanwhile, must look after their mother in the wake of their father’s death. A prostitute named Mara crosses paths with the other characters and writes to Michele as she moves from temporary living situation to temporary living situation with a baby that may or may not be Michele’s. Michele eventually tells his sister that he is getting married in England. What can his mother do from afar? As she worries, she tells him she ‘wish[es] you happiness, if there is such a thing as happiness.’ This is a riveting story about how even when a family drifts apart, the bonds of blood relations supercede the deepest disagreements. It’s also proof that Ginzburg is an absolute master of the family novel. Like Lucia Berlin and Clarice Lispector, Ginzburg may finally receive the recognition she so richly deserves.”

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