Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Clarice Lispector, Elizabeth McCracken, Cynthia Ozick, and more—that are publishing this week.
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The Apprenticeship, or the Book of Pleasures by Clarice Lispector (translated by Stefan Tobler)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Apprenticeship: “Lispector’s dense and singular romance (after The Besieged City), first published in Brazil in 1969, arrives in a rich new translation from Tobler and illuminating afterword by Sheila Heti. Lóri, a primary school teacher leading a solitary existence in Rio de Janeiro and unable to stomach her ‘bourgeois middle class’ milieu, becomes captivated by the elusive Ulisses, a philosophy professor and self-described excellent teacher (‘basically I like to hear myself talk about things that interest me,’ he explains). The two speak on the phone, meet for drinks, and visit a local swimming pool, but Ulisses tells Lóri she’s not ready for the relationship he wants, a claim that drives the bulk of Lori’s stream-of-consciousness analysis (‘she was bound to him because she wanted to be desired’). Ulisses speaks often of his ‘apprenticeship’ to something only aspired to—he’s ‘in the middle’ of it, he says, but Lóri feels he’s ‘infinitely further along’ than she is. The purpose of their apprenticeship is never expressed, though one of Lóri’s goals is to feel ‘alive through pleasure’ instead of pain, and Heti’s revealing afterword leaves the reader with much to chew on. This deep immersion into the vicissitudes of love will delight Lispector devotees.”
The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Souvenir Museum: “McCracken’s sly, emotionally complex collection (after Bowlaway) focuses on characters uprooted from their usual surroundings. In ‘The Irish Wedding,’ Jack Valerts brings his new love, Sadie Brody, from Boston to Ireland to meet his family at the wedding of his older sister, where Sadie confronts for the first time the slapstick and sometimes threatening dynamics of the Valerts while holding her own with a quick wit. ‘Miss Mickle All at Sea’ follows the increasingly fraught mental state of an actor known for playing the villain on a children’s show as she travels from Amsterdam, where she’s been celebrating New Year’s Eve, back to England, in the company of an elderly balloon animal artist. In ‘Robinson Crusoe at the Waterpark,’ four-year-old Cody’s two fathers take him to a German-themed water park in Galveston, Tex., where older father Bruno’s fear of drowning comically affects his negotiation of a wave pool. McCracken has a gift for surprising similes—’shoes damp as oysters’; ‘bored lifeguards, staring like unemployed goats’—that ignite the reader’s imagination, making great fun out of ordinary settings and scenery. Each story opens to reveal a whole life spent within the web of a family, chosen or not. Full of gems, this collection is a winner.”
Farthest South & Other Stories by Ethan Rutherford
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Farthest South & Other Stories: “Rutherford (The Peripatetic Coffin) grips with evocative detail and subtle rhythms in this accomplished collection, where doubt and danger simmer underneath the surface. Illustrations by Anders Nilsen, often featuring animals or children in stark scenes of nature, reinforce the motif. In ‘Ghost Story,’ a father tells a bedtime story about ‘the seal lady’ to his young sons while waiting for his wife to return home after her nightly swim. The effects of a story being told on its listeners is more explicit in ‘Fable,’ an eerie tale involving a fox and a dead child (‘each scene, familiar and not, had emerged as though from some shrouded, timeless woods, taken physical shape on the table in front of them’). ‘Angus and Annabel’ centers on two young siblings who grieve their dead mother. The younger one, Annabel, makes ‘poppets,’ dolls with sticks and berries like their mother had taught them, an act that unsettles Angus as sparrows circle overhead. In the title story, an Antarctic expedition including children and dogs is stranded in ice near the South Pole, and those who survive are visited nightly by the skulls of those who died. Throughout, Rutherford conveys an organic, insidious creepiness. These fresh and provocative yarns are spun with craft of a high order.”
Nancy by Bruno Lloret (translated by Ellen Jones)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nancy: “Lloret’s crushingly dark English-language debut follows a lonely, recent widow who’s dying from cancer as she reflects on her life in Chile. After her diagnosis, Nancy lost her husband when he was sucked into a tuna processor at work. He was drunk at the time, so she didn’t receive any insurance money. With nothing left, Nancy reminisces about her childhood with a brother who vanished one day, a sad father who turned to Mormonism late in life, and an emotionally and psychologically abusive mother who abandoned them. There is no joy or humor here, but the writing shines with piercing descriptions of pain, drawn up in increasingly fractured minimalist prose. Blocks of heavy Xs appear as forced pauses that dictate the rhythm of Nancy’s consciousness and forge black, angular reminders of death: ‘I slept in snatches full of sad dreams XXXX the kind you never remember after you wake up, but still, when you open your eyes there’s a real ache in your chest.’ Old Testament passages open each chapter (‘Honor thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee’) and often trigger memories with stark brutality, such as Nancy’s mother’s threats to sell her to the Romany as a child. This visually striking fever dream is one worth braving.”
Antiquities by Cynthia Ozick
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Antiquities: “Ozick (Foreign Bodies) delivers a beguiling novel of a man living in the past. In 1949, Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie, a retired lawyer estranged from his friends and his only son, has returned to live at the Temple Academy, the boarding school he attended as a child, which has been converted into a makeshift retirement home for its trustees. There, with his beloved Remington typewriter, he labors over his memoirs. His account revolves around two axes: his childhood fascination with the archaeological adventures in Egypt of his distant cousin Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, which Lloyd’s father impulsively joined, and a school-age infatuation with a mysterious classmate, Ben-Zion Elefantin, who claimed to be from Egypt. Ozick is adept at capturing the vicissitudes of fading memory or flashes of lucid insight, and she unspools the story at a brisk pace. While Petrie’s lively venom and wit are sometimes overdone by Ozick’s overwrought efforts to develop his private-school mannerisms (Ben-Zion Elefantin has a ‘farcical pachyderm name’; Temple retains ‘Oxonian genuflections’), the novel becomes a fascinating portrait of isolation, memory, and loss as Petrie’s health and the state of Temple become more perilous. While it doesn’t reach the heights of her greatest work, this is impressive nonetheless.”
Also on shelves this week: Southbound by Anjali Enjeti.
—A Horribly Marvelous and Delicate Abyss: ‘The Complete Stories’ by Clarice Lispector
—Evenings with Clarice Lispector’s Newest Translator
—My Hour of the Star: On Clarice Lispector
—A Story Made Purely of Feeling: The Millions Interviews Cynthia Ozick
—The Good Place: The Millions Interviews Elizabeth McCracken
—‘Bowlaway’: Featured Fiction from Elizabeth McCracken
—A Year in Reading 2008: Elizabeth McCracken
—A Year in Reading 2018: Elizabeth McCracken