Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Peter Mendelsund, Jen Silverman, and more—that are publishing this week.
The Delivery by Peter Mendelsund
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Delivery: “Mendelsund (Same Same) explores identity, community, and the past’s power to influence the future in his stunning latest. In a bustling city, an unnamed food delivery boy lives on tips and star ratings, and sleeps in the warehouse that handles his assignments. A brusque woman named N. manages him, overseen by an ominous male supervisor. The delivery boy frequently remembers his past in an unnamed country ruled by a strongman, where he played in a youth orchestra and had a crush on a French horn player. When the delivery boy gives N. a necklace, he doesn’t get the reaction he’d hoped for, and both are compromised in the eyes of the supervisor. As images from delivery boy’s past become more frequent, such as details of the ‘tyrant’ who ruled the country he fled from, the narrative becomes looser and offers up clues about why he became a refugee. Mendelsund conveys the delivery boy’s experiences and memories in brief crisp cuts separated by ample white space, where what’s not said takes on great importance. The author’s playful sense of form and command of language make for an original and provocative novel.”
We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Play Ourselves: “A playwright’s public shame and jealousy traps her in self-doubt in this mordant debut novel from Silverman (after the collection The Island Dwellers). Thirty-three-year-old playwright Cass flees New York after an embarrassing public meltdown in which she deliberately poked her nemesis, Yale senior and hot new playwright Tara-Jean Slater, in the eye. Unlike Tara-Jean’s work, Cass’s first play is a mess. A bad review compounds her sense of failure after having an affair with her married lead actor and having her advances rebuffed by the older French director, who tells her, ‘There are many kinds of intimacy, it’s so easy to confuse them all.’ In Los Angeles, she rooms with a friend who faces an impending breakup with his Australian boyfriend, who still hasn’t come out after a decade together. Cass meets charismatic filmmaker Caroline, who recruits Cass to work on a Fight Club–inspired cinema verité project starring teenage girls. After one of the girls goes missing, Cass learns Caroline is not only manipulative but deceitful. This, plus an illuminating encounter with Tara-Jean, prompts some soul searching. While the ending feels a bit unresolved, Cass’s dark humor and acts of self-sabotage keep the reader engaged. Silverman’s genuine, stirring novel speaks volumes about the lure and fickleness of fame.”
The Weak Spot by Lucie Elven
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Weak Spot: “Elven’s crisp and creepy debut looks at the transactional nature of relationships and the subtle signals of power at play in small-town dynamics. The young, unnamed narrator takes a pharmacist apprenticeship in a remote mountain community, reachable only by funicular. One of the community’s leading figures is the handsome Mr. Funicular, a costumer who carries a talismanic figurine of a beast said to have once eaten girls alive in the region. Mr. Funicular’s rival for leading town citizen is the protagonist’s new boss, August Malone. Where Mr. Funicular is expansive and artistic, Mr. Malone is authoritarian and businesslike. Other prominent characters include a respected schoolteacher, Mr. Malone’s enigmatic new assistant, and a gossipy pharmacy coworker. Very short chapters focus on the mundane interactions of everyday life, which in Elven’s hands become significant and sometimes ominous, despite (or because of) the heroine’s cool narrative voice. Plot developments are small, except for Mr. Malone’s campaign for mayor that dominates much of the novel, but the arch, skillfully polished prose keeps things intriguing. Elven successfully channels the magic and mood of Kafka’s fables.”
Love and Other Poems by Alex Dimitrov
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Love and Other Poems: “‘Love is hard to account for,’ writes Dimitrov (Together and by Ourselves) in his joyous and captivating third collection. These memorably voiced lyric poems find his speakers expressing love for things local and cosmic. Driven by unsatisfied appetites, ‘broke and lonely/ in Manhattan,’ Dimitrov’s urbane, wistful speakers recall those of Frank O’ Hara (a muse invoked in the epigraph and several poems), transcribing city life through taxis, bars, clubs, and restaurants. The tension between connection and distance frequently finds humorous expression, as when a speaker observes how ‘kids race toy boats in the pond/ and the dogs are on leashes,/ tied to their humans and better behaved.’ Meditations on humanity’s search for meaning are handled with wit and vulnerability, while the book’s final section, the 14-page ‘Poem Written in a Cab,’ breaks the fourth wall in a captivating performance of selfhood (‘I have never wanted to be myself./ What a ludicrous obligation!’). Ultimately, it’s the sensory that keeps people tethered, suggests Dimitrov: ‘Every time I feel close/ to understanding the world… I rise, attending to [the kettle]/ with annoyance and the pleasure/ of the unmade cup of tea.’ In this affecting collection, his most fully achieved thus far, Dimitrov provides the reader with a needed celebration of pleasures.”
Also on shelves this week: Self-Portrait with Cephalopod by Kathryn Smith.