Things You Don't Know You Will Care About Yet But You Will, Oh You Will

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Dispatches from the BEA (from Rachel M.)

 

The only thing worth schleping out to the Javits Center, a huge wasteland of a convention center in NYC on 11th avenue (did you even know New York had an 11th avenue?) is for Book Expo America.  And schlep we did.  So here’s a sneak preview of what’s to come over the next few months, reported in no particular order and tied together solely by the fact that I’m crazy about these books.  Keep an eye out for them as the come down the pipeline; they’re worth waiting for.

 

To the End of the Land

by David Grossman

Knopf, September 2010

 

When Ora’s youngest son leaves to take part in a major military operation in Lebanon at the end of his Israeli army service, Ora takes to the hills—literally—with a close childhood friend to escape the possibility of bad news.  Like Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking, To the End of the Land  uses the logic, thought patterns, and sentence construction of trauma to force the reader close and closer to what it feels like to live in the suspended state of enormous loss.  Hoping that both her constant motion and the telling of Ofer, her son’s, life story will keep him safe, Ora and Avram embark on a journey driven by “magical thinking” across the country that all three of them have sacrificed enormously to protect.  Grossman, as always, writes brilliantly about the psychological, social, and familial effects living in a state perpetually engaged with the threat of war has on its people—be they the aggressors or the victims.  I read this 630-page novel in a frenzied day and a half.  I couldn’t put it down.  I couldn’t think about anything else.  To the End of the Land does what truly great books do: it changes you; when I finished reading it the world was the same but I was different.

 

All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost

by Lan Samantha Chang

Norton, September 2010

 

Set at a renowned writing school, two young poets, Roman and Bernard are drawn into orbit around a brilliant, harsh, and captivating professor and poet, Miranda.  As both men strive to win her attention and respect, “the boundaries between mentorship, friendship, and love are blurred.”  Once they leave school, Miranda’s presence continues to cast a shadow on their lives and their art, serving to illuminate the different paths that they’ve chosen as they each labor to reach the heart of their ambitions and art.  A fierce, captivating gem of a novel.  Lan Samantha Chang is a stunning and under-read writer.  All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost is destined to make her a household name.

 

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Scribner, November 2010

 

A not-just-readable but riveting “biography” of cancer.  Mukherjee writes about cancer from virtually every way possible—from its first documented case thousands of years ago to the patients he is serving today.  And he comes at his subject with a researcher’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s infatuation.  Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Mukherjee’s book will totally change not just who is reading science or medical literature but how it is being read.  On every level, this book is a game-changer.

 

Great House

by Nicole Krauss

Norton, October 2010

 

If you read The History of Love you’re already familiar with Krauss’s dexterity of voice-driven, intertwined, first person narratives (and if you haven’t read The History of Love you will put this down right now, go rustle up a copy, and not come back until you’ve read it—trust me, you’ll thank me later).  Great House employs all of those techniques again but because they are being employed by a master, it really doesn’t matter that we’ve seen that routine before.  The novel tracks four narratives, connected across time and place by the appearance and disappearance of looming, bulky desk, which was supposedly owned by Lorca at some point in its past.  Like her previous two novels, Krauss focuses on nothing less than the struggle to create meaning out of madness, and the enduring and, at times, suffocating power of memory.

 

Rachel M. 5/27