We've already shared our excitement about Karen Russell's first novel, Swamplandia! (Feb., Knopf). Galleys recently hit the BookPage office, and I'm tempted to nab it for my Labor Day weekend reading if our fiction editor is feeling generous. Here's a sneak peek at the opening lines, which provide a great example of Russell's unique voice and give a glimpse into the mysterious world of the book's eponymous Everglades theme park.
Chapter One: The Beginning of the End
Our mother performed in starlight. Whose innovation this was I never discovered. Probably it was Chief Bigtree's idea, and it was a good one—to blank the follow spot and let a sharp moon cut across the sky, unchaperoned; to kill the microphone; to leave the stage lights' tin eyelids scrolled and give the tourists in the stands a chance to enjoy the darkness of our island; to encourage the whole stadium to gulp air along with Swamplandia!'s star performer, the world-famous alligator wrestler Hilola Bigtree. Four times a week, our mother climbed the ladder above the Gator Pit in a green two-piece bathing suit and stood on the edge of the diving board, breathing. If it was windy, her long hair flew around her face, but the rest of her stayed motionless. Nights in the swamp were dark and star-lepered—our island was thirty-odd miles off the grid of mainland lights—and although your naked eye could easily find the ball of Venus and the sapphire hairs of the Pleiades, our mother's body was just lines, a smudge against the palm trees.
While many of us think of the summer months as prime reading season, publishers tend to save plenty of their sure-to-be fiction hits for fall. And this year’s crop of late 2010 novels is certainly no different.
Our September issue has already gone to press, and we are particularly excited about our interviews with Jonathan Franzen and Emma Donoghue. Franzen’s Freedom and Donoghue’s Room are two of the most talked-about upcoming releases, and we can’t wait to see what readers make of them once they go on sale in the coming weeks (for Freedom, that’s August 31 and Room, September 13).
September also marks the release of Sara Gruen’s follow-up to the smash hit Water for Elephants, Ape House, (Sept. 7), Ken Follett’s first part in a new trilogy, Fall of Giants (Sept. 28), another love story from Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven (Sept. 14) and Michael Cunningham’s first novel since Specimen Days, By Nightfall (Sept. 28).
But things don’t slow down in October. Nicole Krauss is back (after The History of Love) with Great House on Oct. 12 (be sure to check out our interview with Krauss in the October issue of BookPage) and John le Carré returns with Our Kind of Traitor (also on sale Oct. 12).
In November, we’re excited about a new—and very dark—story collection from Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars (on sale Nov. 9) and Dennis Lehane’s follow up to Gone, Baby, Gone, Moonlight Mile (on sale Nov. 2).
If courtroom dramas and thrillers are your cup of tea, you are certainly in luck this fall. Vince Flynn, John Grisham, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson, Tom Clancy and Steve Berry all have new releases in the coming months.
So as the kids go back to school and the leaves change from green to red, be sure to pick up one of these new novels. You won’t be disappointed!
The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore
Crown • $23 • ISBN 9780307395030
August 17, 2010
Susan Gregg Gilmore's second novel (after Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen) is brimming with charm. From the first page, you'll be captivated by the voice of the novel's fascinating heroine, Bezellia, named after an ancestor who was one of the first Nashville settlers. The original Bezellia Grove, it is said, killed the Native American who killed her husband during a raid on Fort Nashborough. This particular story is all Gilmore, but pretty much all of the other Nashville details will ring true to residents like me (for one, Bezellia eats at Rotiers!).
Stories of coming of age in the South during the Civil Rights movement are myriad, but Gilmore's addition to this literary tradition feels fresh and is a real page-turner. Bezellia's voice is as unusual as her name, and her life story will capture your imagination.
Here's a taste of that voice:
Long before I had memorized the details of my family's story, I understood that I was a girl unlike most others. I had a pony to ride and a closet brimming with neatly pressed dresses. My bedroom was decorated with teddy bears that were handmade in Germany and dolls with porcelain heads that I was only to admire and never to touch. And, most important, I was always cooked for and attended to by people other than my mother, by people with dark skin and families of their own.
Are you intrigued? What are you reading today?
Last weekend I saw Winter's Bone, a film based on a 2006 novel by Daniel Woodrell. An almost mythic story, excellent performances and a setting—the Missouri Ozarks—seldom seen on the silver screen combined to make this one of the best movies I've watched this year. Independent filmmakers agree; the movie won the 2010 Sundance Grand Jury Prize.
The success of Winter's Bone has inspired interest in Woodrell's backlist. Little Brown's Mullholland Books imprint will publish a collection of three of Woodrell's other novels as The Bayou Trilogy in Spring 2011. Two of his other novels, Tomato Red and The Death of Sweet Mister, are being reprinted by Busted Flush Press.
Have you ever found an author through a movie adaptation of their work?
This month, Julie Hale selected Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood as her top pick for book clubs. "A strange and beautiful work, this masterful narrative proves that Atwood can do anything as a novelist," says Hale, who knows her literary fiction (in addition to having an MFA, she's been writing this column for nearly 10 years!).
What is your book club reading this month?
We're pretty sure the answer to this question is "no"—which is why we're sharing our very first invite to a twitter launch party with you.
Novak will be chatting about the book with fans using the hashtag #bnparty. Fans will have the chance to ask questions about Novak's work and win prizes—including an iPad.
Have you ever attended a twitter launch party? Will you drop by this one? Tell us in the comments!
Yesterday Anne Rice announced on her Facebook page that she was through with Christianity.
For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
When she came back, it was with the spirit of a reformer. "People are always going to misuse things. And some Christians are going to misuse Christianity. They are going to use Christianity to hit someone over the head because they frighten them or threaten them," she told the LA Times in 2005. "We Christians have to get back to our roots as a people of love. Now we're associated with a religion of intolerance and hate. We have to come forward and speak about love." It seems she got tired of trying.
Rice's Songs of the Seraphim series, which began with last year's Angel Time and continues in November with Of Love of Evil, blends religious and supernatural themes—Rice calls them "metaphysical thrillers." She is said to be working on the third Christ the Lord book.
It doesn't seem that long ago that Maeve Binchy was regretfully informing her public that she would write no more. After the announcement, she released two more novels with then-publisher Dutton and lapsed into silence for 3 years.
Whatever Knopf promised her to get her to continue—more money? a less punishing schedule? both?—it has resulted in two novels since 2007, with a third to come in March 2011. Minding Frankie, like Binchy's Whitethorn Woods, is another "small town knows best" story that finds a single father fighting for custody of his daughter when a meddling social worker thinks the recovering alcoholic is an unfit parent. What she doesn't realize is that the whole town has been pitching in to "mind" baby Frankie.
Read reviews of Maeve Binchy's past work on BookPage.com.
I know there are some Alice Hoffman fans among the Book Case readers, so we had to share when we heard that she's publishing a new novel on January 25, 2011. The Red Garden (Crown) sounds like classic Hoffman—small town, 300 years of history and secrets, a hint of magic (in this case, a garden where only red plants can grow).
Read our reviews of Alice Hoffman's past works here.
Some of you expressed strong opinions (mostly negative) when we posted about Katherine Heigl getting tapped to play Stephanie Plum in the film adaptation of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money. So we thought you'd be interested in this picture of Heigl on set, which we found via Jezebel.com.
What do you think? Anyone still pining for Sandra Bullock? Variety says that Sherri Shepard will play Lula, a choice we can definitely get behind.
Janet E. is also in the news these days for other reasons: She's currently renegotiating her contract with publisher St. Martin's Press. Reportedly Evanovich, who is represented by her son Peter, wants around $50 million for her next four "Plum" books, and St. Martin's is apparently not ready to pony up quite that much (the last four books in the series cost them about $40 million). Evanovich isn't saying much about the "private" details of the negotiation, but industry pros are wondering if she might take her fan base and self publish if she can't find a publisher ready to pay the asking price.