Laura Bush, Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lady Bird Johnson have all been the subject of books in recent years. Now, the spotlight is on Pat Nixon, and it comes from a somewhat unlikely source: Ann Beattie.
Beattie was a literary phenom from the moment she released her first story collection in 1976. She was hailed as the voice of her generation by no less than the New Yorker, which has published many of her stories over the years (here's a fairly recent one). Over the last 20 years, she's kept writing and publishing, but this is her first full-length novel since 2002's The Doctor's House. We can't wait to see what she does with the story of Pat Nixon.
Will you be looking for this one on November 15?
We'll have a full review of the book and its recipes from a real professional in our September issue, but after trying out this little spread, Eliza and I can say with certainty that Alisa's recipes are full of down-home goodness—they're classics, yet made with modern flair and by a baker who searches out fresh, quality ingredients with zeal. The woman makes her own version of Nilla Wafers, for heaven's sake.
Hope this whetted your appetite for Eliza's chat with Alisa, coming soon. As for me, I'm still working off these delicious desserts, but I might one day eat again. Maybe.
At BookPage, we do our best to keep abreast of what's on the horizon, literary-wise (hence our lengthy list of 2012 releases!) but sometimes we are still taken by surprise. Such it was when word of Monica Ali's Untold Story hit my desk this afternoon. The novel was a drop-in to Scribner's summer list and will be released on June 28.
The British author, known for getting literary prize nods for novels like Brick Lane, has always been willing to try something new with each work. Untold Story continues that tradition. It imagines Diana's life at 50—if, somehow, she had survived the crash that night in Paris and created a new life, incognito, in the U.S.
She has a circle of friends: one owns a dress shop; one is a Realtor; another is a frenzied stay-at-home mom. Lydia volunteers at an animal shelter, and swims a lot. Her lover, who adores her, feels she won’t let him know her. Who is she?
Untold Story is about the cost of celebrity, the meaning of identity, and the possibility—or impossibility—of reinventing a life. Ali’s fictional princess is beautiful, intrepid, and resourceful and has established a fragile peace. And then the past threatens to destroy her new life. Ali has created a riveting novel inspired by the cultural icon she calls “a gorgeous bundle of trouble.”
Nearly two years ago, Jaycee Dugard was discovered living in a shed in the backyard of the man who abducted her at the age of 11 and is the father of her two daughters.
Now that her court case against Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy has been settled with a guilty plea, Dugard is telling her own story in a book to be published by Simon & Schuster on July 12 called A Stolen Life.
The public hunger for details about the Dugard case creates even more parallels to Emma Donoghue's bestseller, Room, which was inspired by a similar case in Austria. Hopefully Dugard, who has not spoken publicly or given interviews since her recovery, is prepared for the media onslaught that will doubtless ensue once the book is published.
Are you interested in reading Dugard's memoir?
We were excited enough about interviewing Gabrielle Hamilton for the March issue of BookPage. Now it turns out that the author of Blood, Bones & Butter is also America's Best Chef—at least according to the James Beard Foundation.
If you haven't already read our interview with her, this would be a good time to check it out! Meanwhile, we at BookPage hope to check out Prune the next time we're in NYC.
Best known for his Alex Cross novels, James Patterson has a softer side too (Remember Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas?). He explores it further on October 17 with The Christmas Wedding (Little, Brown). Memo to parents who're having trouble getting their kids to come home for the holidays: take a page from Patterson's heroine, a widow with plans to remarry who won't reveal the name of her husband-to-be to her children until they show up for the Christmas day wedding.
Patterson fans: do you like it when he takes a break from murder? Or are there fans of Diary that don't read the Alex Cross or Women's Murder Club novels?
Ha Jin (Waiting, War Trash, A Free Life) will publish a new novel on October 18 that is set during the notorious Nanjing massacre. Nanjing Requiem (Pantheon) fictionalizes the experiences of a real-life American missionary, Minnie Vautrin, who stays in China during the 1937 Japanese invasion in the hopes that she can help the community she has lived in for more than a decade. Unfortunately, nothing can stop the violence that happens in Nanjing, and Vautrin is instead forced to bear witness to one of the worst atrocities in modern history. In its aftermath, she is haunted by those she could not save.
Jin, a Chinese-American, used Vautrin's diaries and other contemporary accounts of the massacre to research his novel. He's written about the dark side of war before, most notably in War Trash—although our interviewer reports that he's a playful, ebullient person in conversation.
Will you pick this one up?
Related in BookPage: reviews of Ha Jin's previous books.
Tom Perrotta isn't the only literary writer putting his spin on the post-apocalyptic novel this fall. We just heard that Colson Whitehead (Sag Harbor, John Henry Days) has finished Zone One, a novel that takes place in a world where a pandemic has decimated the population and created hordes of undead. The book will be published October 18.
If “Zone One” were three songs that came out between 1977-1992, it would be Wire’s “Reuters,” Leonard Cohen’s “The Future” and Joy Division’s “Decades.”
In the wake of the plague, Mark Spitz is working to clear Manhattan of the infected ones—though the only zombies left in the area are not the dangerous kind but the “malfunctioning” sort who are basically catatonic and mourning their former lives. Then it all starts to go wrong. Doubleday calls the novel "brilliant," saying it "deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century."
Will you read it?
author photo by Erin Patrice O’Brien
One of the books I'm most looking forward to this fall is—surprise!—not a novel. It's the latest biography of a Russian ruler from Robert K. Massie. His last few books have been on World War I, so it's exciting to see him returning to the subject that made him famous. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Random House) will be published on November 29.
Though Catherine's eventful life would be a gripping read in any case, I have high hopes for Massie's version: his 1981 book, Peter the Great won the Pulitzer and is pretty much the best bio ever. The first time I read it, while taking a European history class in college, I peppered my friends with tidbits about Peter for weeks. (Roach problem? Peter the Great was afraid of roaches! Your dorm room is too small? The cabin Peter built for himself was only about 700 square feet, and his bedroom was barely large enough for him to lie down! Hate your boyfriend's beard? Take a page from Peter and tell him if he enters your presence wearing one, you'll rip it out!)
By the time you finish, you feel as though you know this temperamental, 6-foot-7 red-headed Russian tsar personally—maybe that's why I hopped straight into his lap when we met inside the Peter & Paul Fortress almost two years ago.
Catherine the Great is possibly the only ruler whose life story can equal Peter's. We're lucky that Massie is planning on telling it! Apologies in advance to my colleagues and friends if my conversation this fall centers on a former German princess who was more beloved by the Russians than her native-born husband, whose assassination she may or may not have participated in . . .
Edited to add: I interviewed Robert K. Massie about this book—check it out here.
Stephen King has just announced that he'll be publishing a new novel this year. 11/23/63 is an alternate history that explores the idea of whether one can—or should—change the past after an English teacher and his friend discover a portal to 1958 and decide to stop the Kennedy assassination.
"So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time," says the description on King's site. You can also watch a short video about the book here.
King's last novel was 2009's lengthy, enjoyable Under the Dome. 11/23/63 is reportedly another doorstop at more than 1000 pages—but if anyone knows how to keep them turning, it's King. He's touched on time-travel before, in the novella The Langoliers, but this is his first full-length novel to deal with the topic.
Are you intrigued?