This week, a dark and odd fable, a must-read short story collection, and a YA throwback to the likes of Logan's Run. Plus: Neil Gaiman's latest.
In The House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell (Soho Press) - This debut novel is a dark, intriguingly odd fable about what it means to be a father. The narrator (no character is given a proper name) takes his new bride to a secluded house in an area populated only by wildlife, including an overly symbolic she-bear. The carefully wrought prose takes its cues from magical realism and the oedipal competition between a father and son for a mother’s love paces the story. Check out how being a father and husband has influenced Bell's writing.
Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985 by Italo Calvino, selected and with an introduction by Michael Wood, trans. from the Italian by Martin McLaughlin (Princeton Univ.) - Acclaimed Italian author Calvino (1923–1985) is best known for his fables, stories, and novels, including If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. Yet he was also a book editor, journalist, and WWII Resistance fighter. This first English translation of 650 letters spanning the period from the war years until his death include Calvino’s correspondence with writers Umberto Eco, Gore Vidal, Elsa Morante, and Primo Levi; directors Michelangelo Antonioni and Pier Paolo Pasolini; composer Luciano Berio; as well as mentors and critics.
Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave (Atria) - New Zealander Cleave’s powerful third Christchurch noir introduces PI Theodore Tate. Two years earlier, the grown daughter of bank manager Henry Martins asked Tate, then a policeman, to investigate what she believed to have been her father’s murder. Tate found nothing, but now the second husband of Martins’s widow has died, possibly of poisoning. Martins’s body is exhumed—a measure that wasn’t taken initially—revealing some unpleasant surprises, and three bodies surface in a lake adjacent to the cemetery, one belonging to a missing 19-year-old girl.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow) - “Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later... but they are never lost for good”—and the most grim of those memories, no matter how faint, can haunt one forever, as they do the anonymous narrator of Gaiman’s subtle and splendid modern myth. The protagonist, an artist, returns to his childhood home in the English countryside to recover his memory of events that nearly destroyed him and his family when he was seven. a fresh story of magic, humanity, loyalty, and memories.
Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee (Algonquin) –This not-to-be-missed story collection microscopically examines the familiar motifs of infidelity, apathy, and unrequited love, revealing through each incisive tale deeper, novelistic layers of humanity and truth. Each of Lee’s stories is told from a first-person perspective, and many of them take place on college campuses. They are all centered on unique and arresting set-pieces and showcase astonishing prose: as the dinner party in the title story disintegrates multiple marriages, the meal “is revealed as a collection of crazy bones”; in “The Banks of the Vistula,” a student plagiarizes her paper, accidentally revealing the shadowy past of her professor who “looked like a dream one might have in childhood.” Find out why Lee thinks writing slowly is okay.
Proxy by Alex London (Philomel) – London moves from middle-grade to YA with an entertaining throwback to ’70s dystopias like Logan’s Run, offering intriguing moral dilemmas amid breakneck action. Knox is a spoiled rich kid who spends his time doing drugs, seducing girls, and occasionally stealing a car for a joyride. He has nothing to worry about, because whenever he gets in trouble, it’s his Proxy—a slum resident and tech genius named Syd—who pays the price, since he’s tied to Knox as a result of crippling debt he was born into. When Knox’s recklessness gets his latest conquest killed, the consequences and the boys’ reactions lead to fast-paced chases, conspiratorial revelations, and assorted twists.
Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenman (Grand Central) - In this enjoyable memoir, Thompson, drummer/founder of The Roots, tells of his work as a DJ and producer with some of the biggest names in the music business, such as Jay-Z and Common, and Dave Chappelle. His always fascinating and sometimes hilarious recollections touch on everything from drumming at age five in his father’s professional doo-wop and soul band to roller-skating as an adult with Eddie Murphy at a bizarre party hosted by Prince.