Gender parity in review coverage, bylines, and awards is a constant topic of conversation in the literary community, fueled by sites like VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts, and controversies like PW’s recent kerfuffle with Claire Messud.
This fall sees three books about the exuberantly macho literary titan Norman Mailer. Clocking in at 928 pages, J. Michael Lennon’s authorized biography, Norman Mailer: A Double Life, utilizes insider access, interviews, and unpublished letters. Mind of an Outlaw: Selected Essays, edited by Philip Sipiora, is the first posthumous publication since Mailer’s death in 2007. This volume champions his role as a public intellectual and features a previously unpublished essay. (The third title is Melville House’s Vidal vs. Mailer.)
Though Philip Roth has not yet retired, it’s not too early to take stock of his literary legacy. New Yorker writer Claudia Roth Pierpont does just that in Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books, a “critical evaluation” rather than a biography. Roth Pierpont studies the controversies raised by Roth’s novels and offers anecdotes about his family, critics, and literary friendships.
To balance out these testosterone-laden volumes, readers should consider The Most of Nora Ephron, a celebration of the witty and wise screenwriter, filmmaker, playwright, novelist, and journalist, published one year after her death.
Turning to the subjects of reading and writing, University of Houston literature professor David Mikics offers an antidote to the skimming and clicking life in Slow Reading in a Hurried Age. For readers who want to improve concentration, or simply learn how to get lost in a book again, Mikics presents 14 preliminary rules for slow reading and how to apply them.
With those skills in tow, readers can then dive into the profiles in John Freeman’s How to Read a Novelist, a collection of the Granta editor’s talks with Doris Lessing, Haruki Murakami, Marilynne Robinson, Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, Edwidge Danticat, and many others. Readers who are writers themselves will benefit from Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. The novelist and memoirist shares wisdom gained from 20 years of teaching and writing, and suggestions for how to keep going.
Sometimes a book doesn’t fit exactly into its assigned category (history), but is literary enough and exceptional enough to find a home on this list. Carla Kaplan’s cultural biography and social history, Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance, is one such book. Distinguished scholar Kaplan (Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters) focuses on a group of white women (“Miss Anne”) who embraced black culture and Harlem life in the 1920s and ’30s, including Barnard College founder Annie Nathan Meyer, novelist Fannie Hurst, and English heiress Nancy Cunard.
Similar in title, but not subject matter, New Yorker critic Hilton Als’s essay collection White Girls (his first book since The Women) analyzes literature, art, music, race, gender, and history, with the titular “white girls” encompassing Truman Capote, Louise Brooks, Malcolm X, and Flannery O’Connor.
And for readers who want what Junot Díaz promises is “Mad Men for the literary world,” there’s Boris Kachka’s Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. PW’s review called it a “juicy narrative” that is “very much in tune with the lost literary milieu it recreates.”
PW’s Top 10: Literary Biographies, Essays & Criticism
Norman Mailer: A Double Life. J. Michael Lennon. Simon & Schuster, Oct. 15.
Mind of an Outlaw: Selected Essays. Norman Mailer, edited by Philip Sipiora. Random House, Oct. 15.
Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books. Claudia Roth Pierpont. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Oct. 22.
The Most of Nora Ephron. Nora Ephron. Knopf, Oct. 29.
Slow Reading in a Hurried Age. David Mikics. Harvard Univ./Belknap Press, Oct. 8.
How to Read a Novelist. John Freeman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Oct. 8.
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. Dani Shapiro. Grove, Oct.
Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance. Carla Kaplan. Harper, Sept.
White Girls. Hilton Als. McSweeney’s, Nov. 12.
Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Boris Kachka. Simon & Schuster, Aug. 6.
Literary Biographies, Essays & Criticism Listings
Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II by Farah Jasmine Griffin (Sept. 10, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0465018758). Columbia University professor Griffin tells the stories of three black female artists whose art and activism expanded the American Dream during and immediately after WWII: choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus, composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams, and novelist Ann Petry.
Novel: An Alternative History, 1600–1800 by Steven Moore (Aug. 15, hardcover, $39.95, ISBN 978-1441188694). Moore’s comprehensive history, and controversial reappraisal, of the world’s most popular and innovative literary form begins with Cervantes’s Don Quixote, examines the flowering of the novel in early modern Europe and the East, and concludes with the earliest novels written in the newly formed United States.
Cambridge Univ. Press
The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Vol. 2, 1923–1925, edited by Sandra Spanier, Albert J. DeFazio III, and Robert W. Trogdon (Oct. 22, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0521897341). This second volume reveals Hemingway’s literary apprenticeship in the legendary milieu of expatriate Paris in the 1920s.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Jack London: An American Life by Earle Labor (Oct. 1, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0374178482). A biography of the great American author that PW called “engrossing”: “London emerges as a rugged adventurer with a soft heart, and a larger-than-life character who might have figured as the hero in one of his own brawny bestsellers.”
Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore by Linda Leavell (Oct. 22, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0374107291). An essential biography that PW said “dispels the persistent image of the modernist poet as a repressed and withdrawn spinster.”
Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J.F. Powers, 1942–1963, edited by Katherine A. Powers (Aug. 20, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0374268060). A moving collection of letters from the late novelist and short story writer, best known for his 1963 National Book Award–winning novel, Morte D’Urban.
Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books by Claudia Roth Pierpont (Oct. 22, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0374280512). New Yorker writer Roth Pierpont provides insights and anecdotes previously accessible only to a very few, touching on Roth’s family, inspirations, critics, and literary friendships with such figures as Saul Bellow and John Updike.
How to Read a Novelist by John Freeman (Oct. 8, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0374173265). The former president of the National Book Critics Circle and current editor of Granta collects his profiles of the best novelists of our time and shares what he’s learned.
Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser (Jan. 7, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0374289201). Lesser draws on a lifetime of pleasure reading and decades of editing The Threepenny Review to describe a life lived in and through literature.
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro (Oct., hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0802121400). The author of Slow Motion offers a witty, heartfelt, and practical look at the process of storytelling.
Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance by Carla Kaplan (Sept., hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0060882389). Scholar Kaplan offers a portrait of a band of spirited white women collectively referred to as “Miss Anne.” Situating these women in the interracial history of the Harlem Renaissance, PW’s starred review notes, “Kaplan excels at contextualizing these women’s choices.” 50,000-copy announced first printing.
A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Fiction by Suzette Field (Oct. 15, trade paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-0062271839). The party is a useful literary device. PW praised the book’s “panache, attention to arresting details, and flair for mixing literary classics with pop culture hits.” 25,000-copy announced first printing.
Harvard Univ. Press
The Long Voyage: Selected Letters of Malcolm Cowley, 1915–1987, edited by Hans Bak (Jan. 6, hardcover, $39.95, ISBN 978-0674051065). Critic, poet, editor, and chronicler of the Lost Generation, Cowley (1898–1989) was an eloquent witness to American literary and political life. His letters, mostly unpublished, provide a portrait of Cowley and his time.
Harvard Univ. Press/Belknap Press
A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning by Robert Zaretsky (Nov. 7, hardcover, $22.95, ISBN 978-0674724761). Exploring themes that preoccupied Camus—absurdity, silence, revolt, fidelity, and moderation—Zaretsky portrays a moralist who refused to be fooled by the nobler names we assign to our actions, and who pushed himself, and those about him, to challenge the status quo.
Slow Reading in a Hurried Age by David Mikics (Oct. 8, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0674724723). Mikics argues that reading should not be drudgery, mere information-gathering, or escape, but rather, a way to live life at a higher pitch.
Harvard Univ. Press/Harvard Univ. Asia Center
Modernity with a Cold War Face: Reimagining the Nation in Chinese Literature Across the 1949 Divide by Xiaojue Wang (Sept. 30, hardcover, $39.95, ISBN 978-0674726727). The 1949 birth of the People’s Republic of China divided the nation into many political entities. Wang investigates how writers responded to these shifts.
On the End of the World by Joseph Roth, trans. by Will Stone (Oct. 1, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1843916192). The first English translation of Austrian novelist Roth’s (1894–1939) haunting journalistic essays written in 1933.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner Books
Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom by Deborah Yaffe (Aug. 6, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0547757735). With warmth and humor, lifelong Janeite Yaffe opens the door on the quirky, thriving subculture of Jane Austen fandom. 20,000-copy announced first printing.
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013, edited by Dave Eggers (Oct. 8, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0544105508). A selection of the year’s best writing, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and comics. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
The Best American Essays 2013, edited by Robert Atwan and Cheryl Strayed (Oct. 8, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0544103887). A collection of the year’s best essays culled from periodicals, selected and introduced by Strayed (Wild). 40,000-copy announced first printing.
Gabriele D’Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (Aug. 20, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0307263933). Historian and critic Hughes-Hallett presents D’Annunzio’s volatile and fascinating life—poet, bon viveur, and virulent Italian nationalist who prefigured Mussolini—and traces the early 20th century’s trajectory from Romantic idealism to world war and Fascist thuggery. In a starred review, PW called the book “dazzling.”
The Most of Nora Ephron by Nora Ephron (Oct. 29, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0385350839). A celebration of the popular author, who died in 2012, including her writings on journalism, feminism, being a woman, her love affair with food, politics, aging, and dying. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
White Girls by Hilton Als (Nov. 12, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1936365814). The New Yorker cultural critic deftly weaves together his analyses of literature, art, and music with fearless insights on race, gender, and history.
The Best of McSweeney’s, edited by Dave Eggers (Nov. 12, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1938073595). A comprehensive collection commemorates the 15th anniversary of the journal called “a key barometer of the literary climate” by the New York Times.
Vidal vs. Mailer by Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal, edited by Carole Mallory (Oct. 29, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1612192666). The most outrageous literary feud of the century is captured through rare interviews, transcripts, and correspondence.
Hannah Arendt: The Last Interview: And Other Conversations by Hannah Arendt (Dec. 3, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1612193113). A selection of the most significant interviews given by Arendt, including the last she gave before her death in 1975.
The Art of Youth: Crane, Carrington, Gershwin, and the Nature of First Acts by Nicholas Delbanco (Nov. 19, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0544114463). Portraits of three artistic prodigies who died young—writer Stephen Crane, painter Dora Carrington, and composer George Gershwin—form the centerpiece of Delbanco’s inquiry into creation, mortality, and the enigma of promise. 25,000-copy announced first printing.
A Reader’s Book of Days: Auspicious Births and Untimely Deaths, Bad Reviews and Bestsellers, Romances and Betrayals, Hoaxes and Scandals, and Other True Tales from the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year by Tom Nissley, illus. by Joanna Neborsky (Nov. 4, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0393239621). Jeopardy! champion Nissley captures stories of writers’ epiphanies, embarrassments, and achievements. Each page is devoted to a single day and features original accounts of events in the lives of great writers and fictional events that took place within favorite books.
Scheherazade’s Children: Global Encounters with the Arabian Nights, edited by Philip Kennedy and Marina Warner (Nov. 8, paper, $25, ISBN 978-1479857098). A highly original exploration of the Arabian Nights and its influences on literature, film, and theater in cultures around the world.
Ohio Univ. Press/Swallow Press
Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939–1947, edited by Paul Herron (Oct. 16, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-0804011464). The fifth—and latest—volume in the unexpurgated diaries of the legendary writer and literary personality is now in print after a delay of more than 17 years.
Oxford Univ. Press
Dorothy and William Wordsworth: ‘All in each other’ by Lucy Newlyn (Dec. 1, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-0199696390). The first literary biography of the Wordsworths’ creative collaboration
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Vol. 3: Paradiso by Robert M. Durling, edited by Ronald L. Martinez (Dec. 1, paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0195087468). One of the greatest living Italian-to-English translators, Durling has completed his rendition of the third and final volume of Dante’s masterful literary epic.
The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin (Sept. 26, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1594205163). A witty A-to-Z of literary remedies that recommends works of classic and contemporary fiction as cures for ailments of the mind and body.
Princeton Univ. Press
The Lives of the Novel: A History by Thomas G. Pavel (Sept., hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0691121895). A history of the novel from ancient Greece to the present. Pavel argues that the driving force behind the novel’s evolution has been a rivalry between stories that idealize human behavior and those that ridicule and condemn it.
Essays and Reviews: 1959–2002 by Bernard Williams (Jan., hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0691159850). The first collection of philosopher Williams’s (1929–2003) popular essays and reviews.
Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach, edited by James I. Porter, trans. by Jane O. Newman (Nov., hardcover, $39.50, ISBN 9780691137117). Auerbach (1892–1957), best known for Mimesis, is celebrated today as a founder of comparative literature. The book presents a wide selection of his essays.
Building: Letters 1960–1975 by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy and Mark Pottle (Aug. 27, hardcover, $59.95, ISBN 978-0701185763). The third volume of political philosopher Berlin’s letters takes readers from 1960 to 1975.
Mind of an Outlaw: Selected Essays by Norman Mailer, edited by Phillip Sipiora, intro. by Jonathan Lethem (Oct. 15, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0812993479). A major collection includes a never-before-published essay and covers the subjects and themes novelist Mailer (1923–2007) wrestled with: politics, personalities, art, literature, women, men, race, sex, and the systems of power that shape American life.
Red Holler: Contemporary Appalachian Literature, edited by John Branscum and Wayne Thomas (Oct. 15, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1936747665). This anthology of contemporary Appalachian literature travels through housing projects, forest-stripped ravines, and trailer high-rises, exploring the region’s vibrant migrant tradition.
Seven Stories Press
Operation Massacre by Rodolfo Walsh, trans. by Daniella Gitlin (Sept. 17, trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1609805135). This dramatic investigation of extra-judicial murders in 1950s Argentina is a classic of Latin American literature and fuses hard-hitting journalism with haunting prose. Available in English for the first time since its original 1957 publication.
Simon & Schuster
Norman Mailer: A Double Life by J. Michael Lennon (Oct. 15, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-1439150191). From the biographer who knew Mailer for decades comes the definitive, authorized portrait of the eminent novelist, based on extensive interviews and unpublished letters.
Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux by Boris Kachka (Aug. 6, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1451691894). A rollicking account of arguably the most influential publisher of the postwar era.
The Private War of J.D. Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno (Sept. 3, hardcover, $37.50, ISBN 978-1476744834) is based on eight years of exhaustive research and exclusive interviews with more than 200 people, and published in coordination with the release of a major documentary film from the Weinstein Company.
Ian Fleming: A Biography by Andrew Lycett (Oct. 1, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-1250037985). With direct access to Fleming’s family and friends, Lycett offers the first full-length biography of the man who created James Bond.
Starcherone Books/Dzanc Books
The Compleat Memoirrhoids: 137.n by Steve Katz (Sept. 10, hardcover, $23, ISBN 978-1938603051). Innovative novelist Katz’s memoir reads like a database of 20th-century alternative arts, artists, lives, worlds, and ways.
What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton (Jan., hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0765331939). From the Hugo and Nebula Award–winning author of Among Others comes a collection of brilliant reassessments of the classics—and the forgotten gems—of modern fantasy and science fiction.
Call Me Burroughs: A Life by Barry Miles (Jan. 28, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1455511952). Beat historian Miles presents the first major, full-length biography of William Burroughs in a quarter century—and the first one to chronicle the last decade of Burroughs’s life and examine his long-term cultural legacy. 35,000-copy announced first printing.
Univ. of California Press
Robert Duncan: Collected Essays and Other Prose by Robert Duncan, edited by James Maynard (Jan. 1, hardcover, $60, ISBN 978-0520267732). This volume gathers a far-reaching selection of Duncan’s prose writings.
Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition by Mark Twain, edited by Benjamin Griffin, Harriet E. Smith, Victor Fischer, Michael B. Frank, Sharon K. Goetz, Leslie Diane Myrick, and Robert Hirst (Oct. 1, hardcover, $45, ISBN 978-0520272781). The eagerly awaited volume delves deeper into Twain’s life. With his characteristic blend of humor and ire, Twain shares his views on writing and speaking, his preoccupation with money, and his contempt for the politics and politicians of his day.
Univ. of Chicago Press
Musings on Mortality: From Tolstoy to Primo Levi by Victor Brombert (Oct. 6, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0226062358) traces the theme of mortality in the work of a group of authors who wrote during the past century and a half.
Univ. of North Carolina Press
The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists by William Ferris (Aug. 5, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1469607542) comprises interviews spanning 40 years with such luminaries as Cleanth Brooks, Bobby Rush, and Eudora Welty: Southerners and non-Southerners, men and women, black and white. The book comes with a CD and DVD of Ferris’s interviews and includes his photos of each artist.
Univ. of Texas Press
Two Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark, edited by Chad Hammett (Nov. 1, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0292735828). A portrait of a complex, decades-long friendship, these letters and candid family photographs offer the most intimate glimpse we may ever get into the life and creative process of America’s leading dramatist.
Univ. of Wisconsin Press
It’s All a Kind of Magic: The Young Ken Kesey by Rick Dodgson (Oct. 22, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0299295103). This first biography of Kesey (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) reveals a youthful life of brilliance and eccentricity that encompassed wrestling, writing, magic and ventriloquism, CIA-funded drug experiments, psychedelic happenings, and fearless trippy spectacle.
Our Deep Gossip: Conversations with Gay Writers on Poetry and Desire by Christopher Hennessy (Nov. 5, trade paper, $26.95, ISBN 978-0299295646). Interviews with eight gay poets—Edward Field, John Ashbery, Richard Howard, Aaron Shurin, Dennis Cooper, Cyrus Cassells, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Kazim Ali—reveal the ways art, life, and identity intertwine in 20th and early 21st-century America.
Univ. Press of Mississippi
Conversations with Natasha Trethewey by Joan Wylie Hall (Sept. 1, trade paper, $25, ISBN 978-1617039515). The first collection of interviews with the current U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner.
Yale Univ. Press
Primo Levi: The Matter of a Life by Berel Lang and Ariella Lang (Nov. 26, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0300137231). The first intellectual biography of Primo Levi to describe the intersection of his roles as both chemist and writer.
Susan Sontag: The Complete Rolling Stone Interview by Jonathan Cott (Oct. 22, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0300189797), published in its entirety for the first time, is a candid conversation with Sontag at the height of her career, in 1978.
Lillian Hellman: An Audacious Life by Dorothy Gallagher (Nov. 26, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0300164978). A fresh look at Hellman’s restless life, her extraordinary plays, and her autobiographical myths.
Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World by Leo Damrosch (Nov. 5, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0300164992). From a leading scholar of 18th-century literature comes a major new portrait of the greatest satirist in the English language.
Wayne State Univ. Press
Reading, Translating, Rewriting: Angela Carter’s Translational Poetics by Martine Hennard Dutheil De La Rochère (Nov. 15, trade paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-0814336342). Hennard Dutheil de la Rochère delves into Carter’s The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (1977) to illustrate that this translation project had a significant impact on Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.