Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fiction to come

This promises to be a “great year for books,” C. Max Magee says at the Millions, chronologically listing the novels to expect in 2009, including titles by “Pynchon, Atwood, Lethem, and Zadie Smith.” Here are some books he missed (and since I have been accused of letting political considerations get in the way of my recommendations, I list every book that might be worth reading). To keep the list at manageable length, only Americans are included.


• Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (Knopf). A parallel six-day period in July, 1959—brother and sister in a small West Virginia town—and nine years earlier, when their father is in Korea.

• Lewis Robinson, Water Dogs (Random House). A man goes missing in a blizzard.


• T. C. Boyle, The Women (Viking). Frank Lloyd Wright’s life is told through the experiences of the four women who loved him.

• Barbara Hall, The Music Teacher (Algonquin). A recently divorced violin instructor spends most of her time mourning her perceived failures.

• John Haskell, Out of My Skin (Farrar Straus & Giroux). A would-be movie reviewer, looking for romance, takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes.

• Antonya Nelson, Nothing Right: Short Stories (Bloomsbury). In the southwest, people try to keep themselves intact as their personal lives explode around them.

• Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone (Knopf). A devout young nun leaves India in 1947 for a missionary post in Yemen.


• Steve Amick, Nothing but a Smile (Knopf). It’s 1944 and an illustrator for Stars and Stripes has returned to Chicago.

• Tim Gautreaux, The Missing (Knopf). The hunt for a stolen child along the Mississippi between the wars.

• Daniel Klein, The History of Now (Permanent Press). Philosophical novel about the presence of the past in a New England town.

• Olen Steinhauer, Tourist (St. Martin’s). The arrest of an assassin forces an ex-spy to go back undercover.

• John Wray, Lowboy (Farrar Straus & Giroux). A teenaged schizophrenic has wandered away from a mental hospital into the New York subway believing that the world will end within a few hours.


• Frederick Barthelme, Waveland (Doubleday). Life after divorce and Katrina along the Mississippi gulf coast.

• Charles McCarry, Shelley’s Heart (Overlook). A stolen presidential election reveals a wider left-wing plot. Reprint of 1995 novel, part of Otto Penzler’s project to bring all of McCarry’s fiction back into print.

• Colson Whitehead, Sag Harbor (Doubleday). Coming of age in 1985 in the East End of Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals has built a world of its own.


• Esther Broner, The Red Squad (Knopf). Comic novel about sixties radicals who discover forty years later that they were under surveillance.

• William Gay, The Lost Country (MacAdam/Cage). Four people on the road end up in the town of Ackerman's Field, where they will be inextricably drawn together.

• Elmore Leonard, Road Dogs (William Morrow). Two ex-cons, one white, one black, an FBI agent, and a psychotic cheating wife.


• Arna Bontemps, Drums at Dusk (Louisiana State UP). Reprint of a 1939 novel. Love and violence at the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution in 1791.

• Denis Johnson, Nobody Move (Picador). Mistaken identity, blackmail and murder, wronged alcoholics, and colostomy bags.

• Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin (Random House). A group portrait of New York City in the seventies.

• Walter Mosley, The Tempest Tales: A Novel-in-Stories (Washington Square). The afterlife of a black man shot dead by police when they thought he was pulling a gun.

• Jean Thompson, Do Not Deny Me: Stories (Simon & Schuster). Author of Who Do You Love, a 1999 National Book Award finalist.

• Kate Walbert, A Short History of Women (Scribner). Author of Where She Went and The Gardens of Kyoto.


• Allan Appel, The Hebrew Tutor of Bel Air (Coffee House). Author’s note: “[H]aving to choose between Judaism and tearing up the town on motorcycles and figuring out the relationship between the two, all under the cloud of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the Los Angeles of 1962.”

• Kevin Canty, Where the Money Went: Stories (Nan A. Talese). A meditation on relationships and love from a man’s point of view.

• Robert Cohen, Amateur Barbarians (Scribner). A small-town New England school principal tries to bail out of his settled life while a luftmentsh from New York tries to bail into it.

• Michael Idov, Ground Up (Farrar Straus & Giroux). Two intellectuals are determined to recreate the perfect Viennese coffeehouse on the Lower East Side.

• Ward Just, Exiles in the Garden (Houghton Mifflin). A senator’s son turned news photographer contrasts himself unfavorably with an adventurer and antifascist commando.

• Lydia Peelle, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing: Stories (Harper). A young writer whose fiction has appeared in the Best New American Voices 2007 and The O. Henry Prize Stories: 2006.

• Lucinda Rosenfeld, I’m So Happy for You (Back Bay). A “witty account of the jealousies that lurk within even the kindest female hearts.” —Zoë Heller.

• Rafael Yglesias, A Happy Marriage (Simon & Schuster). Autobiographical novel about his 27-year marriage to Margaret Joskow, who died from bladder cancer in 2004.


• Robert Ferrigno, Heart of the Assassin (Simon & Schuster). Third volume in a dystopic trilogy about America under Islamic rule.

• Victor LaValle, Big Machine (Spiegel & Grau). The survivor of a suicide cult working as a porter in Utica, New York, is inducted into a band of paranormal investigators.

• Maud Carol Markson, Looking After Pigeon (Permanent Press). After her father disappears, five-year-old Pigeon must face a new and bewildering life with her mother and older siblings in an uncle’s house on the Jersey shore.

• Valerie Martin, Confessions of Edward Day (Nan A. Talese). Author of the Orange Prize-winning Property and Mary Reilly, a rewriting of the Jekyll-Hyde story.

• Joyce Carol Oates, A Fair Maiden (Houghton Mifflin). A sixteen-year-old poses for a silver-haired painter.

• Richard Russo, That Old Cape Magic (Knopf). A weekend on Cape Cod, in which the past swamps the present that the future suddenly hangs in the balance.


• Pat Conroy, South of Broad (Nan A. Talese). A 600-page “epic” about a serial killer and a high-profile murder in the 1980’s.

• Lorrie Moore, A Gate at the Stairs (Knopf). First novel in fourteen years by author of Who Will Run the Frog Hospital and Like Life.

• Philip Roth, The Humbling (Houghton Mifflin). An aging man embarks on an affair with a ravishing young lesbian.

• William Styron, The Suicide Run: Five Stories of the Marine Corps (Random House). Posthumous collection of stories about soldiers returning home from war.


• Paul Auster, Invisible (Henry Holt). Autobiographical novel of a young poet’s coming of age at Columbia in the ’sixties—and beyond.

• Richard Powers, Generosity (Farrar Straus & Giroux). The happiness gene is discovered.


• Gail Godwin, The Red Nun: A Tale of Unfinished Desires (Random House). An eighty-five-year-old nun dictates a memoir of her school’s history.