Read a F*cking Book: Fall 2010 Preview or “The Rise of the Novel”

Usually when we write seasonal preview posts, which we feel obligated to do by a force larger than ourselves, we must exert actual effort to uncover those items suitable for anticipation and then feign effortless knowledge of said items.

But you guys, for real, I am genuinely, sincerely, completely stoked about some books coming out this fall! I did not even need to look this shit UP I AM ON IT. It almost makes me wish I was still in college buying books for English 360: The Rise of the Novel. JK I hated that class. Anyhow!

Jonathan Franzen‘s Freedom comes out today and it’s already being called the greatest novel of the year etc. Well, the thing is that BOTTOM LINE Jonathan Franzen is a really excellent writer. His last novel, The Corrections, was undoubtedly a masterpiece. It started out a bit slow but then unfurled with careful, complicated, compelling energy and BONUS! two queer leads! I read The Corrections in 2002, the winter I decided to leave my boyfriend and the condo/life/dog we shared. The boyfriend was visiting family in Las Vegas and I felt like I could breathe/read for the first time in eons. I thought, he’d never read this book or ANY BOOK, even if I begged him to. So that was that, we broke up the day he got home.

I read and enjoyed Franzen’s essay collection How to Be Alone a few years ago. In his oft-cited Harper’s piece “Why Bother” about the “decline of the American Novel” and depressive realism vs. tragic realism, Franzen confers with Novel Expert Shirley Brice Heath, who calls Franzen “a socially isolated individual who desperately wants to communicate with a substantive imaginary world.” Later on, he says this (it’s a good reason for why you should get his novel, or any novel):

Whether they think about it or not, novelists are preserving a tradition of precise, expressive language; a habit of looking past surfaces into interiors; maybe an understanding of private experience and public context as distinct but interpenetrating; maybe mystery, maybe manners. Above all, they are preserving a community of readers and writers and the way in which members of this community recognize each other is that nothing in the world seems simple to them.

Freedom obviously garnered a super-rave review in The New York Times Sunday Book Review and also controversy –  apparently Jodi Piccoult and Jennifer Weiner are displeased by the excessive hulabaloo over another “white male literary darling.” Furthermore, Franzen is the first novelist to grace on the cover of TIME magazine in ten years and the only “serious” novelist besides Toni Morrison to do so. But reader: I only feature prominently and direct you towards straight white male literary darlings when they’re really fucking good.

The TIME article contained this quote from Freedom, which I think you’ll like:

“Patty had all day to figure out some decent and satisfying way to live, and yet all she ever seemed to get for all her choices and all her freedom was more miserable.”

Eileen Myles, a poet who I mentioned in our Top Ten Lesbian & Bisexual Poets to Fall in Love With, is realeasing a “poet’s novel” titled Inferno in September. You can only get it through the OR Books website, a “new type of publishing company” which  “embraces progressive change in politics, culture and the way we do business.”

Here’s the description of Inferno:

From its beginning—“My English professor’s ass was so beautiful.”—to its end—“You can actually learn to have grace. And that’s heaven.”—poet, essayist and performer Eileen Myles’ chronicle transmits an energy and vividness that will not soon leave its readers. Her story of a young female writer, discovering both her sexuality and her own creative drive in the meditative and raucous environment that was New York City in its punk and indie heyday, is engrossing, poignant, and funny. This is a voice from the underground that redefines the meaning of the word.

Speaking of gay people with nice resumes, Kate Bornstein‘s anticipated follow-up to Gender Outlaw also comes out in September:

Today’s transpeople, genderqueers, and other sex/gender radicals are writing a drastically new world into being. Gender Outlaws, edited by the original gender outlaw, Bornstein, together with writer, raconteur, and theater artist S. Bear Bergman, collects and contextualizes the work of this generation’s trans and genderqueer forward thinkers—new voices from the stage, on the streets, in the workplace, in the bedroom, and on the pages and websites of the world’s most respected news sources. Gender Outlaws includes essays, commentary, comic art, and conversation from a diverse group of trans-spectrum people who live and believe in barrier-breaking lives.

Laneia is going to review Tao Lin‘s Richard Yates for you this week, which comes out on September 7th and which I will also read and, I think, enjoy. Speaking of writers who a lot of internet-people have irrationally abrasive feelings towards, I might even get into the reviewing spirit and finally tell you why you should go get Emily Gould‘s And the Heart Says Whatever. Emily totally doesn’t believe I’m ever going to review her book anymore, but I am, I swear. I cannot let these six google docs and 50,000 words I’ve written about the book (but mostly about myself) just languish in cyber-landfills forever.

I’m getting the feeling that David Sedaris has run out of good anecdotes, but apparently not. His illustrated book of “animal-themed tales,” Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, comes out September 28th.

Also from the Sedaris clan this fall is Amy Sedaris‘s Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. I love Amy Sedaris, she is one of my favorite people in the whole world.

Lorrie Moore, one of my top five favorite authors of all time, released her novel A Gate at the Stairs last year which I’m just now reading — and maybe you should too, because A Gate at the Stairs is now out in paperback. But, if you’re new to Lorrie Moore, begin with short story collection Birds of America.

Also look out for the 25th Anniversary Edition of William Burroughs’ Queer, Danielle Evans‘ debut short story book mostly about teenagers with “disorder,” Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self AND AND AND! Have you read an autobiography of Roald Dahl yet? It’s something you should do with your life. Luckily, Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl of RD comes out-mid September!

AND ONE LAST THING! I think you might like Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women by Rebecca Traister, who is one of those women with real jobs. I recognize her name, as I do most of the women who have real jobs writing on the internet, because one time she wrote about Emily Gould.

Here’s why I think you’ll like it though:

Avatar of Riese

Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1721 articles for us.

35 Comments

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    I was so excited to see this pop up! I, too, am uber-anxious about Jonathan Franzen’s new book. I loved Corrections but was less excited about How to Be Alone. I think my lesser-excitement was due to the fact that it required active thinking during a time my brain was not actively thinking (meaning, I tried to read it on vacation…maybe not the best idea). In any case, if anybody wants to read How to Be Alone, I’m finished and happy to mail out my copy!

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      Yay! Hi book person! Whenever I give The Corrections to somebody I have to tell them that the beginning is slow and they have to push through it, but other than that I loved it and was also surprised by how quickly I got through it considering its girth. It reminded me of why I loved reading novels.

      I actually tried to ‘listen’ (I had an audiobook phase) to The Discomfort Zone, the essay collection he put out maybe a few years ago? And could not get into it at all. I underlined large chunks of How to be Alone and was actually surprised by how much I liked that one too.

      I realized when writing this that I don’t really know specifically what Freedom is about, besides that it sounded like The Corrections, I just have faith that it will be good because I think he is just really good. Solid.

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        i still can’t finish The Corrections. i’ve probably tried 18 different times and i can’t get beyond the first 10 pages. a friend gave me a used copy a few years ago after i told her i hadn’t finished my first copy and now the used copy sits on one of the bookshelves in the living room, mocking me.

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      Well now that I’ve hit another huge novel phase, I’d love to check out these works. I feel so out of the loop because I’ve never read anything by these authors, but it sounds like a great excuse to give up the last of my free time to hit up some new novels.

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        I thought the Corrections was good, but it has its flaws–not only the slow start but it also descends into ridiculousness/farce at times, like the poop scene or whatever. This is because Jonathan Franzen is god’s gift to literature & sometimes can get carried away with the glory.

        Also I think sometimes he writes horrible things because they resonate, they touch you emotionally, which can be mistaken for literary truth in a way. I read this story in the New Yorker and found it so upsetting that I had to go for a 2 hour walk before I remembered that the people I know are not like the people in the story: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2010/05/31/100531fi_fiction_franzen

        Still, SO MUCH better than other contemporary white male bullshit like Phillip Roth, DeLillo, Pynchon, etc.

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    i’m excited for this. the only good new book i read all summer was “how did you get this number” by sloane crosley and i don’t even think that really qualifies for a novel. thanks for the recommendations, must renew my b&n membership.

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    Riese, I too was very afraid that David Sedaris was running out sick memories that I could almost choke laughing at. Thanks for the heads up on the new one! I’ve read everything he and Amy have published so far and I’ve become such a fan that I feel like I should be considered their third cousin once removed or something.

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    I think I’ll enjoy many of these suggestions. I’ve never read ‘The Corrections’ but I’ve seen it on enough bookshelves to make me think you’re telling the truth about it being a must read, so I think I’ll give that a go before ‘Freedom’.

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    Thanks for the post! My girlfriend is bed bound due to an unfortunate car-versus-motorcycle accident (in which she was the motorcycle). While she has been recovering she has been blazing through books, so I’m on a constant hunt for books she’ll like. Sounds like these will be right up her alley. Can’t wait for the reviews!

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    I’m pretty excited for the Roald Dahl bio, he has been a fav of mine since I first read Matilda in grade school. I’ve read that book at least 20 times and branched out to his adult short stories last year. I just picked up Boy and Going Solo from paperbackswap.com since I’ve never read them.

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    Akashic Books puts out a lot of queer fiction, probably some of the best I have read. They are in New York, just an FYI. Anyhoo, check out Chris Abani, Felicia Luna Lemus, and Lauren Sanders.

    Chris Abani’s book Virgin of Flames is about a six foot Black man named Black who gets involved with a transexual stripper who teaches him how to be transexual. He paints murals. He accidently sets his mother’s wedding dress on fire while smoking and the passing Mexicans think he’s the Virgin Mary. It is awesome.

    Felicia Luna Lemus’s book Like Son is about a transgendered man who falls in love with a wild woman. Its about staying in a long term relationship, which for all the stuff I read was a novel idea.

    Lauren Sanders’ book Kamakazi Lust (I haven’t gotten to it because I am reading Infinite Jest, so ask me in a year) anyway, the back says its about a lady reporter who loses her reporting job and decides to make ‘art porn’ with her BFF. sounds good to me.

    AND, check out Half Life by Shelley Jackson, not an Akashic book, but super cool none the less. It is about Siamese twins Nora and Blanche, where Nora is gay and Blanche is not. Blanche lapses into a coma and the book is about Nora trying to have Blanche removed from her body.

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      I read Half Life recently! The storytelling is really interesting, and a bit convoluted. The way Shelley Jackson constructs the twofer community, especially as a parallel/link to the queer community, is REALLY REALLY interesting. It’s one of the queerest works of fiction I’ve read, and incredibly inventive.

      And Holding Still For As Long As Possible and Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall are both total gems, beautiful all the way through.

      I’ve been reading Infinite Jest for something like three years. We have an on-and-off relationship.

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    wow, what a great fall for books! i’m also really excited about “girls to the front” by sara marcus. it’s a history of riot grrrl, written by someone who seems to actually have been there, coming out in october i think!

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