A Get Lit with Lynn update for the week of March 1st
If you signed up for the “Get Lit with Lynn” virtual event (which you can do by emailing me here), this is the letter you would have received today, 3/2/21.
I miss you already! Instead of being with you this Tuesday evening, I’ll be at Barnes & Noble counting books. But I’m already thinking about when we can meet again and I’m cooking up new programs for us!
In the meantime, I thought I’d send you an update, because a number of major authors have new books coming out today. Here are a few of the ones that interest me the most (some of which I did mention last week).
Anne Lamott’s new book comes out today. Called DUSK NIGHT DAWN: ON REVIVAL AND COURAGE, in it she asks: How can we recapture the confidence we once had as we stumble through the dark times that seem increasingly bleak? Lamott is a writer who really knows how to say what she’s thinking and to analyze what she is experiencing, and she can be bold, bawdy, and irreverent, all the while being extremely faith-based. Her book about writing, BIRD BY BIRD, is certainly one of the top ten writing books ever. In my canon, it’s in the top five, and maybe even number one.
Here is a piece about her new book that I think really gets at the essence of Anne Lamott.
Kazuo Ishiguro has a new novel out today, KLARA AND THE SUN. Ishiguro is a fantastically talented writer with a wide range. While some writers stick to one setting and one style, Ishiguro is all over the place, and wherever he goes with his writing, he does it well. You might know him best for one of his most famous books, THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, which took place in mid-20th century England and was about a butler reminiscing about his years of service (played by Anthony Hopkins in a wonderful film). Other work of his is more futuristic, and one book, THE BURIED GIANT, is an allegory that takes place in post-Arthurian England. This new book is more along the lines of directions he explored in NEVER LET ME GO, and I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s hard to imagine this book will disappoint.
Today includes a big publishing event: Michelle Obama’s hugely successful memoir BECOMING is finally coming out in paperback as well as in a young readers’ edition. Publishers release most books in paperback about one year after their original hardcover publication, however, with some popular books, they wait longer if the book is selling well in hardcover. Some books that got this treatment include A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, and WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING. There are other categories in which this happens as well. For example, the highly regarded business book GOOD TO GREAT by Jim Collins was published in 2001 and has never been released in paperback. But at long last we will have BECOMING in paperback as of today.
We had several customers in the store yesterday asking for books by Colson Whitehead. This is because he was featured on “60 Minutes” Sunday night. I wanted to ask them: what, you are just finally reading his books? But luckily no one asked me for help and our other booksellers showed them where to find such important books as THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD and THE NICKEL BOYS, both Pulitzer Prize winners.
You will find the 60 Minutes interview here.
The New York Times ruminated more this week on what the consequences might be of a Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster merger. You can read that here.
And since WHO IS MAUD DIXON? Is officially released today, I’ll be interested to see what kind of reception it gets and what sort of reviews. Last night, in a meeting with my writers group, we discussed what we think makes for good fiction, and one thing we all agreed was that it has a surprising quality, what the literary critic Harold Bloom called unsettling. A great book takes you somewhere you didn’t know you were going in ways you didn’t know you could travel (i.e. the literary style). That is what I seek in fiction, and that is why, even though I might give a book like MAUD DIXON a quick read for the story, in the end, it didn’t go anywhere I didn’t know it was going (and where its publisher had already telegraphed it was going to go) so, for me, that’s not an exciting read.
As for me, I have been reading READING LIKE A WRITER by Francine Prose. It’s a slow read because it’s dense with examples and intelligent literary analysis, but if you are a writer who wants to understand how good writing is crafted, or a reader who wants the same, I highly recommend this, along with the new book by George Saunders (author of LINCOLN IN THE BARDO), A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN.
Next I’m on to HAMNET by Maggie O’Farrell, a much lauded novel from 2020 that tells the story of Shakespeare’s family and the loss of his son to the plague. I’ll be teaching that next week in my popular Hot off the Press book discussion class (you can read about the class here)
Ok, off to inventory. Best wishes to you all and happy reading!