If you need to take a break from reading hot takes about the election, there’s a surprising abundance of fiction coming out this fall—surprising because I’ve often found fiction slows to a trickle during election seasons, perhaps because publishers don’t want to compete with the news.
Years ago, a friend introduced me to Shirley Hazzard’s great novel The Transit of Venus, which came out in 1980, a decade after her previous book, saying she was always eager to read a novel that took 10 years to write because it was sure to show the time invested in it. For those who like their fiction long-simmered, Liveright will be publishing Watchmen author Alan Moore’s 1,280-page epic, Jerusalem, which he’s been working on since 2008. Our review calls it “magisterial” and says it “outdoes Danielewski, Vollmann, Stephenson, and other worldbuilders in vision and depth.”
Jonathan Safran Foer is publishing Here I Am, his first novel in 11 years. Michael Chabon, Ann Patchett, Maria Semple, and Zadie Smith are returning to the bookstores with their first novels in four or five years. Margaret Atwood may continue to frustrate readers (like me) who’ve been waiting since 2000, when she published The Blind Assassin, for a new contemporary novel, but we can console ourselves with Hag-Seed, a novelization of The Tempest that’s part of Hogarth’s Shakespeare series. Colson Whitehead said at Book Expo that it took him only a year or so to write The Underground Railroad but that he first had the idea 15 years ago and it’s been incubating ever since.
Of course, plenty of excellent novels only take a few years to write, and we can look forward to new ones by Ha Jin, Jonathan Lethem, and Nell Zink. And look out for debuts from Brit Bennett, Mauro Javier Cardenas, Jen George, Nathan Hill, Joe Ide, Derek Palacio, and others. Who knows how long they took to write. Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.