As I mentioned last month in our Fall Preview issue, this is going to be a season of big books by famous authors: Margaret Atwood, Geraldine Brooks, Jonathan Franzen, John Irving, David Mitchell, Salman Rushdie, and Jane Smiley, among others, will have new books on the shelves. But there are also gems among the less-famous; here are excerpts from reviews of some of our favorite under-the-radar books:
Barbara Comyns, Our Spoons Came From Woolworths (New York Review Books, Oct. 27): “A Depression-era artist struggles with crippling poverty and sexism in bohemian London; the result is a surprisingly charming and funny novel (first published in 1950).”
Josep Maria de Sagarra, Private Life (Archipelago, Sept. 15): “First published in 1932 and newly translated into English, this is a satirical, multigenerational saga about the intricate relationship between Barcelona’s fading aristocracy and the city’s sordid demimonde.”
Rebecca Hunt, Everland (Europa Editions, Sept. 29): “Pushed to their physical and psychological limits, the three members of a grueling expedition to an Antarctic island, following in the footsteps of a similar but failed venture a century earlier, experience disturbing echoes of the mysterious, fated past.”
Eka Kurniawan, Beauty Is a Wound (New Directions, Sept. 8): “English-language debut of a celebrated Indonesian author. ‘One afternoon on a weekend in May, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for 21 years.’ With this surprising sentence, Kurniawan sets the stage for an epic picaresque that’s equal parts Canterbury Tales and Mahabharata.…Huge ambition, abundantly realized.”
Marian Thurm, Today Is Not Your Day (SixOneSeven Books, Oct. 1): “Eleven wry, elegant stories, à la Lorrie Moore and Amy Bloom, address the sometimes-brutal stupidities of modern life.…Thurm hits the funny/sad spot every time, whether the subject is bereavement, divorce, betrayal, or some other form of abandonment.”Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.