It’s a quiet time of year here for us at the bookstore, but that means a lot of quiet, intimate time with the publisher catalogues. A dangerous time of year, as you can imagine. I am additionally imperiled by the fact that I will be on maternity leave by mid-July this year, and so I’m feeling a need to pre-order all kinds of things before I’m “out of the loop” for a year, as it were.
What kinds of things? Well.
Titus Awakes by Mervyn Peake & Maeve Gilmore
I’m skeptical about works published post-humously, generally. Especially things possibly never intended for publication based on “manuscripts” or worse still “fragments” found years later by family members.
The circumstances surrounding this books “discovery” are also a bit suspect. Peake’s widow, Maeve Gilmore, wrote or finished a manuscript based on Peake’s notes in the 1970s, but the manuscript was “lost”. In 2010 the manuscript was “found” in a family attic – just in time for Peake’s centenary! Convenient, no?
Even still, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy (now, apparently, a tetrology) is one of my most beloved works of literature, and I can’t resist more.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
How can anyone not be excited about a new Murakami novel? Goodness knows the Japanese lost their minds over it, apparently buying up almost 450,000 copies of the first volume (it was published in three parts in Japanese) before it was even published.
I adored Kafka on the Shore and Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I tend to use the term “postmodern” disdainfully, but I’m a complete hypocrite – in reality many of my favourite modern novels are way out on the wacky fringe of postmodern surrealism – Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Murakami, Rushdie, Marquez. That 1Q84 is being described as Murakami’s “magnum opus”, and “a mandatory read for anyone trying to get to grips with contemporary Japanese culture” just adds to the appeal. 1000 pages plus of a “complex and surreal” narrative? Sign me up!
Il Cimitero di Praga by Umberto Eco
Okay, this one’s a bit cheaty because what I’m really looking forward to is the eventual (and inevitable) English translation, The Cemetery of Prague, which hasn’t been published yet.
The story of the genesis and history of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a great one for book history lovers. In Umberto Eco’s hands, it’s a tale of intrigue and conspiracy. The book has come under some criticism for blurring some lines between genuine antisemitism and fictional antisemitism, but I don’t personally believe for one second that Eco is genuinely antisemitic. He has said: “I’m interested in recounting how through the accumulation of these stereotypes the ‘Protocols’ were constructed. [..] My intention was to give the reader a punch in the stomach.” and I believe him.
That the plot of Alexandre Dumas’s Joseph Balsamo also plays a large part in the plot of this novel is also a HUGE draw. Surprise!
How imminent is an English translation? No idea! But I refuse to miss it just because I’m sitting at home with my kids.
Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change by L. Hunter Lovins & Boyd Cohen
I’ve mentioned I’m an environmentalism nerd, right? One of Hunter Lovins’s previous books, Natural Capitalism, pretty near changed my life. And true story: it was for some time my life’s ambition to work in carbon trading. You know, where companies can buy and sell carbon credits under a cap-and-trade system. Okay, maybe a little obscure for the book crowd.
In any case, the environment might not be the biggest hot political topic of the minute anymore, but I assure you the problems didn’t fix themselves when we lost interest again. This year has actually been a wonderful year for good, readable books on the current and future movements in environmentalism – Tim Flannery’s (most famous for The Weather Makers, but who is also responsible for a fabulous illustrated bestiary of extinct animals called A Gap in Nature) new book Here On Earth also just hit shelves, and Ray Anderson’s Confessions of a Radical Industrialist is at the very top of my must-read pile. I’m happy to report that the serious discussion about climate change has moved beyond fear mongering vs deniers, and is in the happier territory of Okay But What Can We Do, Realistically. I love this territory. I’m a big one for plans of attack.
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
Beaton’s previous collection, self-published and distributed by Topatoco, was more of a sampler; something thrown together to sell at conventions and get the word out. It was silly successful – Beaton won the Doug Wright Award for Best Emerging Talent and has subsequently been published in the Walrus, the New Yorker, The National Post and, I’m sure, more.
No surprise, she’s been picked up by Montreal graphic novel game-changers Drawn & Quarterly. Drawn & Quarterly produce the most beautiful books, and though I expect their Hark! A Vagrant collection will retread a lot of the same material as appeared in Never Learn Anything from History, it’s bound to be better put together in every possible way. If their previous publications are anything to go by, there might even be a limited edition signed/numbered w/ insert edition. Exciting!
I have my little fingers crossed that they might even have some copies ready by TCAF this May – but just in case, my order is in.
Anyone else want to share? Any upcoming releases have you super excited?