What I’m Reading This Fall

Here’s what I’m either already reading or looking forward to, square in the midst of fall.

Alexander Maksik, Shelter in Place

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Maksik’s third novel turns back toward what’s at least peripherally more personal ground. His debut, You Deserve Nothing, dealt with a situation not unlike one he’d experienced while teaching in France. His sophomore effort, A Marker to Measure Drift, looked further afield, following the hardships of a young female refugee in the Greek isles. Shelter in Place finds a young man in the Pacific Northwest, just getting his start in the world. Any plans he had are derailed by an unexpected act of violence. Knowing Maksik, there’s little chance this takes a sensational turn, and much greater likelihood we get a sophisticated character study.

Loren Eiseley, Collected Essays on Evolution, Nature, and the Cosmos

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Loren Eiseley’s published work only spans a little over two decades, from 1957’s The Immense Journey to 1979’s Darwin and The Mysterious Mister X. His work was often philosophical in nature, and he devoted considerable attention to the natural world and matters of cosmology. Loren Eiseley: Collected Essays on Evolution, Nature, and the Cosmos is a two-volume box set from Library of America, an acknowledgement of the sophistication and significance of Eiseley’s ideas at a time when we’re grappling with the seriousness of our environmental degradation.

Albert Murray, Collected Essays and Memoirs

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Maybe the most gratifying news of the season is Library of America’s decision to publish an omnibus edition of Albert Murray’s nonfiction under the title Collected Essays and Memoirs. Murray focused much of his attention as a memoirist and novelist on the blues, an ur-American form and one few writers can begin to address with Murray’s depth and profundity. Murray was a friend and confidant of the great Ralph Ellison, and this collection provides ample evidence why.

Nir Baram, Good People and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

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Baram’s novel is a moody, stylish thriller set on the eve of World War II in Berlin and Leningrad. It’s the first of Israeli writer Baram’s books to appear in English, though A Land Without Borders: My Journey Around East Jerusalem and the West Bank is due next April. Might just pair nicely with Amor Towles’s second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow. Towles gives us Count Alexander Rostov, who is sentenced to house arrest in a grand hotel across from the Kremlin in 1922. You may recall Towles as the author of the stylish Rules of Civility. And if the hotel setting of Towles’s novel gets you, look into Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel and Christina Stead’s The Little Hotel.

Mena Calthorpe, The Dyehouse and Living by Henry Green

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The Dyehouse is one of Calthorpe’s three books, the other two of which (The Defectors and Plain of Ala) are out of print. It’s set in postwar Australia, and that means the setting – a textile factory floor – is at a threshold moment, when technology threatens unprecedented change for the people who depend on manufacturing for a livelihood. Class and gender issues are at issue here, but that puts a stiff gloss on a radically human piece of work. Read it with Henry Green’s Living for a double dose (due March 2017 from NYRB Classics). Also worth noting: The Dyehouse is the 100th entry in the Text Classics series.

  • John McIntyre

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