Whether it’s the little cold in the early air, the sight of yellow buses snaking down the streets, or the return of warm spiced beverages in enormous mugs – autumn has here, no matter how you slice it (it being a newly harvested apple).
Do not be concerned about the shorter days; instead, enjoy those extra evening hours curled up with good books by a gentle light or a crackling fire.
Grab a blanket and a seat. All novels are organized by their release date in the United States.
Fiona and Jane: Jean Chen Ho
The author follows the namesake girls’ childhood friendship into adulthood through everything from love betrayal to mourning to dropping out of law school in Jean Chen Ho’s short novels Fiona and Jane.
The couple reinforces each other’s flaws — oversharing and navel-gazing — by feeding off each other’s mental supply: In alternate perspective switches that are like jump scares in their rapid transition, an interchangeable sister-mother-friend-annelid relationship suitable for transference is established. As a consequence, the collection is a convincingly nonlinear debut that sluices across its characters’ interiority without lessening the intensity and wonderfully mysterious closeness of female friendship.
Pure Colour: Sheila Heti
How Should a Person Be? and Motherhood, Sheila Heti’s most recent books, used self-doubt as a formal project: what shape might a writer give her own indecision? She then emerged with a book full of statements, much as some new parents discover purpose and clarity.
In Pure colour, God is ready to delete the initial draught of existence and replace it with something better — a more humanitarian, egalitarian, and possibly less vain state of being.
Meanwhile, Heti describes the life of Mira, an aesthete, critic, and vendor of beautiful lamps, as she mourns her father, whose body she has taken up residence within a leaf.
Even her most cutesy situations become moving because of Heti’s clear writing style. “The red and green stones threw its light across her black face and the white walls,” Mira writes about her employment in the lamp business. And she adored her little existence, which was completely her own.”
Vladimir: Julia May Jonas
Yes, Julia May Jonas’ debut novel is an intimate depiction of a failing marriage, but it’s also a look at the rebuilding of a life painstakingly created whose foundation begins to crack, then fall.
A middle-aged literature professor must decide whether to support her husband, who is also a middle-aged professor at the same liberal arts institution and is being investigated by the school for sexual misbehavior with past students. Enter the titular Vladimir, a talented young writer who is also the newest tenured professor.
She’s suddenly filled with desire — the type that motivates her to write a novel, masturbate, and ignore her increasingly demanding spouse. It’s self-conscious in the nicest manner possible, keen and observant without being preachy, which is becoming increasingly rare.
Then the War: Carl Phillips
Carl Phillips’s latest poetry collection, Then the War, continues his investigation of the power dynamics of love.
Clearing, garden, backyard, forest, path: Nature’s transitive spaces serve as both shelter and battlefield, where Phillips can cultivate his feelings of shame, yearning, and queer desire into the fruit of self-expression & where destruction of the ego and the other fertilizes the ground for new forms of the interior life.
Through succinct lyricism — in “Blue-Winged Warbler,” he locates “a nest of swords” somewhere “deep in the interstices / where dream and waking dream and what, between the two, I’ve called a life” — this product is as likely to be imbued with the bitter weight of regret as it is to have sweet evanescence, mirroring back to us ideals, desires, and other possible selves, lost to us or left
Run and Hide: Pankaj Mishra
Asian immigration narratives in American fiction typically follow a formula: A person arrives in the West free of caste tensions, and their links to money, status, and ambition in their home country are obliterated by their recent arrival. Pankaj Mishra’s second novel, Run and Hide, reorients this escape narrative to convey a stickier story. His protagonist, Arun, is an impoverished young Indian guy whose life is entangled with two ambitious university classmates and, finally, a wealthier younger girlfriend — the type of ex-pat for whom boundaries have no transforming force.
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Mishra is a public intellectual and frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, as well as a rare and exceptional fiction writer: in this novel, he weaves a headlong story with commentary on what you lose when you attempt to make it big — and what you get when you don’t.
Love Marriage: by Monica Ali
When we meet Yasmin, a 20-something woman, her life looks to be on the verge of being perfect. She’s a doctor who’s marrying an older, even more, a handsome doctor who worships the earth she walks on.
We soon meet her parents, Shaukat and Anisah, who are Indian immigrants who have achieved their piece of the British dream. When Yasmin introduces her family to his, their class (and race — he and his family are white) differences are abundantly clear, and Yasmin, who spends much of the book misunderstanding or being ashamed of her mother, is surprised to discover that her husband’s accomplished feminist artist mother is completely taken with her son’s future mother-in-law.
The novel is always questioning perfection, wondering if everything is as it appears. The answer is frequently no, but that doesn’t matter since there’s something far more intriguing waiting in its place.