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Sam Anderson’s Want-to-Reads

What our critic is most eager for this fall.

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Holly Goddard Jones
Girl Trouble (Harper Perennial, Sept. 1)
In her debut collection, Jones roams deeply familiar short-story territory: small-town betrayal, violence, grief. Fortunately, she also seems to have mastered the genre’s best trick: a charismatic energy, down in the spaces between every word, that makes you feel like she’s the first to ever write about these things.

Nicholson Baker
The Anthologist (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 8)
Baker’s last book, Human Smoke, was a controversial revisionist history of WWII that stirred up all kinds of critical venom. This is the opposite: a light, funny, deeply literary hybrid that functions both as a novel (the story of a middle-aged poet’s struggle with writer’s block) and a lip-smacking Bakersian treatise on the joys of poetry.

Dave Eggers
The Wild Things (McSweeney’s, Oct. 1)
Eggers’s novelization of Maurice Sendak’s children’s classic seems, like those big-eyed monsters themselves, both irresistible and treacherous. Will it enrich, or corrupt, one of the great holy texts of childhood?

A. S. Byatt
The Children’s Book (Knopf, Oct. 6)
Speaking of grown-up books about vaguely sinister children’s literature: Byatt’s info-stuffed historical novel revolves around a fairy-tale writer entangled in secrecy. Early reviews in England say it’s her best since Possession.

Anne C. Heller
Ayn Rand and the World She Made (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, Oct. 27)
Almost 30 years after her death, Ayn Rand remains one of the most polarizing icons to tumble out of one of history’s most polarizing centuries. Heller’s biography promises what might well be a first: an impartial portrait—not of a revolutionary supergenius or a cultish fraud, but of a complex woman, born in Russia, who went on to create a dubiously powerful American mythology.

Vladimir Nabokov
The Original of Laura (Knopf, Nov. 17)
The legendarily meticulous Nabokov spent a couple of fertile decades filling index cards with careful paragraphs, which he then revised and shuffled into complete novels. When he died, he left one last batch: 138 cards, a partial draft. After some Pale Fire–worthy jockeying (a request that they be destroyed after his death, popular calls to publish them, 30 years in a Swiss vault), those cards will now be published. It’s a unique chance to see the perfectionist in imperfection.

Javier Marías Your Face Tomorrow. Volume 3: Poison, Shadow, and Farewell (New Directions, Nov. 30)
Every trilogy has an ideal moment of entry, and for the Spaniard Marías’s Your Face Tomorrow series, this is it: late enough to know the first two are worth reading, and just in time to catch the finale. Marías is often spoken of as a Nobel contender, and this massive, playful, intellectual spy series is regarded as his masterpiece.


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Fall Preview 2009

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