Fall Preview: Books

The Mineral Palace
Heidi Julavits is this year’s hype winner. But the first novel, with a reported half-million-dollar advance, will surprise everyone concerned by not being about sex, drugs, or mental instability. It’s a Depression-era tale of a dusty Colorado town’s secrets. A bored new mother is shocked to discover her own family harbors more than its share. (Putnam; September)

Martin Bauman; or, A Sure Thing
“Get on with it!” is the irascible literary lion Stanley Flint’s first principle. Flint’s creator, David Leavitt, follows his own advice, returning from years in the libel-litigation wilderness with a roman à clef about writing workshops, the “gay eighties,” and the New York literary brat pack. (Houghton Mifflin; September)

The Blind Assassin
Margaret Atwood always gives women what they want. Historical drama? No problem. Feminist manifesto disguised as gripping science fiction? Fine. Twisted tale of a husband-stealer getting her just desserts? Gotcha covered. Now she ladles up a story of sisterly duty, literary ambition, and a clandestine affair with a union organizer. (Doubleday; September)

When We Were Orphans
After the brilliant but unfinishable The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro returns to the emotional environment of The Remains of the Day. This repressed narrator is Christopher Banks, a Shanghai-bred Englishman whose parents disappear. Ishiguro’s re-creation of Banks’s mental landscape of evasions, half-truths, inventions is pitch-perfect. (Knopf; September)

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
Comic artist Chris Ware revels in archaic graphic motifs, cut-and-fold toys, cinematic flashbacks, and glorious color to distract and entice readers. You may recognize a certain other round-headed kid in the lonely Jimmy – spurned by a little red-haired girl – whose life is a series of petty humiliations. (Pantheon; September)

This Slim-Fast novella is not smarmy, smug, or previously published in The New Yorker. It’s not even funny. But it is written by Steve Martin. It’s a modest, sensitive book about love and sex from the female perspective, an L.A. fairy tale about a sweet, sad artiste trapped behind the anachronistic glove counter. (Hyperion; October)

The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams
Nasdijj comes from a Native American world in which tales are told a thousand times but never written. Half-white, half-Indian, Nasdijj writes his stories down, though in a prose style that could almost be chanted. There’s the heart-rending story of Tommy Nothing Fancy whose fetal alcohol syndrome is only soothed by fishing trips; and then there’s Nasdijj himself, living in a tent so he can write, alienated in a $10 campground. (Houghton Mifflin; October)

The Dark Valley
If you’re wondering how the good times will end, Piers Brendon will remind you what happened the last time the economy roared for this long. His massive, donnish history of the Great Depression around the world is great for history geeks. (Knopf; October)

For Jane Hamilton e-mail is a fact of life that just happens to be a perfect vehicle for adultery. Henry Shaw, a high-school senior, gives his mother an online identity and then watches as she uses it to embark on an affair. Hamilton is excellent on personality quirks – Henry’s younger sister, Elvira, is a pint-size, cross-dressing Civil War re-enactor. (Doubleday; October)

Mary Karr’s long-awaited sequel to The Liars’ Club reminds you that we have Karr to thank for the entire memoir frenzy; but it’s worth remembering that hers was not only the first, it was the best. She may have spent her best material on the earlier book, but it’s the memoir after this one that we’re looking forward to reading. (Viking; October)

Little Lit: Folklore & Fairy Tale Funnies
Chris Ware’s board game Fairy Tale Roadrage, where you “trace a literary path to your own moral conclusion,” appears in Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly’s all-star production featuring that select fraternity of writers of comic books that aren’t funny and aren’t for kids. (HarperCollins; October)

Greek Fire: The Story of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis
Author of the too-gripping-to-be-real Eleni, Nicholas Gage has written a dual biography of the two most famous Greeks of the twentieth century. Packed with revelations, it’s the must-read for opera lovers, devotees of the jet set, and anyone who likes a good screaming fight. (Knopf; October)

One Market Under God
Thomas Frank, who has made a career attempting to debunk the authenticity of pop music and other enthusiasms of the masses, invents the phrase market populism to describe how there just can’t be any dissent against the operation of capitalism anymore. It’s a good antidote to reading Fast Company, but not as thick as its September issue. (Doubleday; October)

O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life
Latest in a series of literary exhumations is the longer, snarkier version of Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe’s classic novel. This edition restores more than 60,000 words that his editor cut. Will this settle the debate over who deserves credit for Angel’s success, Wolfe or Perkins? (University of South Carolina Press; October)

Hooking Up
A collection of Tom Wolfe’s previously published essays would not, ordinarily, be cause for much hoopla. But here is the first and best evisceration of The New Yorker’s pretensions, “Tiny Mummies! The True Story of the Ruler of 43rd Street’s Land of the Walking Dead!” Wolfe also offers up “My Three Stooges,” a retort to the criticism of his last novel, A Man in Full, by Norman Mailer, John Irving, and John Updike. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; October)

If you’ve been impressed by the past decade of prosperity, you’ll want to peek into Bob Woodward’s account of the economic miracle. (Simon & Schuster; November)

Fall Preview: Books