Sunday, May 6- Less

Good morning!

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Here is my book: Less by Andrew Sean Greer (the winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)

Here is my breakfast: coffee and a baguette from Eric Kayser

I’ve been on a great book binge recently, and Less is no exception. I’m embarrassed to say I’d hardly registered the novel before its surprise Pulitzer win last month. It had great quotes, great reviews, but it hadn’t appeared on a lot of awards lists (probably in part because of an annoying bias against comic novels). In any case, it has been an absolute delight so far. I’ve already noted several lines for my quote book, including two below:

“There were the politicians sizing him up as for a suit fitting. There were the actors trying him on the red carpet. There were the photographers getting him in the right lighting. They might have done, many of them. So many will do. But once you’ve actually been in love, you can’t live with “will do”; it’s worse than living with yourself.”

and

“New York is a city of eight million people, approximately seven million of whom will be furious when they hear you were in town and didn’t meet them for an expensive dinner, five million furious you didn’t visit their new baby, three million furious you didn’t see their new show, one million furious you didn’t call for sex, but only five actually available to meet you.”

I’ve had a pretty stellar month in reading. Among the highlights: Rules of Civility (the book I’ve been joking I was born to read), The Rules Do Not Apply (a pattern emerges!), I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and now Less. I was disappointed by Behind Her Eyes, mostly because I found it such a slog to get to the twist ending, a twist that made me want to hurl the book across the room.

Most of my weeknights and weekend have been taken up with editing and submissions, which I need to get back to, no matter how much I’d like to continue with my recreational book today.

Happy Reading!

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

I’ve been in something of a reading slump this fall, and I was counting on my winter vacation to pull me out of it. The last novel I read I had loved–until I got to the last five pages, when a late (unnecessary) plot twist had me ranting for days. But that’s a different book.

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The Immortalists at The Magic Castle

The Immortalists had been sitting on my shelf since BEA way back in June, and by the time I reached the end, I wondered why I waited so long. (But a note of warning: reading on an airplane while trying not to cry is perhaps not the best place.)

The setup requires you to suspend disbelief for a while, but it’s simple enough. Four siblings, ranging from ages 7 to 13, visit a fortune teller and learn the day that each will die. From there the story spins off into four parts, following each of the Gold siblings as their lives diverge and intersect in places you might not have expected. The narrative runs chronologically from 1978 to the present day, but so much of it feels timeless. But the big questions always have a way of feeling present, don’t they? This is a novel about how we live our lives in the face of inevitable loss; about how we tether ourselves to our families; and how we grapple with knowledge we’d rather just forget.

I was most drawn in by Simon and Klara, the two youngest siblings, who narrate the first half of the novel. Creative, unconventional free spirits, I thought they made for the most intriguing characters. Once I finished, though, I wondered if I might identify more with Daniel or Varya if I read this at a different point in my life. That’s some of the magic of this novel.

And speaking of magic–as a longtime lover of magic, having spent many evenings at The Magic Castle–I’m a sucker for a novel about magicians. Klara begins as a close up and parlor magician, but makes her name as a mentalist, specializing in a trick called Second Sight (which I’ve seen done at The Magic Castle), which she and her partner perform by using synchronized counting. Her narrative offers some of my favorite passages in the book, including this one:

“Most adults claim not to believe in magic, but Klara knows better. Why else would anyone play at permanence–fall in love, have children, buy a house–the the face of all evidence there’s no such thing? The trick is not to convert them. The trick is to get them to admit it.”

But the magic in this book, like so many books I love, is in the telling. It’s perfect for those who love a family saga, nuanced characters, and an elegant structure. It’s the “what if” that matters here–what if the psychic was right?

 

An (Overdue) BookExpo TBR

BookExpo happened two months ago, but it’s still fresh in my mind thanks to my recent reading choices. For those who don’t follow New York publishing as closely as some people track, say, baseball stats or college football rankings, BookExpo has become the industry’s de facto trade show. It highlights fall books, the publication season for many publishing heavyweights–particularly in literary fiction–and buzzworthy debuts.

BookExpo (and I struggle here not to use its old abbreviation, BEA) has become something of a phenomenon, particularly since the addition of BookCon, a consumer-facing weekend for fans. Bloggers, media professionals, and publishing professionals now compete alongside librarians, booksellers, and distributors for advance editions of coveted fall titles. It’s become, well, something of a circus.

Last year, BookExpo occurred in Chicago, and I missed the opportunity to go. But I made it to Javits the previous two years to attend for a few limited hours. This year I had my own badge, and so I decided to take advantage of it.

BookExpo is best experienced with a plan. If your goal is to accumulate books, you need to find out when signings and giveaways will occur, some of which can be found online in the days leading up to the show (I had located some dates/times for giveaways from sources like Publishers Weekly, then found a helpful Google doc a couple days before the show). I mapped out a game plan the night before the show started. I printed out a list of giveaways and signings, highlighted the ones I was interested in, found dates and times, and arranged them all in a color-coded Google doc. Since many happened at the same times, I bolded my priority titles.

This year, I decided, I would only get books I really wanted to read. It didn’t exactly work out that way, but I managed to snag copies of almost every ARC I set out to get.

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A peek at some of my ARCs on Instagram @breakfastatkaits

Here’s what I’m looking forward to reading (asterisks denote that I’ve already read):

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng*

I loved Everything I Never Told You, so I had high hopes for this one. It did not disappoint. Celeste Ng is a master of complicated mother/daughter dynamics. (Side note: my signed copy was swiped from our editor-in-chiefs desk, and I am devastated.)

Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss*

If anyone else has read this yet, I’m eager to discuss!

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan*

Fine, I didn’t actually acquire this one at BookExpo, but I’m obsessed. I don’t think anyone else can construct a narrative like Jennifer Egan, and my investment in some of these characters caught me off guard. I admire the risks she takes with every book–especially her fearlessness in taking on something new, like historical fiction.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan*

This has all the hallmarks of his debut novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: quirky characters, futuristic technology, cult-like groups of those with narrow interest. Set again in the tech scene of San Francisco, Sourdough was a delightful read that had me constantly Googling the latest in food tech. Also, it’s inspired me to find a San Francisco-worthy sourdough loaf in New York.

The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton*

I just finished this today, so still processing my thoughts about it, but this is a perfect read for people who loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Code Girls by Liza Mundy

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

Buzz Books:

The Buzz Panel, which usually occurs Wednesday afternoon for adult fiction, has become something of a tastemaker. Every year, six books–usually a mix of fiction and non-fiction, although all fiction this year–are selected as buzzworthy titles. They are presented by their editors. The only requirement is that the author not be well-known, which means that many are debuts. They often include some of the year’s biggest breakouts (Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven or Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, for instance). At the end of the Buzz Panel presentation, attendees can grab advance copies (if you can fight your way through the sea of people). I managed to get all six books this year.

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Buzz Panel books on Instagram @breakfastatkaits

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Matthews

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

If you want to read/are reading/have read any of these, please let me know!