New Release Roundup: Recommendations for March 2012
Every month I'll be toiling in the dank, dark mines of literary obscurity, scouring the catalogues of every major publisher to bring the LitReactor faithful a few choice titles hitting the shelves. The following is a brief look at what's worth checking out for March. Full disclosure: unless otherwise noted, none of the below books have been reviewed by myself or other LitReactor staff. These are just a few recommendations based on publisher's notes and my own opinions. Without further ado:
'A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length' by Roger Ebert
You've got to love Roger Ebert, warts and all. The man's name is practically synonymous with film criticism, and his commitment to the craft of writing makes for some of the most entertaining reviews on the planet. As we all know, reviews are much more fun to read when they're bad, and this collection, which takes its title from Ebert's review of the atrocious Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, promises not to disappoint in that regard. How can you fault anyone who has the balls to eviscerate Michael Bay by suggesting "If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination." You've got to respect such a commitment to curmudgeondom.
'Arcadia' by Lauren Groff
Arcadia is the story of a 1970s commune in Western New York state, founded on the grounds of a decaying mansion. The story follows the commune's inception, golden years, and decline, through the eyes of the odd souls who inhabit the place. Among them are a musician, a midwife, and Bit, the child of a carpenter and a historian/baker. As the commune's time seemingly comes to an end, Bit grows up and realizes he will soon be faced with the harsh realities of a world he's never known, and struggles to find his place in life outside his close-knit family.
'Gods of Gotham' by Lyndsay Faye
Who doesn't love a good turn-of-the-century Irish cop New York City period piece? Timothy Wilde is an immigrant bartender whose life is turned upside down when a fire leaves him unemployed, disfigured, and homeless. A friend gets him a job at the newly formed NYPD, and Timothy reluctantly begins to settle into his new life as a beat cop, roaming the rough and tumble world of Five Points, the world's most notorious slum. While walking the streets late one night, he comes across a frantic, wild-eyed little girl, drenched from head to toe in blood. She spins tales that Timothy has a hard time believing, about a slough of bodies buried in the forests north of 23rd street. Timothy's investigation draws him into a world far beyond his pay grade, and his quest for justice may end up costing him his own life.
'Dust to Dust' by Benjamin Busch
One of two interesting memoirs dropping this month, Dust to Dust is about the life of Marine-turned-actor Benjamin Busch, who some of you may remember from a small recurring role he had on HBO's The Wire. Busch, who is the son of novelist Frederick Busch, spent his childhood in rural New York before training around the world and then serving two tours in Iraq. Billed as more than "just a war memoir", Dust to Dust alternates between Busch's experiences in combat and his idyllic childhood, reflecting on lessons learned as a boy that came sharply into focus as an adult.
'Mudwoman' by Joyce Carol Oates
Celebrated novelist Joyce Carl Oates brings us the story of a woman whose attempt to crack the glass ceiling and overcome her own personal demons may prove to be her undoing. The protagonist has come a long way: an orphan rescued from the muddy banks of the river where she was abandoned as an infant, Meredith Neukirchen has gone on to lead an extraordinary life, becoming the first female President of a venerable university. However, as the pressures of her new job and personal life continue to pile up, Neukirchen takes a trip back home for a brief respite, and finds herself face to face with her own past, wrestling with her own identity as "mudgirl", the baby that nobody wanted. It's uncertain whether the strong and independent protagonist of Mudwoman will be able to take control of her own life or succumb to the ghosts of the life she left behind.
'The Sugar Frosted Nutsack' by Mark Leyner
What a title. This surreal modern myth tells the story of a group of gods who have taken up residence in the top floor of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world's tallest skyscraper. These supernatural beings are more reminiscent of those in the realm of Zeus and Hera: petty, jealous, and prone to all mortal weaknesses, including (and especially) sex, drugs, and other vices. The gods' current and unfortunate obsession is Ike Karton, an unemployed butcher living in New Jersey, who falls prey to their whims, lustful thoughts, and serves to prove many of their ill-conceived points. Told through the point of view of the whole drug-addled canon, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack promises to be nothing if not original and bizarre.
'Kasher in the Rye' by Moshe Kasher
Moshe Kasher is an up-and-coming comedian, and this memoir looks poised to prove the old wisdom true: comedians are dark, dark people. This is the tale of Kasher's upbringing in Oakland as a skinny white Jew who bounced from public school to public school, getting into every bit of trouble he could along the way and becoming addicted to almost anything you could drink or snort. Kasher in the Rye is the tale of a kid who was a drug user at 12, a mental patient by 15, and could have turned out to be just another statistic. However, advance information about the book says Kasher keeps a sense of humor throughout, and manages to keep his disturbing and twisted childhood as hilarious as one could ever hope to manage. It's all grist for the mill, after all.
Happy reading, everybody! As always, leave a few lines: do these sound interesting? Anything been overlooked? Picked up one of these titles and loved/hated it? Let us know!
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