new books

On the Water With a Surfing Memoir and History of the North Sea

Lee Polevoi

Water is the element through which two new books flow, though everything else about them is different. In his surfing memoir Barbarian Days, William Finnegan chronicles a life of more than half a century spent in pursuit of waves in Hawaii, California, Australia, Fiji and elsewhere. A staff writer for The New Yorker, Finnegan has supplemented his reporting from global hot spots—apartheid-era South Africa, Central America, and Sudan—with whatever opportunities he could find for surfing in (oftentimes) uncharted waters. 

Author Laura Pedersen Tackles the Highs and Lows of Life in New York

Gabriella Tutino

A native upstate New Yorker from Buffalo who arrived in 1984 and has chronicled her time and observations of NYC in her latest memoir, Life in New York: How I Learned to Love Squeegee Men, Token Suckers, Trash Twisters and Subway Sharks. Pedersen has already established herself as a successful writer, so this memoir doesn’t follow the upward mobility storyline of “country-girl-to-big-city-slicker.” Rather, Pedersen writes about the ever-changing history and culture of NYC--spanning the 1600s to the 18th century to the present

Comedy, Tragedy Collide in Thomas McGuane’s ‘Crow Fair’

Lee Polevoi

Flash forward some 40-odd years, and McGuane’s writing has grown leaner and more mature, while maintaining a characteristically deft balance between over-the-top comedy and heartbreaking tragedy. In Crow Fair, a new collection of short stories set mostly in Montana’s Big Sky country, he depicts better than most what one character thinks of as “the blizzard of things that could never be explained and that pointlessly exhausted all human inquiry.”

T.C. Boyle Focuses on Cycles of Rage in ‘The Harder They Come’

Lee Polevoi

In the opening pages of Boyle’s new novel, The Harder They Come, a 70-year-old Vietnam vet named Sten Stensen and his wife are part of a tour group robbed at gunpoint while on vacation in Costa Rica. At some point during the ordeal, his long-ago military training kicks in and Stensen subdues one of the robbers, killing him in the process. On the bus ride back to the Red Cross Clinic, he experiences the adrenalin-charged aftermath of the incident.

Ian McEwan’s Lackluster ‘The Children Act’ Focuses on Intense Legal Complexities

Lee Polevoi

For all the potential drama presaged in the opening pages, The Children Act stubbornly refuses for the longest time to engage the reader. McEwan demonstrates his ample knowledge of the British legal system, no surprise since he’s done such a similarly impressive job with cardiovascular medicine, environmental science, World War II, etc. But laying the groundwork to establish such credibility takes up many of the early pages, undercutting the dramatic premise and robbing the novel of forward motion.

Sandip Roy’s Debut Novel Delves into Inner Turmoils of South Asian Family

Regina Bediako

In this unassuming way, through the lens of life-altering events that, as in the real world, just seem to happen, Sandip Roy’s debut novel Don’t Let Him Know gradually explores the arc of one South Asian family’s experience through a collection of sparkling vignettes. There’s Avinash, the man in that dusty Calcutta room who got married instead of getting away; Romola, his wife, who knows about Avinash’s ill-fated romance and hides one of her own; and Amit, their son, in the dark about his parents’ secrets and struggling to find his place between India, where he was born, and America, where he has chosen to build his life. 

Frank Bascombe Returns in Richard Ford’s ‘Let Me Be Frank With You’

Lee Polevoi

Frank Bascombe, the former novelist turned sportswriter turned real estate agent, stages a comeback of sorts in Let Me Be Frank with You, Richard Ford’s newest entry to the Bascombe saga. These linked novellas form a long-awaited coda to three novels describing in detail (and detail is the word for it) the life and times of Ford’s keenly perceptive narrator of our life and times. 

A Tale of Death and Texting in Matt Richtel’s ‘A Deadly Wandering’

Lee Polevoi

A Deadly Wandering tells the story of Reggie Shaw, a Utah college student whose Chevy Tahoe veered into another lane one night in 2006 and clipped a car carrying two rocket scientists, which then collided head-on with a truck, killing the two men. Shaw was texting a friend at the time of the accident. Richtel casts a wide net in the telling of this story, including a cast of characters that ranges from the scientists’ widows and children to lawmakers, prosecutors, neuroscientists and one tireless victim’s advocate. 

Victim and Accuser Clash in David Bezmozgis’ ‘The Betrayers’

Lee Polevoi

The setup of David Bezmozgis’ second novel is refreshingly simple. Baruch Kotler, a prominent Israeli politician (and former political prisoner in the USSR) has fled Tel Aviv in disgrace with his much younger mistress, Leora. They come to Yalta, a resort town in the Crimea, where, after a mix-up over hotel reservations, they rent a room in an apartment owned by a Russian woman, Svetlana. As we quickly discover, Svetlana’s aged husband, Chaim Tankilevich, is the man who long ago denounced Kotler to the KGB, which led to Kotler’s 13 years of exile and imprisonment.    

Joshua Ferris Examines the Life of a Cyberstalking Victim in New Book

Lee Polevoi

The plot, such as it is, kicks in when Paul discovers that someone, perhaps a former patient, has begun to impersonate him online. First, a new company website appears (not of Paul’s doing), with more or less accurate staff bios for everyone but him (which instead of facts about his life promulgates strange notions about religion). Then there’s a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a Wikipedia entry—every upsetting development reported to Paul by Connie or Mrs. Convoy while he’s hard at work deep inside the mouths of his patients.

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