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Front of Book: Sweet September

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It’s September: the time to follow your fourth grade teacher’s suggestion to fall into a good book. Things are not so elementary, however, in this month’s magazines’ reading suggestions.

At Vogue, Anna Wintour’s underlings are raving about the “astonishing first novel” of a bright young talent, Evie Wyld, titled After the Fire, a Small Still Voice. The story chronicles a disturbed family history, set in Australia in 1965 and today. Wyld’s gift for language and empathy for her characters makes this outback drama a good bet. Vogue also endorses Nick Hornby’s latest, Juliet, Naked. Sucker that I am for anything Hornby, this novel should be no less of a delight than, for instance, High Fidelity, whose themes of rock music and its obsessive fans are repeated in the new novel. The protagonist is a typical Hornby hero—boy in a man’s body—but the complex female character Annie asks the intriguing questions.

Over in Oprah’s ever-increasing territory is a myriad of reading suggestions. The most intriguing include Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist, a novel about a hapless poet who just can’t find the words. The book is interspersed with wry lessons on poetry, while making insights on the paradoxes of the artistic career. Things continue on the artsy vein with Dancing in the Dark, by Morris Dickinson. While I’m biased towards anything with “dancing” in the title, the subject of this cultural history is actually the Great Depression and the art that got America through it. From the highbrow to the entertainment of the masses, the book gives an intriguing look at an era that may not be so distant. On a graver note is Strength in what Remains by Tracy Kidder, a “ young genocide survivors tale of escape, healing—and hope. The book follows Deogratias, who fled Burundi for New York in 1994, from sleeping in Central Park to attending medical school, without ever turning away from the place of his birth, despite the dark stain of genocide.

This month O takes us through the bookshelf of Jennifer Garner, who says she grew up reading and believes strongly in the importance of education, which got her mother out of poverty. Books that made particular difference to Garner include Crimes of the Heart, the first play she related to, and Possession, by A.S. Byatt, which she read while struggling to find employment as an actor. A history buff, Garner also loves John Adams, as well as the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, which she reads like a novel. If Jennifer Garner does it, it must be OK.

Elle recommends Joyce Carol Oates’ newest, Little Bird of Heaven. “Vintage Oates”, the novel is fraught with violence, ambition, sex-crazed teens, and family troubles. I’m especially intrigued by the first English translation of the trilogy Love, Anger, Madness by Marie Vieux-Chaquet. Suppressed in 1968 for exposing Haiti’s sexual, racial, and social tensions, the book evokes the terrors of life under regime in an intensely emotional way. Elle and O both recommend Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow, a work of fiction about legendary characters: the Collyer brothers, two New York hermits found dead in their apartment in 1947. Doctorow imagines the minds and lives of these two eccentrics from folklore, to compelling results.

This month’s women’s mags agree on one thing: Foodie Frank Bruni’s memoir Born Round is a must-read. Just what you need to store up for the winter.

–Allison Geller

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Written by whitney teal

October 2, 2009 at 3:39 am

Posted in Front of Book

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