Lean pickings for November paperbacks, unsurprisingly as publishers are caught up in shiny new books for the Christmas market. There is one I’ve had my eye on for some time, though – Wioletta Greg’s Swallowing Mercury which I noticed popping up quite a lot on Twitter during #WITMonth back in August. It’s about Wiola who lives in a small village with her taxidermist father, seamstress mother and a black cat. Without having read it, I suspect the publisher’s slightly opaque blurb will be more useful than any summary I can come up with: ‘Wiola lives in a Poland that is both very recent and lost in time. Swallowing Mercury is about the ordinary passing of years filled with extraordinary days. In vivid prose filled with texture, colour and sound, it describes the adult world encroaching on the child’s. From childhood to adolescence, Wiola dances to the strange music of her own imagination.’ Sounds a little fey, I know, but engaging enough to warrant further investigation for me, and Greg’s a poet which augurs well for her writing.
I’m afraid I gave up Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire. It had a catnip New York ‘70s setting but its chunkster size defeated me. It’s possible I’ll have better luck with A Field Guide to the North American Family, Hallberg’s debut, published in the UK for the first time, which is a mere 144 pages long. It’s about two privileged families, neighbours who live on Long Island. ‘They lead charmed lives: good jobs in the city, weekends by the pool, cheerleading practice after school and backyard barbecues in the summer. But within these lives lie hundreds of little deceptions. Told through a mix of photographs and words, this is a dazzlingly inventive depiction of two families falling apart and coming together and the thousand different truths of the American Dream’ according to the blurb which does sound very appealing but then so did City on Fire…
I’ve not yet read Joy Williams’ short stories but I gather that they are very well thought of by those who know what they’re talking about. The Visiting Privilege weighs in at just over 500 pages and spans forty years of writing. ‘Bleak but funny, real but surreal, domestic but dangerous, familiar but enigmatic, Joy Williams’ stories fray away the fabric at the edge of ordinary experience to reveal the loneliness at the heart of human life’ say the publisher, raising my hopes for something like Lucia Berlin’s excellent A Manual for Cleaning Women. Great jacket, too.
That’s it for November paperbacks. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis and if you’d like to catch up with the month’s new titles they’re here.