Paperbacks to Look Out for in January 2022: Part Two

Cover image for Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler The second batch of January paperbacks starts with two novels that take swipes at social media, both of which I’ve read. Set in 2016 with Trump freshly elected, Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts follows an unnamed narrator, shocked to find her apparently liberal boyfriend is running a popular conspiracy theory website, taking herself off to Berlin where she drifts among ex-pats, failing to make friends, refusing to learn German and ceaselessly scrolling. Then an astonishing revelation jolts her out of her aimlessness. Oyler’s dense narrative style and its presentation made this one quite hard going but its snarkiness made me persevere. Cover image for No One is Talking About GThis by Patricia Lockwood

I much preferred Patricia Lockwood’s Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlisted No One is Talking About This. When our unnamed protagonist posts the question ‘Can a dog be twins?’ it goes viral. She finds herself travelling the world, invited to speak on platforms alongside other internet celebrities, opining on all sorts of things, her views gleaned from her constant scrolling until a small tragedy opens her to love, empathy and the messy emotions of reality lived in the world rather than via a screen. Lockwood’s novel is a fragmented clickbait narrative, both very funny and alarmingly familiar. Very much a novel for our times: sharp, savvy and, ultimately, sobering.

Cover image for Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour Mateo Askaripour’s Black Buck sounds like a smart piece of light relief with a serious edge. Stuck in a dead-end job, Darren is invited to join a tech startup as part of its sales team thanks to a chance meeting. Finding he’s the only Black employee, Darren invents a new persona becoming one of the company’s top salesmen, partying likes there’s no tomorrow until tragedy sobers him up. ‘An earnest work of satire, Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of office culture; a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream’ say the publishers. Not sure how I feel about the idea of an ‘earnest’ satire but the rest of it sounds promising.

It was the clever wordplay of its title that made me want to read Salena Godden’s Mrs Death Misses Death. This sharp, Cover image for Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden funny novel is all about the subject we Westerners do our best to sanitise with all sorts of euphemisms. Mrs Death is a tired Black cleaner, eager to unburden herself, who follows a young, blocked writer home and finds him only to ready to listen. As he records her many stories, Wolf recalls the loss of his mother in horrific circumstances and his own miraculous escape. Then Mrs Death disappears leaving him with his loneliness. Godden’s writing is both playful and sobering, witty and smart. It made me laugh out loud and brought me up short.

Cover image for The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr Robert Jones Jr’s The Prophets was one of those titles which popped up on my Twitter timeline so frequently it almost put me off. Samuel and Isaiah, two slaves on the Halifax plantation, share the same sleeping quarters as the animals they tend, finding solace in their love for each other but are betrayed to their master by a fellow slave. ‘The culminating pages of The Prophets summon a choral voice of those who have suffered in silence, with blistering humanity, as the day of reckoning arrives at the Halifax plantation’ says the somewhat overwrought blurb of a novel which sounds well worth investigating. Cover image for We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

Whereas I couldn’t seem to get away from The Prophets, I completely missed Hafsa Zayyan’s We Are All Birds All Birds of Uganda which is framed as a dual narrative, one part set in 1960s Uganda where Hasan is coming to terms with his wife’s death when Idi Amin seizes power, the other beginning in present day London where Sameer is summoned to his family home by news of a tragedy. Moving between two continents over a troubled century, We Are All Birds of Uganda is an immensely resonant novel that explores racial tensions, generational divides and what it means to belong’ say the publishers putting me in mind a little of Sunjeev Sahota’s China Room. It was Karen’s review here that alerted me to this one.

Cover image for The Offfice of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans January’s second short story collection, Danielle Evans’ The Office of Historical Corrections, explores racism in America and its complicated history. There’s not one dud in its seven stories but the novella-length titular piece stood out for me. It’s set in the Institute of Popular History, founded to correct the misinformation, inaccuracy and downright falsity endemic in Trump’s America. When Cassie is called in to calm the ruffled feathers in the whitest town in Wisconsin, thanks to a colleague’s correction concerning an apparent lynching, her investigations lead to a surprising, deliciously ironic discovery which has the soberest of results. A sharp, funny and nuanced collection, delivered in a low-key deadpan style, often laced with a wry humour.

That’s it for January’s paperbacks, more than enough to occupy us through those long winter nights here in the UK. As ever, a click on a title will either take you to my review or to a more detailed synopsis, and if you’d like to catch up with part one, it’s here. New fiction is here and here.

17 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out for in January 2022: Part Two”

  1. I have heard of We Are All Birds of Uganda somewhere, though I can’t remember where, though I feel it was on TV. That one and Mrs Death Misses Death appeal very much.

  2. I got sent a proof copy of The Prophets before it was published and I still haven’t got around to reading it. It is giving me begging looks from the bookshelf as I write so I shall attempt to read it in the next few weeks.

  3. It feels to me (but I’m obviously not everywhere on the ‘net at once Heheh) that there was a lot of talk about the idea of The Prophets but relatively few people who actually read it. I thought it was very well done and I loved the enthusiasm of his author’s note, which takes the form of thanking every book he’s read (LOL not quite, but he seems very thankful). If you do get to it, I’ll enjoy reading your response. I’m trying to imagine what “earnest” means with Black Buck. I think they might be trying to say that it’s not quite as cutting and conceptual as some satire maybe? Like Paul Beatty’s satire is obviously smart and informed, but the story itself sometimes falls to the side while he achieves his other goals and I think Black Buck manages to involve readers a little more quickly and make us care, even though we are really supposed to be evaluating and learning? I dunno…just typing out loud. (Hah)

    1. That’s quite a heartening observation about Black Buck. Definitely having trouble with the idea of an earnest satire. I’ll let you know if I tackle The Prophets, but it’s nice to hear he’s a grateful guy.

      1. I’m having trouble understanding what they meant by it in the first place! I thought it was very smart and I recommended it to Mr BIP (because of the critique of consumption and industry combined with humour) and he thought it was fun and smart too. *shrug* Who knows.

Leave a comment ...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: