By Carole Reedy
The new Fall fiction discussed in last month’s issue brought us a menu of delicacies, and the new nonfiction seems equally sumptuous, with favorite authors and subjects represented. It almost seems that nearly every significant author of the 21st century has published a new book this year. Here are a few of the outstanding selections:
Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
Without a doubt the most anticipated book of the year. The title Joseph Anton reflects a merging of two of Rushdie’s favorite authors, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekov. Rushdie used this name during his nine years in hiding after receiving death threats from Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 following the publication of Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. Khomeini accused Rushdie of committing the crime of being “against Islam, the Prophet and the Quran,” issuing the fatwa that sent Rushdie and his family into hiding. In 1984 Rushdie noted that “Works of art, even works of entertainment, do not come into being in a social and political vacuum; and…the way they operate in a society cannot be separated from politics, from history. For every text, a context.” Five years later his world was turned upside down, and this book tells that story. This volume has received the highest praise from the most prestigious critics of our time.
Winter Journal by Paul Auster
We Paul Auster fans eagerly await each one of his novels. How fortunate, then, that the author is so prolific. Auster is one of our great storytellers. In this book, however, he returns to memoir form, reflecting on his life as an aging poet and prose writer. Thirty years ago he wrote about life, death, and mortality in The Invention of Solitude following the death of his father. In 2002 Auster’s mother died, and now he circles round to reflect on these themes again. As with all his works, we learn much about ourselves, his story being our own.
Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
Neurologist and author Sacks is widely known for his bestseller The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (1985), 24 essays in which he is able to explain brain function to nonscientists. Surprisingly, the book was adapted for the theater and in 1986 Michael Nyman even turned it into an opera. Blending science and marvelous storytelling, Dr. Sacks focuses this time on hallucinatory experiences and what hallucinations reveal about our minds. He explains the difference between natural and induced hallucinations in a style that caused the New York Times to call him “the poet-laureate of medicine.”
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
Author, journalist, and intellectual Christopher Hitchens died of cancer of the esophagus December 15, 2011, at age 62. This posthumous collection of essays, a short memoir of 104 pages, is the story of his life after the diagnosis. Colm Toibin, writing a personal yet objective review of the book and life of Hitchens in the Guardian, describes him as “the best company in the whole world; he had read widely and…was an industrious man filled with curiosity.” Surely these essays are a fitting memorial.
On another note: especially for music lovers
Several biographies and autobiographies from favorite musicians are due out this fall:
Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young
Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell
I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
Who Am I? by Peter Townsend
The John Lennon Letters edited by Hunter Davies
How Music Works by David Byrne
The First Four Notes: Beethoven’s Fifth and the Human Imagination by Matthew Guerrieri