Staff Pick

2016, the lunar Year of the Monkey (Knopf, $24.95), began for Patti Smith with a west coast concert tour, during which she saw her friend of forty years, Sandy Pearlman, succumb to a cerebral hemorrhage. She later watched the decline of another old friend, Sam Shepherd, and felt the acceleration of time as she turned seventy, couldn’t sleep, and took up walking at night. Smith survived all this and, exhibiting no symptoms of “dried-up poet syndrome,” recounts it with the same matter-of-fact yet slightly bemused tone that made her previous memoirs so engaging. Taking what comes, Smith turns it all into remarkable language; whether describing a deserted café that has “a J. G. Ballard kind of gone,” or a patch of blue wildflowers looking “as if it had been seeded by sky,” she is our great poet of ambience. Fittingly for a time permeated by “an atmosphere of artificial brightness with corrosive edges…[and] an avalanche of toxicity,” Smith moves frequently and without warning between daily life, memories, and dreams, intermittently receiving “transmissions” from a neon Dream Inn sign. Between dreams, she references a wide range of films, music, and books; makes the rounds of cafés; and snaps many of the Polaroids that complement this vivid, poignant, and deeply satisfying narrative.
 

Year of the Monkey Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780525657682
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Knopf - September 24th, 2019

Staff Pick

Had things gone according to plan, Harper Lee would have followed To Kill a Mockingbird with a true-crime book called The Reverend, an account of Willie Maxwell, an African American preacher from Alabama accused of killing five members of his family, one by one, in the 1970s. Determined to stick to the facts--unlike her friend Truman Capote, whose In Cold Blood Lee had helped with--Lee spent a year in Maxwell’s hometown reporting the story, but never managed to get the book written. Working from Lee’s notes, letters, and the historical record, Casey Cep, in her powerful debut, has. Furious Hours (Knopf, $26.95) in fact is three books in one. Along with the account of how and why Maxwell committed the murders—including the possible role played by voodoo—Cep examines the relationship between Maxwell and his lawyer, a white liberal who defended Maxwell through several trials, and then, after Maxwell was shot at his stepdaughter’s funeral, defended his killer. Clearly, Lee was on to a great story, and Cep adds to it with a rare inside look at one of our most reclusive writers, delving into Lee’s complicated and often contradictory attitudes to race and the South and correcting the many misunderstandings that have crept into the Lee legend.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781101947869
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Knopf - May 7th, 2019

Staff Pick

A writer, translator, critic, and editor, Alberto Manguel is an unabashed bibliophile who writes with the erudition of a lifetime of deep, wide reading, as well as an irrepressible sense of wonder. Fabulous Monsters (Yale, $19.95), an eclectic collection of thirty-seven profiles of imaginary figures— from Satan and Sinbad to Faust, Superman, and Heidi’s grandfather—celebrates fiction’s unique power to create characters that “cannot be caged between the covers of their books.” Drawing its title from the scene in Through the Looking-Glass where Alice meets the Unicorn and each admits the reality of the other, Manguel’s book reminds us that “the monster is…the thing unexpected”—the thing that surprises and startles and enchants us. And Alice isn’t just a dreaming child—armed with words, she “confronts unreason with simple logic,” an approach tantamount to civil disobedience. Similarly, Jonah, when ordered by God to speak against the people of Nineveh, refused because he was an artist; contrasting the ambition that fuels creation with the acquisitiveness that accumulates for its own sake, Manguel pulls Jonah into the 21st century, as he also does Twain’s Jim, Defoe’s Crusoe, and Rousseau’s Émile, tracing genealogies of racism, exploitation, and a society “that wants to produce consumers, not citizens,” while showing us how to “reimagine reality in order to better see and understand it.”

Fabulous Monsters: Dracula, Alice, Superman, and Other Literary Friends Cover Image
$19.95
ISBN: 9780300247381
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Yale University Press - September 24th, 2019

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