Fabulous Monsters by Alberto Manguel

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 By Alberto Manguel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780300247381
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Yale University Press - September 24th, 2019

97,196 Words by Emmanuel Carrère

Staff Pick

Few are the writers who can turn their hand to anything, while still maintaining a consistent, vibrant voice. For over three decades, French author Emmanuel Carrère has been one of that group; this new collection of nonfiction written between 1990 and the present, 97,196 Words (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28), offers longtime readers a wonderful retrospective, while new readers will find it the perfect point of entry. Blending the rich storytelling of a novelist with the insight of a nonfiction writer, Carrère here, as elsewhere in his work, blurs the lines between the genres as he ranges from reflections on shifty writers like Truman Capote and Philip K. Dick, to heightened self-analysis brought to bear on interviews with Catherine Deneuve, from relationship columns for an Italian women’s magazine to empathetic crime narratives where the culprits have invented fake lives for themselves. And his profiles of where current-day political energy rests, with an eye on Davos and Macron and Russian dissidents, are potent, considered primers. But it’s always the storytelling that’s the key: reading Carrère is pure, alive pleasure.

97,196 Words: Essays By John Lambert (Translated by), Emmanuel Carrère Cover Image
By John Lambert (Translated by), Emmanuel Carrère
ISBN: 9780374178208
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - November 5th, 2019

Coventry by Rachel Cusk

Staff Pick

Coventry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27) proves my long-held suspicion that the essay is the ideal vehicle for the glittering, merciless omniscience of Rachel Cusk. You never know where Cusk will lead you in her novels, and her essays are no different; thank god it’s possible to hold your breath for the couple of minutes it takes to read one. In her revolutionary Outline trilogy Cusk immersed the reader in the dialogue and stories of the characters that Faye, the protagonist, interacted with in her journeys. But in the tight coil of Cusk’s essays there is no escape into other characters, and as a reader, I was ecstatic to stay in her company for once. The strongest pieces excavate her personal life, and her tone, though never sentimental, is ferociously protective of what she considers valuable. Her essay on raising teenagers, “Lions on Leashes,” is one of her best, Cusk at her most Cuskian; vulnerable, dry, unrelenting and singular.

Coventry: Essays By Rachel Cusk Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374126773
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 17th, 2019