Christopher Bollen

   We are delighted to welcome the American writer Christopher Bollen as the 165th member of Top Ten land while he is basking in the glow of the warm reviews he is receiving for his second novel, Orient.

   Praised by Ivy Pochoda in the Los Angeles Times as, perhaps, “this summer's most ambitious thriller or this summer's most thrilling work of literary fiction,” this smart,  edge-of-your seat tale focuses on a small Long island town gripped by a series of mysterious deaths and one young man, a loner taken in by a local, tries to piece together the crimes before his own time runs out.

Tom LeClair

I was Lincoln’s Billy. Billy club when Lincoln refused to knock heads in Springfield. Billy goat when he needed a battering ram to reach Washington. Billy boy when he required a charming Billy to scare up money for his campaigns.

 

Heidi Julavits

Heidi Julavits has received the first major review for her diary/essay collection and it’s a rave. 

The Folded Clock offers all the thrill of that trespass, in a work so artful that it ­appears to be without artifice,” Eula Bliss writes in the New York Times Book Review. “This diary is a record of the interior weather of an adept thinker. In it, the mundane is rendered extraordinary through the alchemy of effortless prose. It is a work in which a self is both lost and found, but above all made.”

J. Peder Zane

To mark the publication of J. Peder Zane's new book, "Off the Books: On Literature and Culture," we'll be posting an essay from it each day.  

 

Lack of curiosity is curious

Over dinner a few weeks ago, the novelist Lawrence Naumoff told a troubling story. He asked students in his introduction to creative writing course at UNC-Chapel Hill if they had read Jack Kerouac. Nobody raised their hand. Then he asked if anyone had ever heard of Jack Kerouac. More blank expressions.

Naumoff began describing the legend of the literary wild man. One student offered that he had a teacher who was just as crazy. Naumoff asked the professor's name. The student said he didn't know. Naumoff then asked this oblivious scholar, "Do you know my name?"

Heidi Julavits

Heidi Julavits has received the first major review for her diary/essay collection and it’s a rave. 

The Folded Clock offers all the thrill of that trespass, in a work so artful that it ­appears to be without artifice,” Eula Bliss writes in the New York Times Book Review. “This diary is a record of the interior weather of an adept thinker. In it, the mundane is rendered extraordinary through the alchemy of effortless prose. It is a work in which a self is both lost and found, but above all made.”

Jonathan Lethem

“Jonathan Lethem’s extraordinary career is a reminder of the not-so-distant past when working novelists published their new creations regularly and with a seemingly free-flowing hand,” Michael Greenberg writes in the New York Times Book Review. “If one book wasn’t up to snuff, there would be another to redeem it a year or two later. It was all part of the ebb and flow of a lifetime of work.

 

Joyce Carol Oates

“During her long and distinguished career, Joyce Carol Oates never has shied away from the controversy that can come with using celebrities and tabloid news stories as the inspiration for her fiction,” Jon Michaud observes in the Washington Post. “Her novel Black Water (1992) drew on the Chappaquiddick incident; Blonde (2000) gave us Oates’s take on the life of Marilyn Monroe; and My Sister, My Love (2008) reimagined the murder of JonBenét Ramsey.

Peter Carey

Peter Carey is receiving astoundingly mixed reviews for new novel, Amnesia. Where some reviewers see genius, others eye a tedious mix. It’s enough to make you suspect that critics are not infallible!

 

We love love in Top Ten Land, so let’s start with the rapture. “Peter Carey’s fiction is turbo-charged, hyperenergetic,” Andrew Motion observes in The Guardian. “His language has little time for quiet passages; his minor characters, even at their most incidental, are endowed with details of appearance and speech that belie their status; his narrative lines, when they run into difficulties of any kind, blast through them by introducing new inventions and new possibilities. This is what makes him Dickensian.

Stewart O'Nan

Stewart O’Nan’s fifteenth novel, West of Sunset, is the latest in a line of works in which great writers essay the life of other great writers – one of my favorites is Frederick Busch’s 1999 novel featuring Herman Melville, The Night Inspector.

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald is the subject of O’Nan’s novel. Not the giddy and glowing writer who churned out timeless prose during and about the jazz age. But the troubled, uncertain man of the late 1930s whose literary success was long over whose finances were in ruin. As Zelda is consigned to a mental asylum, he tries to make a new start as a screenwriter in Hollywood. By December 1940, he is dead of a heart attack.