November Releases: Dickens and Prince, Bratwurst Haven, Routes

Here are a few November books I read early for review, or that didn’t quite fit into the month’s other challenges – although, come to think of it, all are technically of novella length! (Come back tomorrow for a roundup of all the random novellas I’ve finished late in the month, and on Thursday for a retrospective of this year’s Novellas in November.)

 

Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius by Nick Hornby

This exuberant essay, a paean to energy and imagination, draws unexpected connections between two of Hornby’s heroes. Both came from poverty, skyrocketed to fame in their twenties, were astoundingly prolific/workaholic artists, valued performance perhaps more highly than finished products, felt the industry was cheating them, had a weakness for women and died at a similar age. Biographical research shares the page with shrewd cultural commentary and glimpses of Hornby’s writing life. Whether a fan of both subjects, either or none, you’ll surely admire these geniuses’ vitality, too. (Full review forthcoming in the December 30th issue of Shelf Awareness.)

 

Bratwurst Haven: Stories by Rachel King

In a dozen gritty linked short stories, lovable, flawed characters navigate aging, parenthood, and relationships. Set in Colorado in the recent past, the book depicts a gentrifying area where blue-collar workers struggle to afford childcare and health insurance. As Gus, their boss at St. Anthony Sausage, withdraws their benefits and breaks in response to a recession, it’s unclear whether the business will survive. Each story covers the perspective of a different employee. The connections between tales are subtle. Overall, an endearing composite portrait of a working-class community in transition. (See my full review for Foreword.)

 

Routes by Rhiya Pau

Pau’s ancestors were part of the South Asian diaspora in East Africa, and later settled in the UK. Her debut, which won one of this year’s Eric Gregory Awards (from the Society of Authors, for a collection by a British poet under the age of 30), reflects on that stew of cultures and languages. Colours and food make up the lush metaphorical palette.

When I was small, I spoke two languages.

At school: proper English, pruned and prim,

tip of the tongue taps roof of the mouth,

delicate lips, like lace frilling rims of my white

 

cotton socks. At home, a heady brew:

Gujarati Hindi Swahili

swim in my mouth, tie-dye my tongue

with words like bandhani.

Alongside loads of alliteration (my most adored poetic technique)—

My goddess is a mother in marigold garland

—there are delightfully unexpected turns of phrase, almost synaesthetic in their blending of the senses:

right as I worry I have forgotten the scent

of grief, I catch the first blossom of the season

 

and we are back circling the Spring.

~

I am a chandelier of possibility.

Besides family history and Hindu theology, current events and politics are sources of inspiration. For instance, “We Gotta Talk About S/kincare” explores the ironies and nuances of attitudes towards Black and Brown public figures, e.g., lauding Barack Obama and Kamala Harris, but former UK Home Secretary Priti Patel? “our forever – guest of honour / would deport her own mother – if she could.” I also loved the playfulness with structure: “Ode to Corelle” employs a typically solemn form for a celebration of crockery, while the yoga-themed “Salutation” snakes across two pages like a curving spine. This reminded me of poetry I’ve enjoyed by other young Asian women: Romalyn Ante, Cynthia Miller, Nina Mingya Powles and Jenny Xie. A fantastic first book.

With thanks to Arachne Press for the proof copy for review.

 

Any more November releases you can recommend?

9 responses

  1. Both the King and the Rhiya Pau sound appetising reads. I’ll look out for both. Probably not in the library yet, obviously.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Arachne Press (for Routes) is a very small publisher, but if you encouraged them to, perhaps your library would buy a copy! Likewise, the King is out from a small U.S. academic publisher, West Virginia University Press — your best bet with that one would probably be an e-book. I was lured by the premise of a linked short story collection set in a sausage factory. The stories were accomplished but the book as a whole didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

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      1. Good point about Arachne Press!

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  2. I’ll read anything Hornby writes…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m the same. Though this was an indulgent project.

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  3. I was struck by a comment Hornby made (if I understood him right) that due to his success as a screenwriter and his own books being adapted for movies he can now basically write about anything he wants to write about. Sounds nice! I absolutely loved his writing on books and reading. I’m glad I read this new one but it’s not something that will stay with me long – except the hilarious comment from a former manager about Prince “doing A&R with his d*ck!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that must be a rare and privileged position for an author. I wish I knew more than about 3 songs by Prince (but with such an overwhelmingly large back catalogue, where to start?!).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You can’t go wrong with Purple Rain, Sign of the Times, or his greatest hits double album. Even as a fan there is SO much I haven’t even listened to!

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  4. […] compelling and an interesting view of small-town America. I happened to see this morning that Bookish Beck has read this, too. This was an ARC from Book Sirens, to whom I am grateful for allowing me to read […]

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