Gilbert, King, Pynchon, Fielding: Favorite and cult authors return

Like television, publishing used to be predominantly seasonal; like television, publishing is now a year-round business, with both commercial and literary books published throughout the year. This fall brings lots of heavy hitters eager to remind readers what serious sales figures are all about. There are also a number of anticipated literary books, and a few that seek to combine both writing and storytelling.


Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with “The Signature of All Things,” (September) a semi-historical family saga set in the 18th and 19th centuries. Gilbert became rich and famous with “Eat, Pray, Love” which enabled her return to fiction — she hasn’t written a novel in more than 10 years. Also returning after a hiatus is Anna Quindlen, whose new novel, “Still Life With Bread Crumbs,” (February) concerns itself with a famous photographer running out of money and options who moves to a small town. Hopefully the book will be more dynamic than its title.

Another welcome return is that of Bridget Jones, the habitually overbooked, emotionally awkward singleton who hasn’t been heard from in fourteen (!) years. Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy” (October) finds our heroine coping unsuccessfully with Twitter and child-rearing, and asking the question: Is it morally wrong to lie about your age when dating online? If nothing else, the book could serve as a comeback vehicle for Renee Zellweger.

Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” (September) picks up Danny Torrence as a middle-aged alcoholic years after his crazy/possessed father tried to kill him in “The Shining.” Redrum! (In the afterword, King once again goes out of his way to make more obsessively snarky comments about Stanley Kubrick’s film of his novel, when he should be lighting candles in gratitude.)

Urban life occupies two major talents. Jonathan Lethem’s “Dissident Gardens” (September) is the crowded, entertaining story of a wife and mother in Queens who’s a committed Communist and dominates her family and friends for 50 years. Thomas Pynchon’s “Bleeding Edge” (September) takes place just before 9/11, when the world seemed comparatively carefree, and involves a bunch of cops and grifters in New York City. And Russell Banks, who possesses a more merciless temperament than either Lethem or Pynchon, has a new collection of short stories, “A Permanent Member of the Family” (November).

An equally bleak existence is posited by Margaret Atwood, whose “Madd Addam” (September) completes the trilogy begun by “Oryx and Crake” and “The Year of the Flood.” The new novel begins with most of the earth’s population having been wiped out. You might think that would solve the majority of the world’s problems, but Atwood begs to differ — things only get worse.


Pat Conroy’s “The Death of Santini,” (October) tells the story of his father, the abusive military man who terrorized his wife and children and whom Conroy used as the model for his novel “The Great Santini.” Jesmyn Ward, whose novel “Salvage the Bones” won the National Book Award in 2011, has a memoir, “Men We Reaped,” (October) about the deaths of her brother, cousin and three close friends in a narrow space of time.

A far more benevolent memoir comes from Penelope Lively, whose “Dancing Fish and Mennonites” (February) stakes out the view from the age of 80. Also for those interested in happy endings, Ann Patchett, the beloved author of “Bel Canto” and “State of Wonder,” has written a collection of essays, “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage” (November). Graham Nash adds to the growing pile of rock star’s memoirs with “Wild Tales,” which really isn’t all that wild (September).

Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who wrote the best-selling “Game Change,” will offer their take on the 2012 White House race, “Double Down” (November). Also adding at least slightly to the sum total of political knowledge is Chris Matthews’ “Tip and the Gipper” (October) about the friendship between Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan.

A. Scott Berg, Pulitzer prize winning biographer of Max Perkins and Charles Lindbergh, has a new topic: “Wilson,” that is to say Woodrow, (September), while Doris Kearns Goodwin’s writes what must be the 500th book about Teddy Roosevelt: “The Bully Pulpit.” Ground that is far less trod-upon would be Brian Jay Jones’ “Jim Henson: The Biography,” (September) authorized by the Henson estate, and a very fine read indeed.

One book constitutes a confluence of many of the arts: “The Leonard Bernstein Letters,” (October) which includes correspondence between the conductor-composer and such friends and peers as Thornton Wilder, Stephen Sondheim, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and Jerome Robbins. Bernstein’s life encompassed Broadway, movies, television and classical music, so the book covers a lot of bases.

Happy reading!

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