World Enough and Time
August’s releases span the globe
Compiled by Brian Lampkin
Travel guru Rick Steves wrote an interesting book this year: Travel as a Political Act. Reading about the world might also constitute a kind of political act. In an era when simple curiosity about other cultures passes as a suspicious act, understanding and engaging in the culture and ideas of other places becomes downright radical. Here are some of August’s new releases from around the globe. Read them in public places.
August 7: Babylon, by Yasmina Reza (Seven Stories Press, $23.95). Winner of the Prix Renaudot and shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, playwright and novelist Yasmina Reza’s books have been translated into more than 35 languages. Her play “Art” was the first translated play to win a Tony Award. This book is a truly original and masterful novel from one of the world’s most inventive and daring artists.
August 7: This Mournable Body, by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Graywolf, $16). Tsitsi Dangarembga is the author of two previous novels, including Nervous Conditions, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. She is also the director of the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa Trust. She lives in Harare, Zimbabwe. Dangarembga’s tense and psychologically charged novel culminates in an act of betrayal — revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be.
August 7: Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else, by Maeve Higgins (Penguin, $16). Maeve Higgins is a contributing writer for The New York Times and the host of the hit podcast Maeve in America: Immigration IRL. She is a comedian who has performed all over the world, including in her native Ireland, Edinburgh, Melbourne and Erbil, Kurdistan. Now based in New York, she cohosts Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk, both the podcast and the TV show, on National Geographic Channel. Comedian John Hodgman says: “Maeve Higgins is brilliant; but her brilliance isn’t the braggy, headlight kind that tries to trap her subjects deer-like in a cold, dead glare. Instead, she lights every room she enters with warmth, welcome, and generous rays of sheer funny. And in this book, she illuminates the world.”
August 14: Ball Lightning, by Cixin Liu (Tor Books, $28.99). Cixin Liu is the most prolific and popular science fiction writer in the People’s Republic of China. Liu is an eight-time winner of the Galaxy Award (the Chinese Hugo) and a winner of the Chinese Nebula Award. Prior to becoming a writer, he worked as an engineer in a power plant. His novels include The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End. This novel explores what happens when the beauty of scientific inquiry runs up against the drive to harness new discoveries with no consideration of their possible consequences.
August 21: Brazil: A Biography, Lilia M. Schwarcz and Heloisa M. Starling (FSG, $40)For many Americans, Brazil is a land of contradictions: vast natural resources and entrenched corruption; extraordinary wealth and grinding poverty; beautiful beaches and violence-torn favelas. Brazil occupies a vivid place in the American imagination, and yet it remains largely unknown. In an extraordinary journey that spans 500 years, from European colonization to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Lilia M. Schwarcz and Heloisa M. Starling’s Brazil offers a dramatic history of this complex country.
August 21: God of Shadows, by Lorna Crozier (McClelland & Stewart, $25) The celebrated poet hailed by Ursula K. Le Guin as a “storyteller, truth-teller, and visionary” gives us a mesmerizing new collection of poems. Crozier is the author of 16 previous books of poetry and lives in British Columbia. Even Canada has become worthy of suspicion in the new paradigm. Let’s cross the border together into the sanity of poetry.
August 28: We That Are Young, by Preti Taneja (Knopf, $27.95). Preti Taneja was born in England to Indian parents and spent most of her childhood holidays in New Delhi. She has worked as a human rights reporter and filmmaker in Iraq, Jordan, Rwanda, and Kosovo. A stunning debut novel, a modern-day King Lear set in contemporary India: the tale of a battle for power within a turbulent family, for status within a nation in a constant state of transformation, and for the love and respect of a father disappearing into dementia. OH
Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.