Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Backlist Beauties

I've always been a friend of the backlist books. In other words, hype makes me nervous and if there's too much hype it translates into too much pressure, and then it's not fun anymore, and I don't call and I don't write. You know the story.

I've been reading far newer fiction lately going against my natural instincts as a reader and diving headlong into the super-hyped. Weird for me. Fun, but weird. So in an effort to call attention to some of the backlist beauties I've run across during my Sunday morning mama-time bookstore browsing, I thought I'd toss this post out into the ether and see what feedback y'all can provide.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin -- Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.

So, the "universally beloved" thing doesn't do much for me, because I'm probably one of eight people in the world who haaaates Alice in Wonderland. It made me want to stab myself in the nostril with a croquet club...stick...thing. BUT, I like pretty covers, and the cover of this book is very pretty and it sounds downright interesting. I happened to see it when I passed it last week and was reminded that, Hey! I've heard of that on ze blogs! I shall own it. Or library it.

The Keep by Jennifer Egan -- Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank whose devastating consequences changed both their lives, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a castle steeped in blood lore and family pride. Built over a secret system of caves and tunnels, the castle and its violent history invoke and subvert all the elements of a gothic past: twins, a pool, an old baroness, a fearsome tower. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. 

Even though I've completed -- and didn't love -- A Visit from the Goon Squad, I'm game for The Keep. I also have her 2009 novel, Look at Me, on my stacks. BUT, I'm a glutton, and this one looks completely droolworthy. I think I also remember this one being discussed in my online book groups and maybe around the blogosphere in 2007. I've slept since then. Either way, I'm all over it now.

Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato -- Fear doesn't come naturally to Mathilda Savitch. She prefers to look right at the things nobody else can bear to mention: for example, the fact that her beloved older sister is dead, pushed in front of a train by a man still on the loose. Her grief-stricken parents have basically been sleepwalking ever since, and it is Mathilda's sworn mission to shock them back to life. Her strategy? Being bad. Mathilda decides shes going to figure out what lies behind the catastrophe. She starts sleuthing through her sisters most secret possessions—e-mails, clothes, notebooks, whatever her determination and craftiness can ferret out.

I fell in love with the cover of this one ages ago. How could I not? It's my favorite color scheme, and it's all silhouetty and creepalicious. I'm also slightly embarrassed because I read and commented on a review of this book just last week and now I can't remember to save my cotton-pickin' life who it was! Remind me, if you're reading. This one sounds quite sinister and possibly heartbreaking. Why not make it a summer read!?!

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer -- Viktor and Liesel, a rich Jewish mogul married to a thoughtful, modern gentile, pour all of their hopes for their marriage and budding family into their stunning new home, filling it with children, friends, and a generation of artists and thinkers eager to abandon old-world European style in favor of the new and the avant-garde. But as life intervenes, their new home also brings out their most passionate desires and darkest secrets. As Viktor searches for a warmer, less challenging comfort in the arms of another woman, and Liesel turns to her wild, mischievous friend Hana for excitement, the marriage begins to show signs of strain. The radiant honesty and idealism of 1930 quickly evaporate beneath the storm clouds of World War II.

And on this last one, I'm doing the guilty dance. It's a bit like the pee pee dance but not nearly as animated and much drier. I downloaded this book ages ago -- when I first got my Nook -- because I read a review over at Frances' place. Between the blurb and her review and the cool cover and all, I simply couldn't resist. And there the book has remained for a year. That makes me a slacker -- I'll wear the crimson S on my chest. I hope this one knocks me over after waiting so long to read it.

And there you have it -- the not-so-new books that are calling to me the loudest these days.  

Have you read them? What's on your backlist wishlist?

Note: I'm sorry I've published this thing three times. Your feed readers all loathe me right now. I drafted it a couple of days ago, set the time wrong when I edited today, and finally spelled "Sunday" wrong. Yeah, I'm an English professor. Woohoo!

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