Will books, like wonders, never cease? That certainly seems to be the case, as American publishers teeter on the cusp of the millennium, straddling eras with a rush of inky endeavors from Italo Calvino's to Snoop "Doggy" Dogg's.
There are, this year, some general trends worth noting: an avid campaign on the part of publishers to find twentysomething writers to tout in their catalogues; a clear fascination with the rites and passages of geek billionaires; an abiding interest in matters of the spirit; and a surprising paucity of books on politics and the millennium, just as we verge on an election year and the perilous clockwork of Y2K.
Here in all its unruly splendor, then, is a portent of books to come. Like the forecasts of Nostradamus, may it be subject to many interpretations, for as anyone who follows the industry knows, books are the least predictable retail "products" in the world. Let us begin with the ones that promise to be at once interesting and commercially successful -- the "big books," if you will -- if only because their publishers will be investing them with all available firepower. Those listed here with no month of publication are due in September.
The nonfiction works you will hear about most are:
A technology trio: Michael Lewis's The New New Thing (Norton, Oct.), in which the bestselling author of Liar's Poker profiles Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jim Clark as Clark forms his third company, Healtheon, a startup operation that may someday transform our trillion-dollar healthcare industry; Valley (HarperBusiness, Nov.), by the New Yorker's John Heilemann, who takes on the whole of Silicon Valley as well as points north with this chronicle of the industry's growth, from the invention of the microprocessor to the power wars that consume it today; Sony (Houghton Mifflin), a wide-angle portrait of the postwar giant by John Nathan, whose interests in Japan to date have been more cultural than corporate: He is a translator of Yukio Mishima's and Kenzaburo Oe's novels.
'Tis (Scribner), a new memoir by Frank McCourt, whose Angela's Ashes came out of nowhere to win a National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize and catapult him onto bestseller lists for three years straight. This is the story of McCourt's journey from his Irish-immigrant childhood in New York to a career as an inner-city schoolteacher.
Faith of My Fathers (Random House), John McCain's memoir of his family, particularly his father and grandfather, who were four-star admirals in the U.S. Navy. McCain's own military career as a naval aviator during the Vietnam War ended with his being shot down over Hanoi in 1967. He was tortured and imprisoned for five and a half years. The book, which is co-written by Mark Salter, explores the lessons McCain learned from the men in his family -- strengths that helped him to face the dire adversities of war.
Hillary's Choice, by Gail Sheehy (Random). From the author of Passages comes this "love story" starring our president and First Lady. Sheehy has been working on this book for seven years, and she takes the First Marriage from law school to the trials of the Lewinsky affair, focusing on the personal sacrifices Hillary Rodham Clinton has made every step of the way.
Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II, by George Weigel (Harper/Cliff St., Oct.), is, at almost 1,000 pages, the epic version of the papal story. Written with the cooperation and blessing of the Holy Father himself, the book includes new reminiscences as well as previously unpublished correspondence with Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev and Deng Xiaoping.
When Pride Still Mattered: The Life and Myth of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss (Simon & Schuster, Oct.). The stuff of legend: The son of a butcher in a large Italian family in Brooklyn rises through a Jesuit education, a coaching stint at West Point, and hard sweat to become one of the great sports figures in American history. Maraniss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter and author of the Clinton biography First in His Class, traces Lombardi's career as a football coach, dwelling on how his obsession with "winning" and passion for discipline affected his family.
The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, by Nicholas Lemann (Farrar Straus Giroux, Oct.). Here social history and investigative journalism combine to tell the story of how Harvard president James Bryant Conant and Henry Chauncey of the fledgling Educational Testing Service (ETS) launched an experiment to conduct mass intelligence tests of American youth after World War II. Their hope was to create an elite that would march us toward a new utopia. The result was very different indeed. Lemann is well-known for an earlier book, The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America.
Remember Backlash, Susan Faludi's 1991 book that argued that there was an undeclared war against American women? It won her a prize and 25 weeks on the bestseller lists. This year, Faludi's Stiffed (Morrow, Oct.) comes to the defense of the American male. In it, she contends that the collapse of traditional masculine roles has left red-blooded men feeling laid off, betrayed and bamboozled.
The fiction stars to come:
Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende (Harper, Oct.), promises to return fans to the monumental style she left behind for more recent efforts such as The Infinite Plan (1994). Whereas her best-known work, the richly tapestried House of the Spirits, was set entirely in Latin America, her newest novel brings a Chilean family to the wilder shores of the California Gold Rush.
Speaking of South America: Patrick O'Brian, creator of the successful Aubrey/ Maturin series, sends his daring frigate commander, Capt. Jack Aubrey, on a solo night raid off the coast of Peru in Blue at the Mizzen (Norton, Nov.). The mission this time is to help Chile win its independence from Spain. Along the way, the widowed Stephen Maturin falls in love again, Captain Jack takes the bastard son of a king under his wing, and the whole of South America's west coast is whipped by naval battle.
A Star Called Henry, by Roddy Doyle (Viking), is more evidence of the fascination we seem to have with the Irish. Doyle made his greatest mark in America with his trenchantly witty Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, a novel about a 10-year-old North Dublin boy. His latest offering is the story of Henry Smart, a swashbuckling IRA assassin. Set against the backdrop of Irish history, Doyle's sixth novel promises love, adventure and not a few laughs.
For more popular tastes, there is Michael Crichton's Timeline (Knopf, Nov.), from the pen that gave us Jurassic Park. I don't need to tell you it will tie science to adventure and probably raise a hair or two.
Dick Francis's Second Wind (Putnam) will ruffle the fur, too. Most likely in a small plane somewhere over the Caribbean, chasing a hurricane in a dead heat.
Personal Injuries (Farrar, Oct.) is Scott Turow's latest legal thriller, about a young lawyer who appears to have everything: a beautiful wife, the eyes of the ladies, a winning practice, and a slew of judges in his pocket. But his wife is dying of an incurable illness, the FBI is tracking the secret bank account he uses to pay off judges, and, when he is cast into a plot to snare bigger fish, a lonely female FBI agent complicates his life.
A number of authors intend to surprise us this fall season. Their books have them changing gears, bolting to new subjects, if not to totally different genres. Most notable among them are: Jamaica Kincaid's My Garden (Farrar, Nov.), a paean to her Vermont offshoots, and a departure from earlier books such as My Brother.
Distinguished biographer Edmund Morris falls under our reincarnation rubric, not because he has taken on a wildly new subject in Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan (Random) -- Morris has already produced one masterful volume of a biography of Theodore Roosevelt -- but because we (and every other book review in the country) fully expected to see Dutch last year, and said so in our "Preview" then. So, in this new iteration on a different September's list, Morris's biography clearly falls in the category of one of the Most Anticipated Books of (fill in the) Year.
Col. David H. Hackworth earlier gave us two military books, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, which dealt with his tour of duty in Vietnam; and Hazardous Duty: One of America's Most Decorated Soldiers Reports From the Front With the Truth About the U.S. Military Today. This fall, he takes new territory with The Price of Honor (Doubleday), a novel about a Special Forces captain haunted by his father's cowardice in Vietnam.
Reason for Hope (Warner) has Jane Goodall, "the chimpanzee woman," turning her sights from earthly creatures to matters of the spirit. In it, she touches on faith, love, mysticism, evil, evolution, science and her own quest for God.
Few of us would have anticipated a novel from either an actor or a deep sea diver, but a novel is what we get in a collaboration between actor Gene Hackman ("The French Connection") and diver Daniel Lenihan (U.S. National Park Service). Wake of the Perdido Star (Newmarket, Nov.) tells the story of Jack O'Reilly, who sets sail for Cuba at the dawn of the 19th century. Along the way, Captain Jack battles a storm, a shipwreck, pirates, and a fleet of enemy vessels. Could the screenstar and seaman be raiding Patrick O'Brian's waters?
The Fiction List
These lead the list this year, with writers of every stripe taking a chance on love. The highlights are:
Hitler's Niece, by Ron Hansen (Harper), is about the disturbing relationship between Hitler and Geli, the 23-year-old daughter of Hitler's half-sister. Based on a bit of history (Hitler's niece was found dead in Hitler's Munich apartment in 1931), the novel is by the author of Atticus.
Miss Wyoming, by Douglas Coupland (Pantheon, Jan.), the hip author of Girlfriend in a Coma and Generation X takes a former beauty-pageant queen and a movie producer on a caper. Frustrated with their marginal lives, they scoot through Los Angeles, shedding identities and looking for love.
The Frog Prince, by Stephen Mitchell (Harmony, Nov.), is about a meditative frog, a rebellious princess, his love for her, her (hard-won) love for him and the unexpected ways that love can transform a lover.
Leopard in the Sun, by Colombian novelist Laura Restrepo (Crown), is a Puzo-like love story set in the blood-soaked drug cartels of Colombia.
In The Sun King (Random), Washington Post columnist David Ignatius brings together a media billionaire and an icy beauty known as the Mistress of Fact. Ignatius here turns his pen from spy thrillers (Siro, A Firing Offense) to the more bittersweet theme of midlife desire.
Anita Shreve's Fortune's Rocks (Little, Brown, Jan.) is the story of a 19th-century girl's passionate affair with a man three times her age.
The Peking Letter (PublicAffairs) is a love story between a young American scholar turned CIA agent and a Chinese revolutionary. Fiction is a departure for author Seymour Topping, who was once a correspondent in China and now teaches international journalism at Columbia.
A Walk to Remember (Warner, Oct.) is Nicholas Sparks's new bid for the bestseller list, which he last appeared on with Message in a Bottle. This time, it's about first love: A small-town teenage boy falls for a Baptist minister's daughter.
Coming to America
Peel My Love Like An Onion (Doubleday) is by Ana Castillo, the author of So Far From God and other novels. Her latest is telenovela material, involving a flamenco dancer with a gimpy leg, her boss/lover and a young man who cuts in and sweeps her off her feet.
Vassily Aksyonov's The New Sweet Style (Random, Nov.) is the latest from the master Russian emigre novelist who gave us Winter's Hero and Generations of Winter. This picaresque tale takes its hero from garage work to a Hollywood movie deal.
In America (Farrar, Jan.) is Susan Sontag's new novel. In it, a 19th-century Polish actress travels to California to establish a "utopian" commune.
People in Distress
As always, there is an array of novels about ordinary people in the face of extraordinary circumstances:
The Fall of the Year, by Howard Frank Mosher (Houghton, Oct.), is his latest in a string of novels about Kingdom County. This one involves a smuggler turned priest, his adopted son and a beguiling young housekeeper.
Joanna Scott's Make Believe (Little, Brown, Feb.) is about a 4-year-old orphan and the two sets of grandparents who battle over his custody .
The Walking Tour (Houghton, Nov.), by Kathryn Davis (author of All We Hold Dear), is about two couples who go on a walking tour in Wales and meet with a fatal accident.
The Summer After June (Houghton, Jan.) is by Ashley Warlick, one of those twentysomethings featured this fall. Her story is about a young woman who, grieving over the murder of her sister, kidnaps her dead sister's baby and lights out for an abandoned house.
Plainsong, by Kent Haruf (Knopf, Oct.), centers on a high school teacher whose wife withdraws from his house, and then from life altogether, leaving him to raise his two young boys alone.
Maxine Chernoff's newest novel is A Boy in Winter (Crown), about a mother, her preteen son and a shattering accident involving a hunting bow.
Having Everything, by John L'Heureux (Atlantic Monthly), describes a young man who has it all and risks it all when he wanders into someone else's marriage.
Novels That Defy Categorization
Enchanted Night, by Steven Millhauser (Crown, Oct.), in which the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist takes a 14-year-old girl on a magical ride through a summer night.
Will Self's Sweet Smell of Psychosis (Grove) is a send-up of magazine hacks and the glib, ephemeral world of the fad-obsessed.
The Unburied (Farrar, Nov.), by Charles Palliser, the author of The Quincunx, is about two academics, a two-century-old rivalry, an 11th-century manuscript, and the trail of an elusive murder.
The Last Life, by Claire Messud (Harcourt), is narrated by a 15-year-old French Algerian whose family life is suddenly rent by a shot from her grandfather's rifle.
Nina Berberova's Cape of Storms (New Directions, Nov.), a tale of three Russian half-sisters in Paris at the cusp of war.
Julio Cortazar's Final Exam (New Directions, Nov.), the late maestro's first novel, in which two college students wander Buenos Aires instead of studying, and encounter strange happenings and even stranger companions.
Ana Teresa Torres's Dona Ines vs. Oblivion (Louisiana State, Oct.), winner of the Pegasus Prize, in which the matriarch of a wealthy Venezuelan family in the 18th century observes and narrates the march of her family into the future.
Dubravka Ugresic's The Museum of Unconditional Surrender (New Directions, Oct.) is about a middle-aged Croat who finds herself in exile, longing for home.
Jose Latour's Outcast (Akashic, Oct.) is the first novel in English by the veteran Cuban mystery novelist.
Big Trouble (Putnam), by Dave Barry, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, is about an adman, a teenage son, an alcoholic stepfather and two hit men in Coconut Grove, Fla. See Jonathan Yardley's review on page 3.
Michael Frayn's Headlong (Metropolitan) is about a philosopher and his art historian wife who are invited to dinner and then drawn into an art scam involving a lost work by Bruegel. See Michael Dirda's review on page 15.
The Dangerous Husband, by Jane Shapiro (Little, Brown), is about a guy who can't do anything right. So bumbling, in fact, that the safest thing might be to get rid of him entirely.
Walter Mosley's Walkin' the Dog (Little, Brown, Oct.) is the continuing saga of ex-convict Socrates Fortlow.
George P. Pelecanos's Shame the Devil (Little, Brown, Jan.), is about a restaurant robbery in Washington, D.C., that goes awry and leads to a serial killing.
Ed McBain's The Last Dance (Simon & Schuster), the 50th novel in the author's 87th Precinct series, involves a hanging in the theater district.
Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn (Doubleday) deals with a Brooklyn P.I. whose boss turns up dead, whose love life is a mess, and whose work is made that much harder by a case of Tourette's syndrome.
Dashiell Hammett's (yes, the very one's) Nightmare Town (Knopf), 20 previously unavailable stories by the author of The Maltese Falcon.
Ruth Rendell's Harm Done (Crown, Nov.) features Inspector Wexford sleuthing out the murky depths of domestic violence.
Sue Grafton's "O" Is for Outlaw (Holt, Oct.) depicts Kinsey Millhone as she stumbles on some detritus from her first marriage that threatens to imperil her life.
Sara Paretsky's Hard Time (Delacorte, Oct.) has V.I. Warshawski stopping to help a woman lying in the street -- except that the act traps her in unexpected intrigue.
Stuart Woods's Worst Fears Realized (Harper) has Stone Barrington suddenly aware that someone is killing all the women in his life, and he can't figure out why.
John Darnton's The Experiment (Dutton), in which science meets murder most foul.
David Baldacci's Saving Faith (Warner, Nov.), about Washington politicians, influence peddlers and the FBI unwittingly pitted against the CIA.
Steve Martini's The Attorney (Putnam, Jan.), a legal puzzle involving a drug-addicted mother, a newly minted millionaire and, quite naturally, murder.
James Patterson's Pop Goes the Weasel (Little, Brown, Oct.) puts a murderer squarely in the British diplomatic service, but the challenge is to prove him guilty.
Michael Connelly's Void Moon (Little, Brown, Jan.) gets a woman caught up in a gambling scam.
Gary Krist's Chaos Theory (Random, Jan.) involves two D.C. teenage boys -- one white, one black -- a crime and a flight from corrupt city officials.
Wes Craven's Fountain Society (Simon & Schuster, Oct.) is about a physicist who is months away from unveiling a perfect weapons system, but there are reasons to suspect he won't live long enough to finish the task.
The assassination of a president is the starting point of Deep Background (St. Martin's), a first novel by Nation columnist David Corn.
Colin Harrison's Afterburn (Farrar, Jan.) stars a Vietnam POW veteran . . .
. . . as does a volume of Stephen King's Vietnam War-inspired tales, Hearts in Atlantis (Scribner). See review on page 15.
The Nonfiction List
Politics and Social Issues
Four books worth noting in the political sphere are: Jules Witcover's No Way to Pick a President (Farrar, Oct.), a critique of the professional mercenaries who dominate electoral politics; Power and the Presidency (Public Affairs, Jan.), in which six historians (from Michael Beschloss to David McCullough) discuss how six contemporary presidents wielded -- and were tranformed by -- power; Jack W. Germond's Fat Man in a Middle Seat (Random, Nov.), a memoir that describes politics as witnessed firsthand by a veteran journalist; ditto for Jack Anderson's Peace, War, and Politics (Forge, Oct.).
On education, there is Alfie Kohn's The Schools Our Children Deserve (Houghton), which challenges the notion that harder is always better; and Book of Virtues author William J. Bennett will publish The Educated Child: A Parent's Guide (Free Press, Oct.).
On race: Harvard's William Julius Wilson offers The Bridge Over the Racial Divide (Univ. of Calif., Nov.); and Brent Staples tells An American Love Story (Random), a companion to a PBS series about a racially mixed family.
The meatier, more philosophical social issues are tackled in Gertrude Himmelfarb's One Nation, Two Cultures (Knopf, Jan.), which discusses the struggle between the dominant culture of the '60s and a "new" dissident culture that promotes the family, morality, privacy and patriotism; also Thomas Sowell's The Quest for Cosmic Justice (Free Press, Oct.), which argues that our current "tyranny of social visions" may claim to be just but actually ends up promoting injustice.
On the law and crime: William N. Eskridge's Gaylaw (Harvard, Oct.) addresses the legal issues concerning gender and sexual nonconformity; Ann Rule's And Never Let Her Go (Simon & Schuster, Oct.) explores the case of Anne Marie Fahey and the culpability of Tom Capano, the attorney who was convicted of killing her; Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Rhodes explains violent behavior in Why They Kill (Knopf); and William S. McFeely, another Pulitzer winner, plumbs the death penalty question in Proximity to Death (Norton, Nov.).
Passions Small . . .
Pets. You do understand, don't you? I only call them "small" on purely physical grounds. Some books on the canine variety: Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, by Rupert Sheldrake (Crown, Oct.); Old Dogs Remembered (Synergistic), a collection of essays by writers from James Thurber to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, edited by Bud Johns; The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog (Holt, Oct.), by none other than Eugene O'Neill, illustrated by quiltmaker Adrienne Yorinks; and two books about pugs, Clara: The Story of the Pug Who Ruled My Life, by Margo Kaufman (Viking); and Pugshots (Viking, Oct.), a book of photographs by Jim Dratfield, who has snapped mugs no less formidable than Henry Kissinger's.
Passions Great . . .
Just do it, the ads say, urging us on to glorious feats. But there's something to be said for armchair sports. Some vicarious exploits to consider: Richard Ben Cramer's Joe DiMaggio (Simon & Schuster), as well as a compendium of writing about the late, great Yankee, Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, edited by Richard Gilliam (Carroll & Graf). Baseball in general is discussed in Long Balls, No Strikes, by Joe Morgan (Crown); also Daniel Paisner's The Ball (Viking).
Veteran reporter James S. Hirsch takes on the turbulent career of middleweight champion Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in Hurricane (Houghton, Feb.); and Roger Kahn, author of bestselling Boys of Summer, presents A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring '20s (Harcourt, Oct.)
Basketball is the target in Dean Smith's A Coach's Life: My Forty Years in College Basketball (Random, Nov.); the "college" in question is the University of North Carolina, of course; and then there's pro basketball's Larry Bird in Birdwatching (Warner).
For football fans, there's Manning: A Father, His Sons, and a Football Legacy, by Archie & Peyton Manning with John Underwood (Harper).
For nervous moms like yours truly, there's Sports Medicine for Parents and Coaches by Daniel J. Boyle (Georgetown), which discusses the readiness of children for certain sports at different ages, and describes the injuries that can be sustained on the field.
Fisherpersons take note: Even seasoned authors are angling for attention. Veteran writer Thomas McGuane offers us The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing (Knopf, Nov.); novelist Craig Nova will publish Brook Trout and the Writing Life (Lyons, Oct.); and, from a woman's point of view, there is Jan Zita Grover's Northern Waters (Graywolf, Oct.).
Passions Greater Still
The realm of the spirit, to be sure. Here are two books that describe the oneness of things: Thom Hartmann's The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Waking Up to Personal and Global Transformation (Harmony); and Shunryu Suzuki's Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness: Zen Lectures on the Sandokai (Univ. of Calif., Nov.). For those in search of inner peace: The Dalai Lama's daily meditations are revealed in The Path to Tranquility (Viking Arkana); James Redfield follows his Celestine Prophecy with The Secret of Shambhala (Warner, Nov.).
The Roman Catholic story is evoked in Kathleen Norris's Meditations on Mary (Viking, Oct.), Cathleen Medwick's Teresa of Avila (Knopf, Dec.), and Robert Clark's My Grandfather's House (Picador, Nov.).
The Jewish story is told in three volumes of The Talmud (Random, Nov.), in the translation by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz; these are the last of 21 volumes.
Two very American faiths are described in Mormon America, by Richard and Joan Ostling (HarperSF, Nov.); and the biography of Christian Scientist Mary Baker Eddy, by Gillian Gill (Perseus, Oct.).
There are a number of promising biographies to look for in the coming months. The late astronomer Carl Sagan claims two of them: Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos, by William Poundstone (Holt, Oct.), and Carl Sagan, by Keay Davidson (Wiley, Oct.).
Two important careers in civil rights are described in I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr., by Michael Eric Dyson (Free Press, Dec.); and Anthony Sampson's Mandela (Knopf).
Political ambitions from past to present are addressed in Geoffrey Perret's Eisenhower (Random, Oct.) and Bill Minutaglio's First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty (Times, Oct.). There is also Milosevic, by Dusko Doder and Louise Branson (Free Press, Nov.).
The writing life takes center page in Gore Vidal (Doubleday, Oct.), written with special access to Vidal's papers by veteran biographer Fred Kaplan; Seeing Mary Plain: A Life of Mary McCarthy, by New Yorker's Frances Kiernan (Norton, Feb.); Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette, by Isak Dinesen's biographer Judith Thurman (Knopf, Oct.); The Guest From the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin (Farrar), a story of the writers' brief but dramatic relations, by Hungarian novelist Gyorgy Dalos; Mary V. Dearborn's Mailer (Houghton, Oct.), about one of the most controversial literary figures of the day; and David Leeming's Stephen Spender (Holt), about the British poet and his influence on modern literature.
In the entertainment industry: Fire and Rain: The James Taylor Story (Birch Lane, Nov.), the story of the singer's struggle with mental illness, by Ian Halperin; Woody Allen, by John Baxter (Carroll, Dec.); two biographies of John Ford, Searching for John Ford, by Joseph McBride (St. Martin's, Dec.) and Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford, by Scott Eyman (Simon & Schuster, Nov.); Conversations With Wilder (that's Billy, the director), by Cameron Crowe (Knopf, Oct.).
The memoir factory continues full production. In the category of "strong women" there are numerous entries: Susan Brownmiller's In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution (Dial, Nov.), which appears to follow in the tracks of her landmark book, Against Our Will; Aretha: From These Roots (Villard), by Natural Woman Aretha Franklin in collaboration with David Ritz; Marian Wright Edelman's Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors (Beacon, Oct.); and Maria Hinojosa's Raising Raul (Viking, Nov.), about mixing a career in journalism and motherhood.
Literary memoirs include: Larry McMurtry's Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen (Simon & Schuster, Nov.); John Bayley's sequel to Elegy for Iris, called Iris and Her Friends (Norton, Nov.); French novelist Annie Ernaux's I Remain in Darkness (Seven Stories, Nov.), about her mother's battle with Alzheimer's; Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson McCullers, edited by Carlos L. Dews (Univ. of Wis.); Neil Simon's The Play Goes On (Simon & Schuster, Oct.); and Spalding Gray's account of his fatherhood, Morning, Noon, and Night (Farrar).
Two very different family memoirs: biographer Michael Holroyd's story of his own clan, which he thought was pure English but turned out to be rather more complicated, Basil Street Blues (Norton, Feb.); and My Lesbian Husband, by Barrie Jean Borich (Graywolf), a story of her gay marriage.
Remembrances of many, many places and many, many people are imparted in Mary Gordon's Seeing Through Places (Scribner, Jan.) and Dominick Dunne's The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper (Crown, Oct.).
Pathologies, of course, are the stock-in-trade of the modern memoir, and there is an assortment of these in the fall harvest: John Vernon's A Book of Reasons (Houghton) is the story of the novelist's strange, reclusive brother; radio personality Diane Rehm's Finding My Voice (Knopf) tells of growing up in an Arab-American household with an abusive mother; the brilliant cultural critic Edward Said's Out of Place (Knopf) describes a repressed upbringing; Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss, by Frederick and Steven Barthelme (Houghton, Nov.), tells of two lives waylaid at the casino; Don Snyder, author of the notable The Cliff Walk, writes about discovering the secret of his mother's death in Of Time and Memory (Knopf); David Thibodeau with Leon Whiteson describes a life with the Branch Davidians in A Place Called Waco (PublicAffairs); and, finally, there is Tha Doggfather (Morrow), a memoir of the mean streets of L.A., by rap artist Snoop Dogg.
Some memoirs seek to explore something larger than the vertical pronoun. Among these this year are: The Russian Tea Room: A Love Story (Scribner, Dec.) about that vinaceous Manhattan establishment, by former owner Faith Stewart-Gordon; The Nazi Officer's Wife, by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin (Morrow, Oct.); The Pianist: One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-45, by Wladyslaw Szpilman (Picador); Daughter of China, by Meihong Xu and Larry Engelmann (Wiley, Oct.); and Elie Wiesel's And the Sea Is Never Full (Knopf, Dec.), the concluding volume of the Nobel winner's memoirs.
In Media's Rays
A mix here of books on the communications industry, from magazines to radio to film: Renata Adler's Gone: The Last Days of the New Yorker (Simon & Schuster, Dec.) is an insider's story of what it was like to write for former editor William Shawn; I'll Be Right Back (Simon & Schuster, Jan.) is Mike Douglas's account of a lifetime of interviews with the famous; Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones have written The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times (Little, Brown); Columbia journalism professor Michael Janeway offers Republic of Denial: Press, Politics, and Public Life (Yale, Oct.); Garp author John Irving's My Movie Business (Random, Oct.), in which he describes his lack of involvement in the five films that have been made of his novels; and Jeanine Basinger's Silent Stars (Knopf, Nov.).
Down to a Science
Is there a boom in books on phenomena, from hard-nose cosmology to the sighting of extraterrestrial life? It certainly seems so from the vantage point of this chair. Here are a select few: James Gleick, the author of Genius and Chaos now gives us Faster (Pantheon), a tome about our obsession with time; Robert Kaplan means to capitalize on the success of Longitude with his book about the history of zero, The Nothing That Is (Oxford, Oct.); Amir Aczel follows his Fermat's Last Theorem with a book of even greater scope, God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe (Four Walls Eight Windows); George Johnson's Strange Beauty (Knopf, Oct.) is at once a biography of Murray Gell-Mann and an overview of 20th-century physics. Other Worlds: The Solar System and Beyond (National Geographic) is a lavishly illustrated book by George Mason Univ. professor James Trefil.
More down to earth: The Washington Post's own Joel Achenbach will publish Captured by Aliens (Simon & Schuster, Nov.); Defending the Cavewoman: And Other Tales of Evolutionary Neurology (Norton, Jan.) is a gathering of clinical tales from neurologist Harold Klawans; Alison Jolly gives us Lucy's Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution (Harvard, Nov.); and, to wrap it all up, there's Almost Everyone's Guide to Science (Yale), by British astronomist John Gribbin, author of In Search of Schrodinger's Cat.
Things fall apart. Experiments go wrong. Trouble happens. There are a few notable books in the "going awry" genre: The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments, by Eileen Welsome (Delacorte); The Woman Who Knew Too Much: Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation, by Gayle Greene (Univ. of Mich., Oct.); Flu: The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 (Farrar, Nov.) is by New York Times reporter Gina Kolata; the story of how one little plant grew to overtake 10,000 acres of Mediterranean coast, Killer Algae, by Alexandre Meinesz (Chicago, Nov.); and Blind Eye: How the Medical Establishment Let a Doctor Get Away With Murder, by James B. Stewart (Simon & Schuster).
Psychology offers a wide spectrum of subjects: Night Falls Fast, by bestselling author Kay Redfield Jamison (Knopf, Oct.), describes the terrible pull of suicide, especially among the young ; The Erik Erikson Reader, edited by Robert Coles (Norton, Feb.), covers the great psychologist's work from childhood studies to "identity crisis"; Antonio Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens (Harcourt) tells of the construction of the self; Anatomy of Anorexia, by Steven Levenkron (Norton, Feb.), discusses the latest treatments.
In a more popular vein, there is: Larry Dossey's Reinventing Medicine: A New Era of Healing (HarperSF, Oct.); Joy Browne's It's a Jungle Out There, Jane: Understanding the Male Animal (Crown); and Your Drug May Be Your Problem, by Peter Breggin and David Cohen (Perseus).
Geriatrics is getting its fair share of attention these days, now that we boomers are going grey. Three books in this area are: The Caregiver: A Life With Alzheimer's, by Aaron Alterra (Steerforth, Oct.); Charles Pierce's In the Country of My Disease, about Alzheimer's research and the struggle of one family (Random, Jan.); and, finally, The Quest for Immortality, by S. Jay Olshansky and Bruce A. Carnes (Norton, Feb.).
The Past Is New Again
There is no end to history, it seems. Not in the book industry, anyway, where historical tomes -- about everything from century-old natural disasters to the evolution of kitchenware -- continue to fuel the market.
For those who thrill to accounts of disaster, there is Isaac's Storm, by Erik Larson (Crown). This is the story of Isaac Cline, a pioneering U.S. government weatherman and his view of the storm that hit Galveston, Tex., in September of 1900, leaving 8,000 dead.
War buffs will want to know about: The Battle of New Orleans, by Robert V. Remini (Viking); The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Land Warfare, by Byron Farwell (Norton, Nov.); Five Days in London, May 1940, by John Lukacs (Yale); Hitler's Pope (Viking, Oct.), in which John Cornwell draws on Vatican and Jesuit archives to tell how and why Pope Pius XXII failed to condemn the Final Solution; Michael Lind's Vietnam: The Necessary War (Free Press, Oct.), which argues that the Vietnam War was strategically important but militarily mishandled; and What If . . .?, edited by Robert Cowley (Putnam), a compendium of essays by eminent military historians from Stephen Ambrose to John Keegan, arguing what might have been if wars had gone differently. Addressing a most controversial point about America's participation in World War II is Robert B. Stinnett's Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (Free Press, Dec.).
In the area of world history, one book promises to garner a good deal of attention, and rightly so: The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Harvard, Oct.) amounts to a litany of the ravages communism inflicted on the planet in the name of the proletariat -- as many as 25 million dead in the Soviet Union, 65 million in China, almost 2 million in Cambodia, and so on, along with famine, terror, torture and deportations; it has been edited by a committee led by Stephane Courtois. Others include: The Isles, by Norman Davies, a history of the British isles (Oxford, Nov.); The Lighthouse Stevensons (Harper), the story of the lighthouses built by the ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson, by Bella Bathurst; Bernard Lewis's A Middle East Mosaic (Random, Nov.); The Civilization of Ancient Egypt, by Paul Johnson (Harper, Dec.); Tournament of Shadows: The Race for Empire in Central Asia, by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac (Counterpoint, Nov.); A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, by Patrick Tyler (PublicAffairs); Mikhail Gorbachev's On My Country and the World, the former president's view on Soviet Russia from Revolution to demise (Columbia, Nov.); and America's Boy: The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand Marcos, by James Hamilton-Paterson (Holt).
American history is a mother lode, too. A select few titles are: Garry Wills's A Necessary Evil: The American Distrust of Government (Simon & Schuster, Oct.); Ronald Steel's In Love With Night: The American Romance with Robert Kennedy (Simon & Schuster, Jan.); Jefferson and the Indians, by Anthony F.C. Wallace (Harvard, Oct.); The Real American Dream, by Andrew Delbanco, a "spiritual history" of our country (Harvard); Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character, by Roger G. Kennedy (Oxford, Nov.); The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer (Houghton, Oct.), a collection of essays about the achievements and debacles of 41 chief executives.
American social history is represented by: The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America, edited by Michael Glazier (Notre Dame); Something in the Soil: Field-Testing the New Western History, by Patricia Nelson Limerick (Norton, Feb.); America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s, by Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin (Oxford, Nov.); Lay This Body Down: The 1921 Murders of Eleven Plantation Slaves, by Gregory A. Freeman (Lawrence Hill Books); and T.H. Watkins's comprehensive account of the Great Depression, The Hungry Years (Holt, Oct.).
Surely the most curious histories of the season, however, are two books that head us out of the carrels into the kitchen: Food: A Culinary History (Columbia, Nov.), a large-scale European repast edited by Albert Sonnenfeld; and Tupperware, by Alison J. Clarke (Smithsonian, Oct.)., which describes not only the evolution of the product but also the creation of direct sales and the gentle injection of women into the world of business.
There is something very appealing about contemplating photographs at century's end; perhaps it's a need to replay images that have scrolled through our minds but have yet to lock into our collective memory with context and a sense of their importance. A number of photographic books do that for us in the coming season. Among them are: Edward Steichen: The Early Years (Princeton, Nov.), a visual record of the master of the painterly photograph (1879-1973), by Joel Smith; Annie Liebovitz's Women (Random, Nov.), photographs with a text by Susan Sontag; Century: One Hundred Years of Human Progress, Regression, Suffering and Hope, edited by Bruce Bernard (Phaidon); Antarctic Odyssey, by Graham Collier and Patricia Collier (Carroll, Nov.); Michael Light's Full Moon (Knopf) has been out for a while, but it's worth mentioning here: eerie, majestic photographs of the moon taken by Apollo astronauts; Living Planet, by the folks at the World Wildlife Fund (Crown).
It's All In the Journey
Picturing the planet is one thing; being transformed by an encounter with it is another. This is a category that defies rubrics. It is neither travel book (for that suggests a tourist's perspective) nor nature book (for that does not suggest the level of confrontation I have in mind). Think of the books of Jonathan Raban, for instance, a string to which he is adding Passage to Juneau (Pantheon, Nov.) this fall. This particular one is part history of the stretch of water from Puget Sound to Alaska, part adventure, part rumination -- a genre of its own. Also in a watery vein: River Horse, by William Least Heat-Moon (Houghton, Oct.), author of Blue Highways; and Salmon Without Rivers, by Jim Lichatowich (Island, Nov.).
The American West is the focus of Ian Frazier's On the Rez, a book about the Oglala Sioux (Farrar, Jan.); the West is equally present in Mark Spragg's essay collection Where the Rivers Change Direction (Univ. of Utah, Oct.); The Heart of America, by Tim Palmer (Island, Oct.); and Chip Ward's Canaries on the Rim (Verso, Oct.).
Italy -- E.M. Forster's as well as Frances Mayes's -- continues to be a place to which people go for dolce far niente but end up discovering something important about themselves. This year it is the focus of Daphne Phelps's A House in Sicily (Carroll).
From there it's just a short hop to Mother Nature herself. First, a book about a man who taught us to appreciate her: Gerald Durrell, by Douglas Botting (Carroll, Oct.). Then a book about the most spurned of her children: Despicable Species: On Cowbirds, Kudzu, Hornworms, and Other Scourges, by Janet Lembke (Lyons).
And We Shall Have Music
What do Isaac Stern and Merle Haggard have in common? Not anything to do with their music, surely. But each will tell his life story in the upcoming season. In truth, quite a few musical lives will be explored in the next months. In the world of classical music: My First 79 Years, by Isaac Stern (Knopf, Oct.), written with Chaim Potok; Mozart: A Cultural Biography, by Robert W. Gutman (Harcourt, Nov.); Shostakovich, by Laurel E. Fay (Oxford, Nov.); Johann Sebastian Bach, by Christoph Wolff (Norton, March); Stravinsky: A Creative Spring, by Stephen Walsh (Knopf, Nov.); and even the practice rooms come to life in Juilliard: A History, by Andrea Olmstead (Univ. of Ill., Oct.).
American popular music is celebrated in: Richard Crawford's America's Musical Life, which promises to cover the range from Native American chants to jazz and rock (Norton, March); Nat King Cole, by Daniel Mark Epstein (Farrar, Oct.); A Cure for Gravity, by the very versatile Joe Jackson (PublicAffairs, Nov.); and, finally, the venerable Merle Haggard's The Running Kind, written with Tom Carter (Harper, Nov.).
Art Is Long . . .
. . . and lives are short. The books mentioned here promise to be explanations of the artists' genius, as much as visual representations of their work: Rembrandt's Eyes, by Simon Schama, is about the endurance of the master's appeal (Knopf, Nov.); Nicholas Fox Weber's Balthus describes the elusive, controversial painter (Knopf, Oct.); Affectionately, Marcel (DAP, Oct.) is chock full of Marcel Duchamp's correspondence to friends such as Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray and Constantin Brancusi; Ruth Brandon's Surreal Lives (Grove) discusses Picabia, Dali, Breton, Duchamp and Bunuel, among others; John Richardson's The Sorcerer's Apprentice: A Decade of Picasso, Provence, and Douglas Cooper (Knopf, Nov.); Jonathan Petropoulos's The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany (Getty Center, Jan.); and The River Below, by Francois Cheng (Welcome Rain, Feb.), the story of Tianyi, a painter who is called back from Paris to China by his ex-lover, only to be imprisoned and tortured in Mao's "re-education" camps.
You've Got Mail
Three great literary lives may be illumined by the publication of letters this season: Henry James: A Life in Letters, edited by Philip Horne (Viking, Nov.); Between Father and Son: Selected Correspondence of V.S. Naipaul and His Family (Knopf, Jan.); and Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1957-1969 (Viking, Nov.).
Bringing literature to new life can be achieved in a number of ways, few so dramatic as translating a vibrant voice into a different language. Here are some reinventions we can look forward to: Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney (Farrar, Nov.); Euripides' Alcestis, translated by Ted Hughes (Farrar); a never-before-published poem of Joseph Brodsky's, Discovery (Farrar, Oct.); William H. Gass's Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation (Knopf); Robert Hass's An Unnamed Flowing: The Cultures of American Poetry (Counterpoint, April); Italo Calvino's Why Read the Classics?, translated by Martin McLaughlin (Pantheon); Umberto Eco's Kant and the Platypus (Harcourt, Nov.), translated by Alastair McEwen. Although written in English, South African Nadine Gordimer's Living in Hope and History (Farrar, Nov.) takes us into a different world. Also making some leaps and linkages, albeit very much within our language and culture, is More Matter: Essays and Criticism, by John Updike (Knopf).
The big surprise this year is how little the millennium is figuring in the forthcoming run of publications. For a full year now, the industry has fretted about how perfectly deserving books may be overwhelmed by a rash of quickly cobbled, inferior millennial volumes. It isn't so. If anything, publishers seem to have decided to skip the millennium altogether. Nevertheless, three books in the category have managed to catch this weather eye: In Our Own Words: Extraordinary Speeches of the American Century, edited by Sen. Robert Torricelli and Andrew Carroll (Kodansha, Oct.); John Naisbitt's (of Megatrends fame) High Tech/High Touch: The Co-Evolution of Technology, Culture, Art, and Spirituality (Broadway, Oct.); and, last but far from least, a little book that may speak to our tamped-down mood of the age -- Edward Gorey's The Headless Bust: A Melancholy Meditation on the False Millennium (Harcourt, Oct.).
Century's end, millennial shift, however you think of it: When the clock chimes, when the zeros clack down, may the new era find you happily embraced by a comfortable chair, under a good lamp. Reading.
Marie Arana is the deputy editor of Book World.