Novella’s Fall Book Preview

Novella’s given you, our faithful readers, a preview of upcoming movies and TV shows coming this fall. Now it’s time to shine our spotlight on books!

Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing (pub date: Sept. 5th)

Tracing the past and the present of Mississippi, Ward’s upcoming novel follows a family – Jojo, his younger sister Kayla, and their mother Leonie – as they move toward the state penitentiary after hearing about the release of the children’s white father from prison. Exploring the love and limitations of family in the face of racism and poverty, Sing, Unburied, Sing parallels the likes of Toni Morrison.

Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere (pub date: Sept. 12th) 

Set in an idyllic Cleveland suburb, Ng’s latest novel centers on two mothers and their children: Elena Richardson, who parallels the suburb’s composed order, and Mia Warren, who resists the said order. Soon a divisive custody battle — a result of the Richardson’s family friends’ endeavor to adopt a Chinese-American baby — creates animosity between the two women. Described as witty and wise, Little Fires Everywhere traces the nature of secrets, art, and, above all, motherhood.

Sam Sax’s Madness (pub date: September 12th)

Sax’s debut poetry collection challenges notions of masculinity, sanity, heterosexuality, and normality. Writing about sex, hysteria and lobotomy, and his own experiences with mental health, Sax uses peculiarities in of the language to parallel and contemplate the peculiarities of the human mind.

Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead (pub date: Sept 5th)

Smith’s second poetry collection, like his previous work, discusses race, sexuality, power, and politics. It begins with imagining an afterlife for black men shot by the police and traces desire and mortality in relation to the body. A poet and an activist, Smith’s work has been celebrated for its innovative and political voice.

Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach (pub date: October 3rd)

Set in Brooklyn in the 1930’s, Pulitzer-winner Egan’s novel follows an 11-year-old Anna Kerrigan, her father, and a nightclub owner named Dexter Styles, whom Anna learns is critical to her family’s existence. Eight years later, America is in the Second World War and Anna’s father is missing. A chance meeting with Dexter, however, helps Anna trace the complexities and, ultimately, the truth of her father’s disappearance. Egan’s first historical fiction, Manhattan Beach explores the oppositions within and dualities of human existence.

Jermey Dauber’s Jewish Comedy: A Serious History (pub date: Oct. 31st)

Divided into what Dauber refers to as the seven strands of Jewish comedy, the book delves into the ways in which Jewish comedy has approached persecution and diaspora. Examining comedic archetypes along with major Jewish comedians (Philip Roth, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart), Dauber’s work has been described as funny and crucial scholarship of Jewish history.

Han Kang’s The White Book (pub date: Nov. 2nd) 

The White Book, described as “the most autobiographical and the most experimental to date” by Portobello Books, is Korean writer Han Kang’s third publication in English. Starting with a list of white things the author saw in Warsaw (where she completed her writer’s residency), the book centers on Kang’s older sister, who’d died two hours after birth. Paralleling and intertwining imagery of the city and a new life cut short, Kang creates a genre-defying piece of literature, reflecting on life and death and survival.

Hallie Lieberman’s Buzz: The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy (pub date: Nov. 7th) 

Lieberman writes about the history of vibrators, tracing the changes in the ways in which it has been used and perceived. Starting with the lubricant in Ancient Greece all the way up to vibrators in present day, Lieberman discusses sex toys within the context of various attitudes towards sexuality, feminism, and LGBT issues, presenting sex toys in a new, less clandestine light.

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Novel Ideas: Rockets Versus Gravity by Richard Scarsbrook

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When we run into someone we know at the grocery store, we call it a coincidence. When we find out that our former partner was recently hired at our workplace, we brush it off as chance. When something out of the ordinary happens that links our lives to someone else’s, we see it as simply accidental. In Richard Scarsbrook’s Rockets Versus Gravity, the reader is able to step back and discover that seemingly random events happen more often than we realize, and perhaps are not mere coincidence, but rather the work of a larger force at play – fate.

The novel is set in Scarsbrook’s invented Canadian town – Faireville – and the real-life city of Toronto, and follows seven main storylines: Stan the lumberjack who continually loses his wedding ring; a teenaged girl whose tryst with a handsome stranger changes her life forever; a neglected husband who used to be a rock star; a grinder for the local teen hockey team who faces off against the town’s hockey prodigy; a young boy in a wheelchair who is determined to carry out justice; a wealthy but unhappy family that lives close to a homeless woman; and an old veteran whose nurse reminds him of his former lover.

Scarsbrook expertly weaves these seemingly unrelated characters into one larger story – a technique reminiscent of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad. But it is as if Scarsbrook challenges the reader to connect the dots – the reader must piece together the puzzle that will illustrate how all the stories are linked. And, as the story continues, the characters too begin to uncover the connections between their stories and others’ around them.

Perhaps most impressive of Scarsbrook’s style is his ability to drop little but significant clues – like metaphors and symbols – throughout his stories. Take, for instance, Stan the lumberjack. Stan’s inability to keep track of his wedding ring – he has lost four and replaced it every time – may at first seem like Stan simply has a habit of losing things. However, the reader soon discovers that in each of the storylines, other characters begin to find Stan’s rings. The lost rings become a crucial motif in the novel that serves as one of the strings that tie all these characters’ lives together.

Scarsbrook creates a vast array of unique characters – from a richer-than-life businessman to a homeless man with a talent for poetry, or from an aroused rural girl to an urban teen who is frustrated with her family’s selfishness. Many of these characters are underdogs or outcasts who have been mistreated by society, and desperately desire to escape its gravitational pull. Scarsbrook portrays these characters so vividly that the reader cannot help but empathize with them. He brings the cities of Faireville and Toronto – and all his characters within them – to life, and makes the reader desperately hope for the best for the beloved characters.

Rockets Versus Gravity is Scarsbrook’s eighth book and will be released in stores on September 24, 2016. It is his newest novel, and, one might say, his best yet. Just like his other books, he infuses witty humour within each chapter. But what makes this evocative novel so unique is how it demonstrates that our lives are more connected than we ever imagined.

Novel Ideas: Summer Reading Guide

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TEXT: Chantelle Lee and Snigdha Koirala

To celebrate summer, we at Novella Magazine have compiled a list of fun reads you can all enjoy this season!

1. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
Five days after Marina Keegan graduated from Yale University, she died in a car accident. To honour her memory, Keegan’s family and friends gathered the short stories and essays she had written over the years and compiled them into this collection. The Opposite of Loneliness, perhaps her most well-known essay, and for which this collection is named after, reminisces about the feeling of belonging in a community — like university — and encourages readers to hold onto that inspirational feeling throughout their lives. If you recently graduated from high school or university, this book is a must-read for you this summer.

2. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Whether you’re a poetry expert or novice, Milk and Honey is the book for you. Rupi Kaur’s seemingly simple poems are short enough to ease readers into poetry, but also complex enough to touch on a multitude of topics, like femininity, abuse, and love. Kaur is a local Torontonian, and in her first published collection of poetry, she tells her story of hurting, loving, breaking, and healing. If you want an “addictive” collection of poetry to read this summer, then Milk and Honey is the book for you.

3. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Now that season six of the popular television show Game of Thrones has finished this year, why not catch up on the books to keep yourself occupied? Immerse yourself in the Westeros universe by reading all five novels so that when the show starts again next spring, you’ll be all caught up on your Game of Thrones trivia.

4. Just Kids by Patti Smith
Summer is a great time to read memoirs! Follow musician, artist, and poet Patti Smith as she reflects on her life in New York, and her intense relationship with renowned photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Just Kids is one of those powerful memoirs that will keep you hooked on every word. Smith writes her memoir with the same lyrical beauty that she gifts her songs, and you will find yourself humming to the tune of the book.

5. A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
In A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid compares a tourist’s perception of Antigua to the everyday reality for the island locals. Although it was published in 1988, the book is still timely and eye-opening today. Kincaid takes the words “creative non-fiction” to a whole new level — she turns the state of post-colonial Antigua into an expressive story of hardship, culture, mistreatment, and love.

6. The Accidental by Ali Smith
Ali Smith’s 2005 novel follows a family of four in England who decide to spend their summer in a small Norfolk village. Things fail to go as planned, however, when a stranger decides to join them. Presenting readers with everything from a 12-year-old girl’s innermost thoughts to the philosophical concept of a beginning, The Accidental is all that you could want in a read: it’s funny, it’s poignant, a bit strange, and brutally honest.

7. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
This Pulitzer Prize winning book doesn’t quite stick to the traditional definitions of a novel, nor does it to the traditional definitions of a short story collection. But whatever you may call it and however you may define it, once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it back down! Following an array of characters, who range from a music producer to an ex-teen star, A Visit from the Goon Squad will get you to (unknowingly) think of a whole host of things — the biggest being the concept of time: how time moves, where it moves to, and what it does to those who don’t move with it.

8. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
How much can you say about a single day? According to Virginia Woolf, a whole lot. Mrs. Dalloway follows Clarissa Dalloway as she makes her way around 1920s London, preparing for a party she will host that evening. Delving into one character’s mind, then into another’s, then into another’s, Woolf pulls the reader into post-WWI England and makes her stay there, exposing her to everything from PTSD to existential crises to feminism. If you’re someone who’s keen to pull out a classic at the beach, then look no further — this book is for you.

9. And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
Calling all poetry aficionados (and poetry-phobes too)! Maya Angelou’s easy-to-read, but poignant poems resonate, in some shape or form, with all those who encounter them. Never afraid to veer into the uncomfortable, Angelou explores womanhood and race in this collection — the difficulties they present and, most importantly, the strength with which she overcomes those difficulties.

10. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Betty Smith’s 1943 novel is the kind that you purposely stretch out over weeks. The very thought of the story ending — of having to say goodbye to endearing characters — will force you to put the book on hold for a bit. Smith’s protagonist, Francie Nolan, will show you around 20th century Brooklyn: from the school that she attends to the streets that she plays in. If you’re in the market for characters who grow as you do, then this is the book for you!