Monday, July 6, 2009

Imperial and The Humbling

Somehow we're already well into July, which means we've made some progress through my recent post of summer releases. Living in New York certainly has its perks for the casual reader as the publishing world is all around us. Many great bookshops in Manhattan manage to get new books early and they can be yours if you know where to look. Although I'm not the biggest fan of the store, the first place to check for new releases is the basement of the Strand. It's packed to the gills with preview copies of many new titles; everything is half off the list price and often you'll find cute PR letters from the publishing house tucked into the book's flaps. Even though it’s not due out until the end of the month, I found a copy of Imperial down there.
The book looks to be just as amazing as I had hoped--a quick skim through the 10 or so pages of contents will make you dizzy with the scope of this tome. But, it's all very organized and seems to be actually quite a focused book. It's not like Vollmann's going to ramble aimlessly about how crazy life is down by the border--similar to the McSweeney's edition of Rising Up and Rising Down, Imperial follows a very calculated outline and while I'm only about 25 pages in at this point I am blown away with how good this one is.

Coincidentally, the same week I get one of the biggest books ever published I was able to get my hands on what might be the smallest new release: Philip Roth's The Humbling.

Just over 140 pages, I started this on the train home from work one day and it was done by the time I got in the next morning. I don't want to give anything away as far as the story is concerned, but Roth's done it again. You may already know The Humbling follows the breakdown of an old actor who "loses his magic", but Roth's actually composed the book into three acts and kind of follows a theatrical structure. Chock full of soliloquies, It's the closest thing we'll get to an actual play written by Roth. It's a powerful little book and fascinating in structure.

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