September 4, 2014

Publishers scramble for their own “Murakami One-Two”


Donna Tartt's new novel will bring this gannet to life.

Cape gannet, Sula capensis, by William MacGillivray (1796–1852), 1835, © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

On Monday, Knopf announced the forthcoming publication of The Strange Library, a new book by Haruki Murakami. The 96-page novel will be released in December, only three and a half months after Knopf’s publication of the author’s bestselling Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Following the announcement, a number of other publishers have raced to emulate what industry insiders are already calling the “Murakami One-Two.” Below is an exclusive list of seven newly announced titles from publishers large and small, all of which will hit stores before the Christmas holiday.

Born Alive, by David Mitchell (Random House)
Rabid Mitchellians who have already devoured The Bone Clocks will be thrilled to encounter Born Alive, a prequel to this year’s literary phenomenon. Each of the six parts of Born Alive is devoted to a phase of Clocks protagonist Holly Sykes’s prehistory—from conception to birth. With his characteristically exuberant prose and inspired neologisms, Mitchell takes us into the womb like no writer before him—it’s a truly Birthoracular experience.

Cape Gannet, by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown)
Following the extraordinary success of her Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt returns to the novel-based-on-a-somewhat-famous-painting-of-a-bird genre with Cape Gannet. This time, the story revolves around the theft, from London’s Natural History Museum, of British naturalist William MacGillivray’s 1835 watercolor, Cape gannet, Sula capensis. While industry critics have pointed out that Cape Gannet is not a proper example of a Murakami One-Two (The Goldfinch was not published this year, but in late 2013), A Hachette spokesperson pointed out that “given how long it takes Tartt to write these things, this sure as hell better count as a Murakami One-Two—whatever that is. Actually, wait, what is that exactly? Hello?”

I Really Cannot Speak Any More Frankly, by Richard Ford (Ecco)
This November, Richard Ford will return to the enigmatic, unknowable world of central New Jersey with Let Me Be Frank With You, a collection of four novellas narrated by Ford’s perennial protagonist, Frank Bascombe, and set in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Just a month later, Ecco will publish, in a standalone hardcover edition, I Really Cannot Speak Any More Frankly, a 48-page novella that finds Bascombe caught up in last fall’s Bridgegate scandal. As Bascombe sits in traffic and finds himself hours late for a job interview in New York City, he reflects on the corruption and corporate greed that have laid siege to the United States over the last few decades. I Really Cannot Speak Any More Frankly is Ford’s most topical work yet.

My Struggle: Book 3.5, by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Archipelago)
To tide readers over until the publication of Book 4 of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s blockbuster autobiographical novel, Archipelago Books will publish, as a Kindle Single, an expanded edition of the dramatic sequence (from Book 1) in which a teenaged Karl Ove struggles to bring booze to a New Year’s party in a nearby town. At 350 pages, Book 3.5 will include, among other new writing, a much more thorough description of the ditch where Karl Ove stashes his beer to avoid being caught by his father’s brother, Gunnar.

The Retweetening, by William Gibson (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
William Gibson’s The Peripheral is one of the most anticipated novels of 2014, and G.P. Putnam’s Sons has a special treat for Gibson’s most loyal readers. To be released the day after the publication of The Peripheral, The Retweetening is an app that will highlight some of Gibson’s greatest retweets. Known for his mastery of the Twitter form, Gibson (@GreatDismal) has been especially acclaimed for his retweets, which highlight the funniest, strangest, and most disturbing content from the worlds of politics, literature, and culture writ large. The Retweetening will deliver 300 of Gibson’s retweets, curated by the writer himself, over a period of thirty days. Readers of The Peripheral will be glad to have Gibson’s many interests so close at hand.

The Story of the Texan Literary Critics, by Roberto Bolaño (New Directions)
New Directions will publish A Little Lumpen Novella on September 16, but the publisher has already lined up a new/old/recently found/newly discovered work by the Chilean master. One of Bolaño’s earliest novels, The Story of the Texan Literary Critics describes the fractious—and, eventually, fatal—rivalry that tears apart a group of post-structuralist critics in early-1970s Austin. With a haunting epilogue set in the Chihuahuan Desert, TSoTLC is surely one of Bolaño’s Bolañoest novels.

Wittgenstein Jr’s American Adventure, by Lars Iyer (Melville House)
Brooklyn-based publisher Melville House has high hopes for Wittgenstein Jr—recently hailed by Flavorwire as a “funny, smart, and somewhat insane campus novel, perfect for anyone’s back-to-school hijinks.” Wittgenstein Jr’s American Adventure, Iyer’s cash-in insta-sequel, transplants the earlier book’s eponymous protagonist stateside. Now an adjunct professor at a small, New England liberal arts college, Wittgenstein Jr seems a good deal less misanthropic than he was at Cambridge . . . until, that is, a traumatic encounter with a campus a cappella group leaves him unmoored and more hopeless than ever.


Mark Krotov is senior editor at Melville House.