I didn't include any of these in my What I'm Looking Forward to Reading 2016 version for what should be obvious reasons. But each and every one of these titles is something that should absolutely be on your radar!
Just recently published
Triangle Ray by John Holman
Triangle Ray is a collection of short stories linked by the character of Ray Fielding, introduced first as a young black man coming of age in the 1980s and infatuated with his schoolmate, the brilliant, miraculous Marie. Against the wishes of their families, the two marry just out of high school, but the marriage falls apart within a few years as time makes them strangers to each other. Twenty years later, Ray is unmarried and still searching for a lasting connection—with his friend Dexter and his wife Olivia, whose name is so beautiful Ray has to ugly it up; with his cousin Barbara, raising her child while chasing an easy way out; and with passionate, mercurial Alma, a woman with whom Ray collides at right angles, a fleeting love affair neither of them can keep alive.
With sharp prose and startling insight, John Holman illuminates issues of race and class within the context of one man’s search for love and belonging, exploring the motives behind the ways we retell our stories and how we ignore or embrace the future that is already taking shape.
Kafka's Son by Curt Leviant
Set in New York City and Prague in 1992, Kafka’s Son follows a documentary filmmaker whose life has been defined by the men he refers to as the two Ks: Danny Kaye and Franz Kafka. In a New York synagogue, he meets an elderly Czech Jew named Jiri, once the head of the famous Jewish Museum in Prague, with whom he discovers a shared love of Kafka. Inspired by this new friendship, he travels to Prague to make a film about Jewish life in the city and its Kafka connections.
In his search for answers, he crosses paths with the beadle of the famous 900-year-old Altneushul synagogue, where a legendary golem is rumored to be hidden away in a secret attic, which may or may not exist; a mysterious man who may or may not be Kafka’s son; Mr. Klein, who although several years younger than Jiri may or may not be his father; and an enigmatic young woman in a blue beret, who is almost certainly real.
As Prague itself becomes as perplexing and unpredictable as its transient inhabitants, Curt Leviant unfolds a labyrinthine tale that is equal parts detective novel and love story, captivating maze and realistic fantasy, and a stunning tribute to Kafka and his city. Initially published in France in 2009, Kafka’s Son was selected by the Association of French Booksellers as a Choice Book and chosen as one of 40 Best Foreign Books of the Year for 2009.
Waste by Andrew F. Sullivan
A breakneck tour of a brokedown city littered with ruptured families, missing mothers, busted bowling alleys, and neon motels.
Larkhill, Ontario. 1989. A city on the brink of utter economic collapse. On the brink of violence. Driving home one night, unlikely passengers Jamie Garrison and Moses Moon hit a lion at fifty miles an hour. Both men stumble away from the freak accident unharmed, but neither reports the bizarre incident.
Haunted by the dead lion, Moses storms through the frozen city with his pathetic crew of wannabe skinheads searching for his mentally unstable mother. Jamie struggles with raising his young daughter and working a dead-end job in a butcher shop, where a dead body shows up in the waste buckets out back. A warning of something worse to come.
Somewhere out there in the dark, a man is still looking for his lion. His name is Astor Crane, and he has never really understood forgiveness.
Movie Stars by Jack Pendarvis
These stories are linked by humor, setting, themes, and recurring characters—cat lovers, murderers, gamblers, ghosts, and fools—but mostly by the movie stars, gods, and goddesses who look down on us struggling mortals with a mixture of benevolence and wrath. From Scarlett Johansson to Joan Crawford, Clint Eastwood to Jerry Lewis, they represent the impossible ideals to which lesser beings turn for hope in an otherwise baffling world.
Loreena's Gift by Colleen Story
A blind girl’s terrifying “gift” allows her to regain her eyesight— but only as she ferries the recently deceased into the afterlife.
Loreena Picket is a blind young woman who lives with her uncle, a reverend at a small- town church. Loreena has a strange gift, which she’s not really sure is a gift at all. Her uncle has made good use of it, involving her in end-of-life “ceremonies,” during which she helps terminally ill people die in the most humane way. Taking their hands, she kills them with an invisible, painless power, but not before traveling with them to the other side. On her journey to the afterlife with her companion, she can see.
Loreena’s uncle believes her power is a gift from God, but when Loreena’s troubled brother returns to town, she saves his life by killing a drug dealer. Thrown deeper into her brother’s dark world and forced to survive being kidnapped and used for her power, she begins to wonder: is she an angel of mercy or just an assassin?
Late One Night by Lee Martin
On a night no one will ever forget, Della Black and three of her seven children are killed in a horrific fire in their trailer. As the surviving children are caught in the middle of a custody battle between their well-intentioned neighbor and their father and his pregnant mistress, new truths about what really happened the night of the fire come to light. When the fire marshal determines the cause—arson—rumors quickly circulate as the townspeople search for answers. Ronnie Black is the kind of man who can leave his wife and children for a younger woman, but is he capable of something more sinister?
Ronnie and his girlfriend, Brandi Tate, maintain his innocence—he’s a loving, caring father who wants to do everything he can to protect his family. But as the gossip mounts, Ronnie feels his children (and, eventually, Brandi) pulling away from him. Soon enough, he finds himself at a crossroads—should he allow gossipmongers to seal his fate, or should he fight to prove that he’s not the monster people paint him to be?
In Late One Night, Lee Martin examines the devastating effect of rumors and the resilience of one family in the face of the ultimate tragedy.
Worthy by Lisa Birnbaum
Told in a language all its own, Worthy is a tale of love, deception, and the art of the long con.
Worthy is the story of Ludmila—or Worthy, as she comes to be known— a “former” con artist from Eastern Europe managing an eccentric, failing strip club in Tampa for her lover, Leo. Though there is much she won’t reveal, she gradually unravels the story of her love affair twenty years earlier with Theodore, an erratic literature professor who embraces an ideology built around what he calls the Four Books: Mann’s Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man, Nabokov’s Despair, Melville’s The Confidence-Man, and Camus’s The Fall. Seduced by the scofflaws in these novels, Theodore and Worthy transform themselves into confidence artists, a tempest of shared madness that carries them from New York to Mexico City to the South of France. Despite her sly humor calculated to charm, Worthy’s picaresque narrative leaves the listener with deepening questions, from what happened to Theodore to the reasons she abandoned her son Mirek.
With the linguistic acrobatics of Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing and the confessional force of The Fall, Lisa Birnbaum weaves a lively tale of elusive truth about finding our way in the world, as love is inevitably lost and left behind.
Movieola! by John Domini
A collection of linked short stories that delights in and exploits the language and paraphernalia of industrial Hollywood.
The collection delves into a night at the movies, featuring all the familiar types—the rom-com, the action-adventure, the superhero, and the spy—but the narratives are still under construction, and every storyline is an opportunity for the unimaginable twist. Motive and identity are constantly shifting in these short stories that offer both narrative and anti-narrative, while the stunted shop-talk of the movie business struggles to keep up.
With the wit of Steve Erickson’s Zeroville and the inventive spirit of Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, John Domini offers a collection at once comical and moving, care- fully suspended between a game of language and a celebration of American film.
Jamestown, Alaska by Frank Hollon Turner
Jamestown, Alaska is the story of Aaron Jennings, a bestselling novelist bored by his life of suburban monotony and increasingly disturbed by the stories of violence in his newspaper, who wakes one morning to find a small red book on his doorstep. There is no title, no author’s name on the spine: just the words The Survival Manifesto inscribed on the first page, and an invocation to a chosen few to abandon the society of the incompetent, lazy, and immoral and build a new utopia in the wilds of Alaska. Jennings is invited to the commune to write, or rewrite, the history of the imminent worldwide revolution.
Skeptical but insatiably curious, Jennings sets out for Alaska in the company of the seven mysterious members of the Committee, pursued by a sinister figure (his next- door neighbor?) who seems to oppose the Committee’s mission. But the human vices have reached Jamestown first, and the foundation of the commune is already faltering. As Jennings becomes entangled with the secrets of Jamestown, falling out of touch with his family and the life he left behind, he grows increasingly paranoid about what kind of game he’s stumbled into, and whether anything in Jamestown is as it seems.
With spare prose and sharp insight into the fallacies of the human mind, Frank Turner Hollon’s Jamestown, Alaska walks the line between ludicrous and ominous in the style of Karen Russell, Jim Shepard, and Kurt Vonnegut.