Friday, October 23, 2015

Knopf 100--Day 5

I've been thumbing through this book that lists every Knopf publication for its 100 years of existence. It's probably not natural to have such a geeky nerd fandom relationship with a book publisher. I do think that if I tried I could list 1,000 Knopf titles instead of 100. Maybe when we're done with the 100, I'll give it a shot. In the mean time, I should give a shout out to a book called The Art of Prestige by Amy Root Clements. It's not a Knopf publication, but it is a history of the founding of the venerable publishing house. Alfred A. Knopf may have been the founder and leader, but his wife Blanche was the bad ass. The Knopfs were champions of many works in translation and most of these publications were Blanche's finds.

On to the list:

13. Embers by Sandor Marai, originally published in 2001.  Embers is one of those rediscovered classics of literature, a short novel from Hungarian novelist Sandor Marai. In it, an old general sits in his castle with a special guest for the evening, his once closest friend. The two men have been estranged for four decades and the falling out involves the general's deceased wife. You just know that they are going to have so much fun together! I bet they braid each other's hair and try on each other's jackets (they do not). Embers is all about the taut, heated exchange and harsh accusation. It might be the feel good read of the century.

14. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, originally published in 1923. Forster is a personal favorite of mine, including this gem. Lucy Honeychurch
is off to Florence for vacation and adventure (or as much adventure as a proper young lady of Edwardian England is allowed to have), accompanied by her, ahem, delightful older cousin and chaperone, Charlotte. If I remember correctly, Maggie Smith began perfecting her cranky old dowager persona with the role of Charlotte in the film version. While in Florence, Lucy meets George Emerson, the man who graciously swapped hotel rooms with Lucy and Charlotte after Charlotte through a hissy over her lack of a view. Lucy and George then dance around each other for pretty much the rest of the book, both in Italy and England, as Forster plays with social class and expectations thrust upon "proper" young people.

15. The Boat by Nam Le, originally published in 2008. There are short story collections from unknown writers and then there's The Boat. These seven stories span the globe, from a Colombian drug cartel to immigrants on a boat in the South China Sea, to a partly humorous, partly tense story about a writer named Nam enrolled in the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop and anxious over the impending visit of his somewhat estranged father. Nam Le, I love you. When will you write more for me?

16. The Infatuations by Javier Marias, originally published in 2013. Maria, bored with her life, frequents the same cafe every morning (do they have Starbucks in Spain?), and over her breakfast she begins to notice the same couple also coming to the restaurant every morning. She imagines them as the perfect couple and takes comfort in their consistency and presence on the periphery of her life. Then, horribly, the husband is murdered. Maria breaks her silence to offer her condolences to the widow, and they become more to each other than mere restaurant smile-and-nod buddies. Maria also meets another man and the plot begins twisting around the dead husband's murder and what really happened. Marias is one of those authors regularly mentioned on Nobel Prize speculation lists and The Infatuations is an excellent jumping in point to discover this contemporary master.

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