10 Booklist October 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
(The Flamethrowers, 2013) notes that this year,
especially, the committee knew it was necessary to choose works that would “encompass
some of the critical themes and events of
the past year.” In “Brown v. Ferguson,” international journal Endnotes gives historical
context to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Kyle Boelte’s dissection of his weeks-long jury
service teaches him that, comforting or not, as
citizens “we are creating our democracy, even
as we inherit it.” The Marshall Project’s “How
I Became a Prison Gardener” gives stunning
voice to Michele Scott, a woman serving a
life sentence without parole. Fiction features,
too: in Anthony Marra’s collection opener,
a Chechen curator paints his wife and son
into the painting he already values above all
others. In an interview with Marilynne Robinson, President Obama reveals some of most
important lessons he’s learned—from novels.
This is, as always, a wide-ranging collection
of civic-minded, literary, entertaining reads.
YA: Their peers thought these pieces were
cool, and for good reason; teens will likely
By Women Possessed: A Life of
By Arthur Gelb and Barbara Gelb.
Nov. 2016. 896p. Putnam/Marian Wood, $50
Writing in 1931, Eugene O’Neill praised
his third wife (Carlotta Monterey) for giving
him “a warm secure sanctuary” that could only
come from a “mother and wife and mistress
and friend!” In this, their third and culmi-
nating study of America’s only Nobel laureate
playwright, the Gelbs plumb the psyche of a
writer who desperately needed yet often re-
sented the women who shaped his personal
and artistic life. The formative influence of
women on the writer’s remarkable career
emerges clearly in this richly detailed account
of how O’Neill veered into guilt, self-doubt,
and drunkenness while
leaving one wife for anoth-
er and while brooding on
his conflicted relationship
with a morphine-addicted
mother who wished he had
never been born. Despite
the tangles in his relation-
ships with women, O’Neill
found inspiration in them for key characters
and themes in masterpieces such as Desire
under the Elms and Long Day’s Journey into
Night. Drawing on newly available diaries
and interviews, the Gelbs not only chron-
icle the vindication of that inspiration as
signaled by the Nobel Prize but also show
the pathos in the aging O’Neill’s slide into
professional eclipse, estrangement from his
children, and physical disintegration caused
by a misdiagnosed neurological disease. A
compellingly full-size portrait of a literary
titan. —Bryce Christensen
The Future Tense of Joy.
By Jessica Teich.
Oct. 2016. 224p. Seal, $22 (9781580055697). 818.
In this conversational memoir, Teich ( Trees
Make the Best Mobiles: Simple Ways to Raise
Your Child in a Complex World, 2001) tackles
an interesting but sometimes overwhelming
number of topics, including, but not limited
to, her abusive teenage relationship with an
older dancer, her time at Yale, her romance
with an alcoholic, her investigation of the
1995 leap-off-a-hotel-balcony suicide of a fellow female Rhodes scholar, her own mental
health, her stomach-cancer-survivor husband,
and her young daughters. She jokingly refers
to herself as a “roads” scholar because she
chauffeurs her kids around so much. Teich
provides specific, often surprising information about suicide: more American troops kill
themselves than die in combat, Wyoming has
the highest rate in the country and New York
has the lowest, and most people who survive
an attempt never do it again. In the happily-ever-after final section, Teich finds “peace and
Prozac and the pleasures of owning a dog”
and declares that her husband is a prince.
A psychologically and socially revealing and
inspiring story of personal struggles and life
lessons by a self-described “Mother. Writer.
Driver.” —Karen Springen
The Most Famous Writer Who Ever
Lived: A True Story of My Family.
By Tom Shroder.
Oct. 2016. 416p. Penguin/Blue Rider, $28
Shroder is the grandson of MacKinlay Kantor, who, back in the 1940s and 1950s, was a
popular American fiction writer. Kantor authored more than 30 novels, among them the
Pulitzer Prize–winning Andersonville (1955),
about the infamous Confederate prison in
Georgia, a work that was credited with “having
Two new titles celebrate the adventures and achievements of Barney Rosset, a brilliant, indomitable, and essential champion for literature and freedom of expression.
Dear Mr. Beckett: Letters from the Publisher.
By Barney Rosset. Ed. by Lois Oppenheim.
Oct. 2016. 480p. illus. Opus, $28.95 (9781623160708). 848.
At the start of what would become a pivotal literary partnership and deep and lasting
friendship, Samuel Beckett wrote to publisher and, in Paul Auster’s words, “battling renegade” Barney Rosset, “I hope that you realize what you are letting
yourself in for.” Rosset did, indeed, and couldn’t have been more
thrilled. Their blazing collaboration is celebrated in this vigorous
assemblage of letters (mostly Rosset’s) and documents, many in facsimiles; interviews, doodles, advertisements, posters, book covers,
and photographs, including a Richard Avedon portrait of Samuel
Beckett and Beckett Rosset, Barney’s young son. Rosset encourages,
soothes, bristles, argues, and jokes. In a 1958 letter he writes, “For
God’s sake DON’T give up drink.” In 1964, Beckett reports, “I have
broken down halfway through galleys of More Pricks than Kicks. I
simply can’t bear it.” But he did. Rosset not only published Beckett’s spare and arresting
work at Grove Press, he also produced Beckett’s plays. Pair this vivid and intimate homage
to two revolutionary men of letters brimming with literary, theatrical, and First Amendment
history with Rosset’s simultaneously published memoir. —Donna Seaman
Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship.
By Barney Rosset.
Oct. 2016. 370p. OR, paper, $20 (9781682190449); e-book, $10 (9780984295456). 363.31.
Legendary publisher and free-speech activist Rosset, who died in 2012 at the age of
89, is brisk, frank, and captivating in this posthumously published memoir. He powers
through his Irish-Jewish family history, privileged Chicago boy-
hood, WWII service as a photographer in China, early days setting
up shop in Greenwich Village, and first marriage (four more fol-
lowed) to painter Joan Mitchell, who encouraged him to acquire
the then fledgling Grove Press in 1951. Noting that he “had always
been drawn to books that were considered risky,” Rosset recounts
with flint and wit the flabbergasting and triumphant story of how
he fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to oppose anti-
obscenity laws he believed violated the First Amendment in order
to publish works by D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and William S.
Burroughs. Along with tales of his passion for film, author friend-
ships, a bombing following his clandestine pursuit of Che Guevara’s
diaries, and his eventual banishment from Grove, Rosset’s exciting memoir provides in-
valuable testimony in the ongoing defense of freedom of expression. —Donna Seaman