2012 Fall A+E Guide: Books

Michael Chabon writes of record store owners and midwives in Telegraph Avenue, a novel about relationships in the Bay Area back in 2004.
Chuck Twardy

Telegraph Avenue By Michael Chabon (September 11)

Chabon’s debut effort, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, was a superb evocation of life changes in a cleverly evoked and captivating locale. Telegraph Avenue bears the same promise. Set in 2004, it examines the complicated relations of two couples: the male owners of a fading vinyl record store and the female midwives in the Bay Area.

The Casual Vacancy By J.K. Rowling (September 27)

The Harry Potter creator probably won’t have much trouble selling copies of her first non-Potter and adult-audience novel, but some part of her probably wishes it could arrive in the world without the weight of Potterdom upon it. Regardless, the black-comedic look at issues arising after the death of an English small-town councilman sounds promising.

The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever By David Skinner (October 9)

A controversial dictionary, eh? Well, it was. Under editor Philip Grove, Webster’s Third challenged musty notions of usage and introduced scads of words to “official” English in an America on the cusp of change in 1961. HarperCollins compares it to Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman, and that can’t be bad.

We Are What We Pretend to Be: The First and Last Works By Kurt Vonnegut (October 9)

For a guy who died in 2007, Vonnegut has enjoyed a fruitful afterlife, an idea that probably would have appalled him. Son Mark brought out the essay compilation Armageddon in Retrospect in 2008, and now daughter Nanette contributes to a volume joining his unpublished first novel with his unfinished last one, with a title drawn from a quote from Mother Night.

Both Flesh and Not: Essays By David Foster Wallace (November 6)

Speaking of posthumous success, the late DFW scored last year with the sketchy-but-brilliant The Pale King, and now comes a collection of his nonfiction essays. Publishers Weekly says it, too, is muddled, but mostly worthy, with essays on topics ranging from tennis to Terminator 2.


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