Staff Pick

At the center of Francine Prose’s effervescent fifteenth novel is the umpteen-hundredth revival of the cheesy but mysteriously durable musical based on a fictitious classic children’s novel, Mister Monkey. It’s a hack production, in the off-off-off-off Broadway High Line Theater, with a costume budget so spare that Mister Monkey’s costume is sewn from a nubby, brown chenille bedspread that may or may not be full of dust mites, and the actors are generally over-qualified, underpaid, and in one case, ragingly, dangerously, hormonal. It’s a screwball set-up executed to brilliant effect. Told from the alternating points of views of characters both directly and peripherally involved in the play, Mister Monkey (HarperCollins $26.99) hits the sweet spot of great fiction---darkly funny and richly poignant, and full of warmth and humanity, to boot. Consider “a cosmic playwright with a weird sense of humor,” one character urges, setting up scenes full of “unlikely coincidences, improbable events, good and bad surprises.” It’s possibly a meta request from the pen of the author who brought this comic gem to life, urging us to suspend disbelief, and enjoy the ride.

Mister Monkey: A Novel Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062397836
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - October 18th, 2016

Mister Monkey: A Novel Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780062397843
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - October 17th, 2017

Staff Pick

Nell Zink’s zany yet unexpectedly moving third novel, Nicotine (Ecco, $26.99), named for a house of squatters working to further smokers’ rights (many smokers have a “medical need” for tobacco to keep their mania and/or depression under control) loosely traces several decades’ worth of alternative lifestyle movements, from the last gasp of the late ‘70s hippies to the early twenty-first century identity-politics activists. Along the way, Zink, with her inimitable blend of realism and absurdity, sends up the witting and unwitting contradictions of hospice care (which allowed “no painkillers because they hasten death, and no fluids because they prolong life”), faith (a former Italian Jew who converted to shamanism professes not to “believe in god,” but he does “believe in religion”), and social activism, which can devolve into interchangeable issues and be more about slogans than people. Most of all, Zink targets family, and her protagonist, Penhana “Penny” Baker, has a highly unconventional one, from her New Age father, his much younger, South American Indian wife—who is also his adopted daughter—and her two older half-brothers, one of whom may be her real father. Is this clan dysfunctional, or has it liberated itself from such constraining notions? Zink satirizes both sides, playfully exposing the conventions of the unconventional and the lengths we go for the sake of a cherished self-image.

Nicotine: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062441706
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Ecco - October 4th, 2016

Nicotine: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062441713
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Ecco - June 20th, 2017

Staff Pick

Sequential Drawings (Pantheon, $25) collects a decade of Richard McGuire’s spot illustrations—the small drawings breaking up large pages of text—featured in The New Yorker. Perhaps the master of this art of deceptively simple visual acrobatics, McGuire, the award-winning artist of Here, takes things as familiar as seasonal changes and street scenes and makes them newly arresting with just a few lines. Notice how he renders movement from a mirrored surface through windows and doorways—the illustration is both straightforward and irreverent. Throughout this powerful album, McGuire’s work is humorous without being kitschy, and thoughtful without being overwrought.

Sequential Drawings: The New Yorker Series (Pantheon Graphic Library) Cover Image
By Richard McGuire, Luc Sante (Introduction by)
$25.00
ISBN: 9781101871591
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon - November 1st, 2016

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