Fresh Complaint: Stories - Jeffrey Eugenides

Staff Pick

If these wide-ranging stories have a theme, it’s disillusionment. The characters have been let down by marriage, art, and the American Dream (which itself has suffered some damage). Searching for enlightenment, a young American man travels through India and Thailand; is that ringing in his ears a sign of transcendence or a symptom of dysentery? An Indian-American teenager pulls off an elaborate trick to avoid an arranged marriage—but loses the freedom she sought. Economic pressures cause an aspiring musician to choose between his family and his clavichord, while a poet resorts to embezzling to stay afloat. In Fresh Complaint (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27), Jeffrey Eugenides’s first collection of short fiction, written between 1988 and 2017, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Middlesex traces the complicated downward path of high expectations and shows how ideals and even principles are warped by economic realities, time, and the weaknesses of the human body. These stories face some of the worst life has to offer ( “Dementia… sounds violent, invasive, like having a demon scooping out pieces of your brain”) and challenge the demons with compassion, intelligence, and many moments of sheer lyrical brilliance.

Fresh Complaint: Stories By Jeffrey Eugenides Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374203061
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 3rd, 2017

Five-Carat Soul - James McBride

Staff Pick

Rollicking, poignant, and unforgettable, the short stories of James McBride’s Five-Carat Soul (Riverhead, $27) treat us to subjects ranging from Lincoln and Civil War soldiers to World War II, antique toy collectors, a boxer fighting for his judgment in the afterlife, and animals able to telecommunicate in a zoo, to a group of boys growing up and playing in a band in a poor neighborhood in Pennsylvania. You’ll want to read this book for the sheer breadth of characters and humanity. The voices are each unique, hilarious, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, and the plots are woven together along themes of racial history and cross-cultural contact. Like the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, McBride’s stories are imaginative and unpredictable, bursting with soul and a dark but playful humor. The title piece is a series of vignettes about the members of the Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band. The lives of these musicians, and the lives of the other residents of the Bottom, are tragic, messy, and often hilarious. Five-Carat Soul is a delightful and quick read that you won’t want to end.

Five-Carat Soul By James McBride Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735216693
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Riverhead Books - September 26th, 2017

The Annotated African American Folktales - Henry Louis Gates, Maria Tatar

Staff Pick

From the assorted inks and fonts to the spacious pages, the gallery of vintage illustrations, the notes, the essays, the testaments by readers and scholars, and the stories, The Annotated African American Folktales (Liveright $39.95) is both beautifully presented and impeccably researched. Edited by eminent Harvard professors Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and American Research, and Maria Tatar, chair of the Program in Folklore and Mythology, both of whose detailed introductory essays could constitute a substantial book in themselves, the volume gathers close to two hundred tales. The editors build on the work of predecessors including Arthur Huff Fauset and Zora Neale Hurston, correct the distortions of popularizers like Joel Chandler Harris and Walt Disney, and extend the canon of African American folklore to embrace Caribbean and Latin American tales. The collection begins with its roots: four sections lay out African story-telling traditions, from trickster tales and the Anansi cycles, with their mischievous animal/human creature “who weaves webs of beautiful complexity and tells stories about the tangled webs we weave,” to today’s oral narratives. The editors follow Anansi and other foundational African motifs through the one-hundred-and-forty stories that follow, tracing a vital tradition as it changes and grows. Drawn from both songs and published texts, here are  familiar figures like the Tar-Baby, Brer Rabbit, and John Henry; people who can fly, heal, and disappear; casts of heroes, preachers, and shape-shifters; and here also are their descendants in the work of contemporary writers like Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison.

The Annotated African American Folktales (The Annotated Books) By Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Editor), Maria Tatar (Editor) Cover Image
By Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Editor), Maria Tatar (Editor)
ISBN: 9780871407535
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Liveright - November 14th, 2017