Thursday, September 9, 2010

Jonathan Franzen: 4 new novels you shouldn’t miss

At The Daily Beast, Jonathan Franzen tagged four new novels you shouldn’t miss.

One of Franzen's recommendations:
How to Sell by Clancy Martin

Martin, who in his other life teaches philosophy and writes lucid essays on Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, here channels the voice of a young cokehead selling jewelry for various shady outfits in Fort Worth in the early 1980s. The book has pretty much every strength I could ask for in an American novel: a distinctive and original tone; a first-person voice that’s fully invented, not merely borrowed from the writer’s own voice; great sophistication and authority and daring in its management of narrative chronology and point of view; but, at the same time, a lovely loose feel of riff and improvisation; a subtle but clear engagement with mainstream philosophical debates (e.g., Kierkegaard vs. Nietzsche); but, here again, an admirable lightness in its wearing of its erudition and its wedding of it to a street-wise modern tone; head-on engagement with vital American questions and preoccupations; powerful atmospherics of place and weather and era; vivid thumbnail portraits of eccentric minor characters; fascinating volumes of inside dope about a little-known subculture; great stories-within-stories; an impressive capacity to revel in dirtiness without losing sight of the larger moral picture; a toughness that feels real (i.e., born of pain and hard truth, not donned for an effect); lots and lots of laugh-out-loud gags and throwaway lines; good old-fashioned page-turning urgency, with casually shocking reversals and revelations; and an ending so harrowing it gave me nightmares.
Read about the other books on Franzen's list.

Learn more about the book and author at the Farrar, Straus and Giroux website and at Clancy Martin's Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: How to Sell.

--Marshal Zeringue