Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Review of the Year: Brilliant books of 2011
The best fiction proved that, when it comes to capturing the way in which time toys with us, there's no greater form than the novel says Gaby Wood.
A Visit From The Goon Squad contains the text of the novel and an audiobook version.
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Author Julian Barnes after winning the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction at the Guildhall in LondonPhoto: PA
This time last year, one of my favourite American authors had a book due out in the UK from a relatively small publisher. I wondered why she was not better known here – her novels had been highly praised and widely sold in the US, and this new one had had a sweeping success there.
Well, it didn’t take long for Britain to be crowded with converts. Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad became possibly the most talked-about novel of the year. Quite apart from the critical plaudits and mentions on the reading lists of luminaries it received, I heard more people bring it up in conversation than I saw pulling David Nicholls’s One Day out of their handbags on the train. Egan’s new fans will be delighted to hear that Corsair have plans to publish her backlist in 2012.
Ostensibly set in and on the fringes of the music business, Goon Squad uses pop music, with its fast fading fashions, as a way of showing the effects of time. Characters look at themselves, and each other, and wonder how they got “from A to B”. In fact, one dying musician wants to call his last album A to B: “That’s the question I want to hit head-on,” he explains. “How did I go from being a rock star to being a fat f--k no one cares about?” A 13 year-old boy is obsessed with timing the pauses in pop songs, and when his exasperated father eventually shouts at him about it, his mother explains on the boy’s behalf: “The pause makes you think the song will end. And then the song isn’t really over, so you’re relieved. But then the song does actually end, because every song ends, obviously, and That. Time. The. End. Is. For. Real.” Full piece at The Telegraph