Book of the Week: Smash Cut – Brad Gooch

Gooch has written both fiction and nonfiction. He is perhaps best known as a biographer, and is the author of the NBCC Award-finalist, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor as well as the fabulous, City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara. That biography might have given us a hint of the kind romance, drama and, yes, poetry he would bring to his own life story. Smash Cut is an evocative, lovingly recalled memoir of his young life and relationship with the filmmaker Howard Brookner. If you miss the time you spent at the Chelsea Hotel with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe in Just Kids, Gooch’s memoir paints another picture of that fertile, dangerous period in bohemian New York.

The book has photographs throughout. Media starts with a profile of Gooch in the Style section of the NYT and a sidebar feature in the April issue of Vanity Fair.

In this revealing memoir, Gooch reanimates the wild gay subculture in Manhattan during the 1970s and 1980s, which he calls the ‘golden age of promiscuity,’ when ‘everything was sex and poetry and La Bohème for suburban American kids arriving to create their identities, and do drugs, and get laid.’ The fine book contains many entertaining cameos by Andy Warhol,…William Burroughs, whose windowless and soundproofed residence, named the Bunker, was a meeting place for drug-fueled parties and dinners akin to ‘board meeting[s] out of A Clockwork Orange’…. [T]he bulk of the narrative revolves around Gooch’s decade-long relationship with Brookner, a filmmaker. Citing letters and journals, the writer touchingly reconstructs Gooch’s loving and tumultuous life with Brookner, from their first date in 1978, to the summer they spent in an abandoned cottage on Fire Island, to their struggles with Brookner’s heroin addiction and Gooch’s resistance to monogamy, and finally Brookner’s death at the age of 34. This worthwhile account is a poetic meditation on an exceptional relationship and a stirring moment in New York’s cultural history.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Engrossing, intimate. . . . This candid memoir lovingly evokes a life, and a world, lost.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“That Gooch is a splendid writer will not be left in doubt for anyone who delves into his new memoir. . . . Literary memoirs abound; this one excels in beautiful honesty.”
— Booklist (starred review)

“A gorgeous memoir of his and Howard’s romance, played out in New York City, on Fire Island, and in Paris and Rome, among the era’s boldfaced names, such as Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe-a potent mix of love, art, and death.”
— Vanity Fair

Smash Cut manages to be both the fascinating history of a pivotal era and an intensely personal love story….Gooch paints a vivid picture of how the carefree years of sex and drugs (and art and literature and film) were eclipsed by the shadow of AIDS in the 1980s as the downtown community of creative artists was decimated by the disease. Smash Cut is a powerful and compelling read.”
—  Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s (9780062354952) by Brad Gooch. $27.99 hardcover. 4/14/15 on sale.

 

New Fiction: Where They Found Her – Kimberly McCreight

Dark secrets behind a suburban façade of orderly middle-class affluence and a fragmented point of view seem to speak to some kind of cultural zeitgeist right now. That appetite made McCreight’s debut Reconstructing Amelia one of the breakout bestsellers of 2013. And if every story with a mystery and a clever structure gets compared to Gone Girl these days, when Entertainment Weekly gave it an “A” and made the comparison to Flynn’s juggernaut, the link was a bit more fresh: “Like Gone Girl, Reconstructing Amelia seamlessly marries a crime story with a relationship drama. And like Gone Girl, it should be hailed as one of the best books of the year.”

This new novel arrives with a starred advance review, an A LibraryReads Pick, and an endorsement from Gillian Flynn herself:

McCreight doesn’t just give us an intense, interwoven, multigenerational, multi-household mystery (as if that isn’t enough). She creates a world that pulls us in completely and genuinely, with characters that can enrage, amuse, and fill us with empathy. It’s a thrilling, lovely novel.”

“Edgar-finalist McCreight smoothly juggles multiple voices in her strong second novel. Four of them belong to freelance journalist Molly Sanderson: Molly’s own contemporary voice, her recorded psychiatric sessions, her therapy-era journal, and her published articles for the local paper in Ridgedale, N.J., a Princeton-like community where she lives with her professor husband, Justin, and their five-year-old daughter, Ella. Molly is assigned the story of a newborn discovered dead in a creek on university property—a dicey subject given Molly’s loss of her own baby two years earlier and her subsequent depression….Molly’s reporting uncovers a slew of dark secrets, some too close to home…deft writing makes for a thoroughly riveting tale.”

Genuinely suspenseful and disturbing; McCreight delivers a provocative, timely novel that reminds us that sometimes the things that shine the brightest have the dirtiest underbellies.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“McCreight’s much-anticipated second novel is a gripping and tender examination of misplaced trust.”
— Booklist

Where They Found Her (9780062225467) by Kimberly McCreight. $26.99 hardcover. 4/14/15 on sale.

Short Take: Two – photographs by Melissa Ann Pinney; introduced and edited by Ann Patchett

I have to fess up that I haven’t seen this yet—but I can hardly wait for it to arrive. This collection by acclaimed photographer Pinney explores the idea of pairs and the varied ways we are bound to one another. Patchett writes the introduction and edits ten original pieces by writers Billy Collins, Edwidge Danticat, Elizabeth Gilbert, Allan Gurganus, Jane Hamilton, Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth McCracken, Maile Meloy, Susan Orlean, and Richard Russo.

Pinney’s work is in the permanent collections of many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the International Center for Photography; the George Eastman House, and J.Paul Getty Museum. Patchett and the other writers are a crew you are well familiar with. It should be cool!

Illustration - 2  Illustration - 4

Two (9780062334428) photographs by Melissa Ann Pinney; introduced and edited by Ann Patchett. $29.99 hardcover. 4/14/15 on sale.

 

Short Take: Capitol Dames – Cokie Roberts

Clear out a place on the bestseller displays for Roberts’ latest. Continuing the series she started with Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty, this new book explores the lives of Washington D.C.’s women during the upheaval of the Civil War. History buffs will recognize more famous figures like Clara Barton and Dorthea Dix—but Roberts also draws from unpublished letters and diaries in collections from Library of Congress, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the University of Chicago Library and the National Archives to paint a vibrant portrait of many unsung women who helped chart the course of our country.

Expect the usual juggernaut of publicity starting with The Diane Rehm Show, Good Morning America, Morning Joe, and NPR’s Morning Edition, as well as an upcoming essay by Roberts in Costco Connection. This one is likely to ride the display tables all the way through Mother’s Day.

Praise for Ladies of Liberty: “[Roberts] is perfectly placed to observe the ins and outs of Washington women. . . . If you love gossipy history, with lively quotes from primary sources (these ladies were fabulous correspondents!), then you’ll enjoy this book.”
   — Washington Post Book World

Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868 (9780062002761) by Cokie Roberts. $27.99 hardcover. 4/14/15 one day laydown.

New in Paperback: Clever Girl, Last Night at the Blue Angel, The Queen of the Tearling

A quick rundown of some great 2014 novels, now in paperback.

One of my very favorite novels last year. Hadley is a first-rate literary novelist and this story of the path of a young women’s life struck me as a compliment to William Boyd’s Any Human Heart—just delicious. People magazine wrote: “Looking for the next Kate Atkinson or Alice Munro? Pick up this lovely novel about a smart Englishwoman who’s also prickly and prone to misfortune.” Original coverage here.

Clever Girl (9780062282880) by Tessa Hadley. $14.99 trade paper. 4/14/15 on sale.

——————————-

A bookseller favorite with three starred advance reviews, I’m expecting this to take off in trade paperback. Original review here.

Last Night at the Blue Angel is many things, all of them hugely admirable: a delineation of what it means, in technical and emotional terms, to be a singer; a plea, if not a demand, for tolerance; a panegyric to the liberating power of passion; and perhaps most importantly, one of the most evocative renderings of a child’s precocity and appreciativeness in the face of a mother’s distracted self-absorption—and how it actually feels to be in thrall to someone else’s happiness—since Mona Simpson’s Anywhere But Here.”
— Jim Shepard

Last Night at the Blue Angel (9780062315298) by Rebecca Rotert. $14.99 hardcover. 4/14/15 on sale.

—————————–

A #1 Indie Next Pick with superb reviews, the second installment is due in June and this paperback arrives with a price point designed to invite crossover YA readers. Original coverage here.

“Call it The Hunger Games of Thrones. . . . An addictive and enjoyable adventure. . . . The Tear is just as easy to get sucked into as Westeros or Hogwarts or Panem.”
— USA Today

The Queen of the Tearling (9780062290380) by Erika Johansen. $12.99 trade paper. 4/14/15 on sale.

 

New Fiction: All Involved – Ryan Gattis

This is a propulsive literary novel about the 1992 LA riots. It’s grounded in nearly two years of research with former gang members, firefighters, nurses, & other L.A. citizens who lived through the riots. That point of view adds up to a story as intimate and gritty as anything by Richard Price–what the editor calls an “epic story of race, revenge, loyalty-at once fiercely identifiable as a novel of Los Angeles, yet also recognizable as a story of America–our history, our prejudices, and our complexities.”

Set in South Central Los Angeles in 1992, during the six days of rioting sparked by the Rodney King verdict, this violent, visceral novel from Gattis chronicles the intersecting lives of a diverse cast of characters caught up in the chaos, from business owners and nurses to drug dealers and gang members, the last of whom use the anarchy as an opportunity to take vengeance on those who have done them wrong….Like the historical events it’s based on, this page-turner is horrific, heartrending, and—maybe—just a bit hopeful.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Gattis does a good job of rounding out and differentiating the 17 or so major players who figure in his pages, some phony confident and some Hamlet-like in their uncertainty (“we are technically vigilantes, and I don’t know how I feel about that”), and there are lashings of pyrotechnic violence and flowing adrenalin to keep the story moving.”
— Kirkus Reviews

[A] symphonic, pitch-perfect, superlative novel. It is visceral and adrenalin-fuelled, yet tender and even darkly comic. It is audacious, unflinching and subversive. It doesn’t judge. It swallowed me whole.”
— David Mitchell

“A heartbreaking portrait of a city tearing itself apart.”
— Paula Hawkins

All Involved (9780062378798) by Ryan Gattis. $27.99 hardcover. 4/7/15 on sale.