New Books September 2022

Lots of new books have been arriving at the EFL over the summer, ready to welcome everyone back for Michaelmas Term! In amongst all the new pens and notebooks that the start of the year brings, why not have a look at a couple of new books too? Remember that you can browse all of this month’s arrivals over on LibraryThing.

Cover image for Maureen N. McLane. Mz N: the serial: a poem-in-episodes: (not/a novel) (not/a memoir) (not/a lyric). (2016).

Maureen N. McLane. Mz N: The Serial: A Poem-in-Episodes: (Not/a Novel) (Not/a Memoir) (Not/a Lyric). (2016).

McLane is a poet, a memoirist, and an essayist, yet Mz N, as the subtitle says, is not easily categorised. Instead, this genre-bending book is best described as an allegory of a life – ‘a life intense, episodic, female, sexual, philosophical, romantic, analytic’ (from the blurb). McLane’s poetry can be placed within a queer tradition stretching from Sappho through Virginia Woolf to Gertrude Stein – the latter getting a number of mentions in Mz N.

In fact, McLane’s other works have been finalists for the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry (2009) and the Publishing Triangle Audre Lorde Award (2009 and 2018), again for lesbian poetry. But rather than accepting this lineage, Mz N interrogates what it means to be a (queer) woman. Themes of identity, subjectivity, and the self percolate her writing, alongside the idea of what it means to be contemporary – indeed, what it means to be alive.

Also by Maureen McLane at the EFL: My poets (2012); What I’m looking for: selected poems 2008-2017 (2019).

Cover image of Lara Choksey. Narrative in the Age of the Genome: Genetic Worlds. (2021).

Lara Choksey. Narrative in the Age of the Genome: Genetic Worlds. (2021).

Choksey frames this work as a reflection on a twenty-year period within scientific studies which has focused on the genome. While molecular biologists hoped that sequencing the human genome would provide answers to questions about the fundamental nature of humans and our relationship to our world, in fact their enquiries gave rise to even more questions than before. Choksey explores how the messy and inconclusive nature of our scientific knowledge of the genome feeds into – and is in some ways a product of – narrative trends and change. She draws links to late twentieth-century economic trends, to understandings of health, and to conceptions of identity and the self. This book is part of the series Explorations in Science and Literature, underpinned by the idea that these two fields are fundamentally connected and taking a cross-disciplinary approach to both explore and demonstrate that connection.

Also available as an Open Access ebook.

Cover image of Layli Long Soldier. Whereas. (2019). 

Layli Long Soldier. Whereas. (2019).

This small yet highly decorated volume (National Books Critics Circle Award winner, Poetry Book Society Special Commendation recipient, and National Book Award finalist) is an exploration of language and a riposte to the United States Congress’ 2009 Apology to the Native Peoples of the United States. It is divided into two parts: Part I, These Being the Concerns, explores Native heritage (Long Soldier is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe) and scrutinises the relationship between language and meaning; Part II, Whereas, turns to the United States government’s bureaucratic language and to the 2009 Apology in particular. Long Soldier’s poetry plays with the official language used by the United States government, picks apart the language’s hollowness and inadequacy, and ultimately turns it back on its perpetrators. Powerful and compelling, Whereas interrogates the politics of how language shapes our realities.

Cover image of Rachel Kushner. The Mars Room. (2019). 

Rachel Kushner. The Mars Room. (2019).

Romy Hall is serving two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, California, for the crime of killing her stalker. She will spend the rest of her life behind bars, cut off from the outside world and her young son, Jackson. Kushner delves into Romy’s prison experience, encompassing her fellow female prisoners and the prison guards, as well as the hardships and absurdities of Romy’s new institutional life. No character could truly be considered likeable, yet Kushner portrays them all with a sympathy that highlights the hopelessness of their situations. She reveals how Romy has been failed at every possible turn: by an inhumane prison system, an unfit-for-purpose justice system, and a society that has turned a blind eye. This ‘compelling, heart-stopping novel about a life gone off the rails’ (from the publisher) – shortlisted for the Booker Prize (2018) and winner of the Prix Medicis Étrangers (2018) – throws a light onto the women our society would rather forget.

Purchased with the Drue Heinz Book Fund.

Cover image of Caroline Davis (ed.). Print Cultures: A Reader in Theory and Practice. (2019).

Caroline Davis (ed.). Print Cultures: A Reader in Theory and Practice. (2019).

In this edited collection, Davis has brought together an anthology of critical writing from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries which together offers the reader ‘a vital overview of the processes that shape contemporary reading, writing and publishing’ (from the blurb). There are sections exploring everything from the impacts of censorship and war to the growth and consequences of literary prizes and globalisation. These sit alongside studies of colonial and postcolonial print cultures, women in the publishing world, and the rise of digital print cultures. The extracts in this volume are enormously varied: Davis’ selections were originally published between 1934 and 2015, penned by authors ranging from Gerard Genette and Virginia Woolf to those right at the forefront of the latest research in publishing studies. All these works sit together to provide a fascinating insight into the worlds of print culture, book history, and publishing.

Cover image for John Dos Passos. USA. (1996).

John Dos Passos. USA. (1996).

Finally, it may seem odd to highlight novels originally written in the 1930s in a New Books post! But this edition’s arrival in the EFL coincided almost to the day with the 52nd anniversary of Dos Passos’s death (28 September, 1970), and the trilogy continues to feature on ‘greatest novels of all time’ and ‘books of the century’ lists.

This single volume brings together the three books in Dos Passos’s USA trilogy: The 42nd Parallel (1930), Nineteen Nineteen (1932), and The Big Money (1936). They examine early twentieth century America and Dos Passos’s growing disillusionment with it amid a faltering of the American Dream. While Dos Passos shows many characters pursuing their fortune and climbing the social ladder, his sympathy remains with the ‘down and outs’ who are left behind. Four narrative techniques – incorporating fictional narratives telling the characters’ stories, ‘Newsreel’ sections bringing together collages of newspaper clippings and songs, short biographies of early-twentieth-century public figures, and ‘Camera Eye’ sections containing autobiographical stream-of-consciousness writing – come together to create a fragmented narrative, with different characters dipping in and out of view against the backdrop of the early twentieth-century American society that Dos Passos puts under the microscope.

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