Hoorah For The Horizon: Five Books To Get Excited About in 2012

on Thursday, January 5, 2012
Brace yourselves litnerds. 2012 is going to be big! It's a year that will bring us newies from heavy hitters like Toni Morrison, Peter Carey, Mario Vargas Llosa, Hillary Mantel and John Banville. Slightly lower down in the pecking order, you can expect books from Aleksander Hemon, Hari Kunzru, William Boyd, Jess Walter, Shalom Auslander and Ben Marcus. Plus there are essay collections from William H. Gass, Geoff Dyer, Marilynne Robinson and Roberto Bolano. No announcements have been made but I'd be willing to bet there's also a new Phillip Roth on the horizon. Ditto Paul Auster. So all in all it's shaping up to be a good one.

Of all the books that have been announced thus far, five really stand out.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. You might be waiting a while for this one, but hey, what's another few months in the interminable drag of time that is the space between Chabon novels. He has promised that it will be a departure from the speculative awesomeness that was The Yiddish Policeman's Union and the early guff has it as a straightforward novel of place (that place being San Francisco's Bay Area). But c'mon, it's Chabon which means it will most likely be spectacular!

Satantango by Laszlo Krasznahorkai. Granted Krasznahorkai is almost as difficult to read as his name is to pronounce, but I'm still absolutely gagging for this. The Melancholy of Resistance was probably the most dense, nigh impenetrable intellectual challenge I have ever found myself embarking upon (which is pretty cool for a novel about a circus) and I imagine Satantango won't be too different. In his native Hungary they made a seven hour film of the thing!

Lionel Asbo: The State of England by Martin Amis. He's been off his game for a while now, but I'm holding out hope that this will be a return for the once enfant terrible of English literature. The story of a skinhead who wins the big lotto jackpot while in jail, it promises to be funny, scathing and cynical. In other words, vintage Amis.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Ann Frank by Nathan Englander. Hands down the best title for a book we are likely to encounter all year, this one sees Englander return to the short form after his rather mediocre debut novel The Ministry of Special Cases. Given that his first story collection, For The Relief of Unbearable Urges rates as amongst my favourites, and contains what I consider to be the greatest short story of the modern era, I'm super excited to see what he does with this one.

Sorry Please Thank You by Charles Yu. One sentence. How To live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe. That books was incredible. Hilarious. Tragic. Thought-provoking. Absurd. The moment I put it down I tracked down Yu's first collection, Third Class Superhero, and was quite disappointed; he hadn't yet properly synthesised his comic, literary and scientific sides. But after How To Live... I think he ought to be in top form and I'm willing to forgive him that first collection if this one is as good as I'm guessing it will be.

Plus special mention to the Prix Goncourt winning HHhH by Laurent Binet which is being billed as a cross between Jonathan Littel's The Kindly Ones and William H. Gass's The Tunnel, two profoundly disturbing books about how art engages with the catastrophe of the Holocaust.

Here's to a very happy new year!


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