Ten For 2010

on Friday, December 25, 2009
The new year is upon us and it is time to get excited. 2009 was a very good year for books. The big blockbusters did their blockbusting thang, while many a serious literary novelist published strong additions to their ouevre. So what do the next twelve months hold in store for us? At the risk of making yet another arbitrarily numbered list, here are the ten things I'm most looking forward to.

1. Bolano Bolano Bolano. Yes, it's a triple treat from the Chilean wild child (though his friends insist he was no Kurt Cobain). Three newly translated novels are due out before the year is through. Probably most exciting is the 144 page novella Monsieur Pain which is due out in early January. It seems to promise echoes of Kafka which, in Bolano's hands, ought to be nothing if not interesting. Next up comes Antwerp and then, in July, The Return. Given that Bolano's short fiction is, in my opinion, his best, I can barely contain my excitement. What a year 2010 will be!!! ***News Just In*** Turns out there is a fourth, The Insufferable Gaucho, to be published in August! Bonus!!!

2. The Boat to Redemption by Su Tong. He wrote one of my favourite books of all time, Binu and The Great Wall. This one recently won the Asian Booker. The blurb suggests another beautiful fable. I can't wait!

3. Solar by Ian McEwan. Sure his later works have been pretty average and this has all the marks of Auster's Invsible, but I still cling to the hope that McEwan has something important to say. I note at the outset that I have been warned, but when it comes to literature I am a sucker for punishment. On the plus side, I can only be pleasantly surprised!

4. Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. Was Life of Pi a fluke? Can Martel do it again, this time with an Holocaust novel? My antennae dip about cautiously on this one, but I am excited nonetheless to see what he does with it

5. Nemesis by Phillip Roth. He may be the world's greatest living writer, but he has an unfortunate habit of publishing whatever his typewriter spews out. Only Bryce Courtenay publishes more. Thankfully Nemesis looks promising - with echoes of Camus, Saramago and Miller. Like McEwan I continue to hold out hope. Let's just pray he resists the temptation to descend into cringeworthy descriptions of sex. Put on your yellow raincoat and go for a walk, Mr. Roth. Then come back and write the good stuff!

6. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Sweet FA is known about this book other than that it is massive and 'buoyant'. Will this herald a welcome return or is Franzen still treading water? Time will tell.

7. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. How do you follow up a critically lauded 'masterpiece' like Cloud Atlas? Apparently with an 18th century tale of a dutchman in Japan. Could be interesting. Could also win him a consolation Booker seeing as so many people seemed to think he was robbed last time time.

8. The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis. The grumpy, middle-aged curmudgeon of English letters is finally back with his much delayed new novel. Can he claw back a modicum of literary cred without brazenly pissing off every minority group in and out of sight, or will this just be another drop in the ongoing fall of a briefly good writer?

9. Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco. Another Asian Booker winner, the blurb has a certain air of Montano's Malady about it. A literary detective tale in which a writer's acolyte investigates his murder by piecing together fragments of the great man's life and searches for a long manuscript, the English translation is long overdue. Come April I can stop bitching.

10. Point Omega by Don Delillo. Hopefully, Delillo has clawed his way out from under the crushing weight of September 11. As Andrew Hagan so boldly pointed out, Falling Man was a disaster, showing up the limitations of this otherwise great author. Thankfully, this slim novel looks to be a return to the brilliance that made me fall in love with his early works. Indeed, the idea of a single shot film about 'a man and a wall' reaks of the 'world's most photographed barn' in Delillo's finest novel, White Noise (I am willing to defend it against those who would put Underworld at the top). All crossable body parts are hereby crossed.

And then, of course, there are the books and authors about which I know nothing yet. The surprise finds are always something to look forward to!

Bring on the new year.


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