Spring First Novels

The current issue of New York magazine features their occasional “Is This Book Worth Getting” column, with a look at five newly published debut novels.

All the Sad Young Literary Men

Keith Gessen

  • Hardcover: $24.95
  • Publisher: Viking/Penguin (April 10, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0670018554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670018550
  • Audio CD: Unabridged, $55.00
  • Narrator: Scott Brick
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio (April 10, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1433212404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433212406

The reviewer advises waiting for the paperback of All the Sad Young Literary Men, with this bit of snark:

For about 40 thrilling pages, Gessen delivers one of the purest joys in all of literature: the ecstasy of watching a much-hyped young littérateur fall flat on his face. The book’s opening is self-satisfied, boringly solipsistic, and full of embarrassing pomo moves that Gessen doesn’t have nearly the pizzazz to pull off…

Jonathan Yardley, in the Washington Post gave the book a backhanded compliment; “a considerably better-than-average exercise in slacker fiction.” Less backhanded, Richard Eder of the LA Times says in his review that the author’s “achingly comic command of the hopes, vanities, foibles and quandaries of his peers has produced something better than fashionably maneuvered satire.” The author was featured in the second episode of TitlePage TV. All libraries I checked show the book as on order, with modest reserves.


The Mayor’s Tongue

Nathaniel Rich

  • Hardcover:$24.95
  • Publisher: Riverhead (April 17, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1594489904
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594489907

This one also receives a “Wait for the Paperback,” calling it “a stunt that’s more often ‘zany’ than profound.” The LA Times includes Rich in their look at the literary life in NYC through the eyes of the authors of three “much-awaited” first novels and points out that Rich is the son of NY Times columnist, Frank Rich. The book’s striking cover is singled our for attention in the blog, “The Book Design Review.”


The “Buy It” titles have not yet been covered in the consumer press:

Harry, Revised

Mark Sarvas

  • Hardcover: $24.99
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (April 15, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1596914629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596914629

This is the first novel by the Elegant Variation blogger. “Though prone to overexposition, Sarvas has a sure hand for vivisecting 21st-century absurdities,” says New York.


The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga

  • Hardcover: $24.00
  • Publisher: Free Press (April 22, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1416562591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416562597
  • Audio CD: Unabridged, $34.99
  • Narrator: John Lee
  • Publisher: Tantor Media; edition (May 1, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1400106656
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400106653

This is New York‘s favorite of the five debuts. It’s a murder mystery told in reverse and set in contemporary India (the ad campaign emphasizes that this is not what you might expect in a novel from that setting — “No saris. No scents. No spices.”) New York describes it as being “like the nineteenth-century America of Gangs of New York, plus tech-support centers and cell phones. If these are the hands that built India, their grandkids really are going to kick America’s ass.”


A bit more qualified “Buy It” goes to Love Marriage, because it’s already in paperback (it’s a pbk original)

Love Marriage

V.V. Ganeshananthan

  • Paperback: $14.00
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (April 8, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1400066697
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066698

Love Marriage is by a journalist who immigrated to the US from Sri Lanka. New York finds it worth the $14 because it is “an ambitious family drama about an underreported part of the world, filled with well-shaded characters—which, combined with the occasional gorgeous flourish (a sky ‘turning from black to dark blue and beginning to forget the stars’) more than compensates for some freshman overreach.”

As mentioned above, the LA Times interviewed the authors of three “much-awaited first novels,” on the question of whether “Is it possible to lead a dedicated literary life in the billionaire-filled, media-crazed New York of today?” Included are Gessen (All the Sad Young Literary Men) and Rich  (The Mayor’s Tongue) as well as Ed Park.

Personal Days
Ed Park

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (May 13, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0812978579
  • ISBN-13: 978-081297857

Since the LA Times piece focuses on the authors, rather than their books, it doesn’t offer much insight into Personal Days. The Publishers Weekly review called it a “warm and winning fiction debut…Echoing elements from Ferris’s debut smash, Then We Came to the End, Park may have written the first cubicle cozy. “

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