Best New Fiction: January 2014


Best New Fiction is a monthly segment dedicated to highlighting the most interesting and noteworthy releases that will be published over the next thirty days.

The_Light_And_The_DarkThe Light and the Dark
By Mikhail Shishkin
Translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield
368 Pages
ISBN 9781623650469

The Light and the Dark is the second novel by Rusian Booker Prize and Big Book Award winner Mikhail Shishkin (Maidenhair) to be translated to English.

In it he presents us with a unique dilemma, for his two main subjects are young and madly, deeply in love.  In fact so much so that they write passionate letters back and forth to one another. Where’s the problem?  Well territorial distance isn’t the only obstacle standing in the way of this pair of love birds because they are also separated by time and history.  The Light and the Dark asks us, can love truly conquer all?

In equally as exciting news, later this year newcomer Deep Vellum will release some of his short stories under the title Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories.

Release Date: January 7th (United States)

Once_You_Break_A_KnuckleOnce You Break a Knuckle: Stories
By D.W. Wilson
256 Pages
ISBN  9781608199945

The short stories that comprise Once You Break a Knuckle take place in an isolated, rural area of western Canada – The Kootenay Valley.  In this collection, we meet characters faced with the challenging task of living out their daily lives.  Mechanics, cops, farmers, construction workers, and bored adolescents attempt lives of normalcy and complacency yet are continually thwarted by bad decisions.  Affairs, addiction, and violent tendencies lead to heartache and regrets, but throughout these stories, the most devastating consequences come not from actions and events, but from silence. [Read our full review]

Release Date: January 7th (United States)

By Jean Echenoz
Translated from the French by Linda Coverdale
The New Press
128 Pages
ISBN 9781595589118

Linda Coverdale once again handles the translation duties for prix Médicis award winner Jean Echenoz (Lightning) latest novel 1914. In it, on it’s 100th anniversary, Echenoz sets his sights on World War I.

One French woman awaits word on the safe return of her male friends who have been sent off to battle, but it’s the war itself that takes center stage in this touching, human piece as Echenoz brings the violence and brutality of war home in blistering, shocking detail.

Release Date: January 7th (United States)

You_DisappearYou Disappear
By Christian Jungersen
Translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra
Nan A. Talese
352 Pages
ISBN 9780385537254

Things aren’t looking so great for protagonist Mia in International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award nominated author Christian Jungersen’s (The Exception) third novel (second to be translated into English.)

When Mia and her husband Frederik discover that he has a brain tumor they fear the worst.  Thankfully Frederik’s intellect and motor skills stay mostly unchanged, however sadly his personality has shifted wildly.  As he becomes more and more frighteningly unrecognizable to his friends and family it comes to light that he’s embezzled millions from the private school where he serves as principal.

He should go to jail, right?  But what about that brain tumor that will ultimately claim his life?  Did it’s presence play a role in his decision making process?  Was it the Frederik of old who committed this crime or was it this new version that’s recently taken over? As Mia throws herself behind researching her husband’s defense she’ll be forced to answer these and other very tough questions.

Release Date: January 7th (United States)

Leaving_The_SeaLeaving the Sea: Stories
By Ben Marcus
288 Pages
ISBN 9780307379382

Pushcart Prize winning author Ben Marcus (The Flame Alphabet) is at it again with another collection of short stories that features a cover that I simply can’t resist.  Oh don’t worry though, what’s inside is equally as great.

Separated into six different sections, the pieces presented here bounce between traditional storytelling and wildly inventive, experimental forms.  For example, the title story, involving a plunge into despair, is told in one amazing sentence.  Other gems include a piece about a creative writing workshop, and a son whose desperate to delay the eventual end of his mother’s life.

Release Date: January 8th (United States)

Shovel_ReadyShovel Ready
By Adam Sternbergh
256 Pages
ISBN 9780385348997

Meet Spademan.  Garbage was his business.  That is, before a bomb wiped out Times Square and claimed his wife’s life along with it. These days he’s a hit-man for hire.

Navigating a world that’s split in two – those that are wealthy enough pass their time away in a virtual paradise, while those who aren’t must struggle to make ends meet in the harsh reality of the decimated city streets – the usually efficient Spademan finds himself wrapped up in a complex situation that throws into question his new occupation.  Can he finish the job before the job finishes him?

Release Date: January 14th (United States)

This_Is_the_GardenThis is the Garden
By Giulio Mozzi
Translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris
Open Letter Books
(193) 2014 / 130 Pages
ISBN 9781934824757

This is the Garden is a collection of 8 short stories by Premio Mondello Award winning Italian author Giulio Mozzi.

The collection opens with Cover Letter, a story you would think would revolve around applying for a job, but instead centers around a thief who has fallen for one of his victims.  From here the stories only get more alluring and fascinatingly strange.  In the short but stunning piece Glass, the human soul is compared to broken windows.  In On the Publication of my First Book an author delivers a rather abstract speech revealing why he feels the work is actually unpublishable.  In Tana, an angel accidentally helps a woman in the most unlikely of ways.

Simply put, all of Mozzi’s stories are as inviting as they are revealing.  Be sure to check back closer to the release date to read my full review of the entire collection.

Release Date: January 21st (United States)

Do any of my picks look interesting to you? Which titles are you most looking forward to reading in January?

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.