Sunday, September 04, 2011

A Few Things

It suddenly struck me last week what an amazing period I'm living in. Within a span of a few months, four of my favorite living authors (three of which go for years between finishing books) have or will release new novels.

A Dance with Dragons, of course, came out this summer. The new Neal Stephenson book, REAMDE, arrives September 20th (just over 2 weeks from now!). Terry Pratchett's latest, Snuff, drops on October 11th. And as a strong finish, Haruki Murakami's long-awaited 1Q84 will be in my eager hands October 25th.

The day after REAMDE goes on sale, Neal Stephenson will be in San Francisco, giving a talk at the Swedish-American Hall under the benevolent auspices of Booksmith. Have I mentioned lately how incredibly fortunate I am to live in the Bay Area? I realized that almost exactly three years ago, when Stephenson's Anathem came out, I was also able to hear Stephenson speak (and listen to some really unusual chant music) at a similar event; not only that, but it was around that time that I fulfilled a lifetime wish to hear Murakami, when he gave an interview at Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley. Given how little these men travel and speak, I feel especially blessed. (No word yet on whether Murakami will be doing publicity for the English edition of 1Q84, but I imagine that if he does anything in the States, he'll make an appearance in the Bay Area.) At that event, Murakami had announced that he had just sent his latest novel (which became 1Q84) to his publisher; it has taken three years and two translators to bring it across the Pacific to us.

I'm really excited about Snuff as well. This will be the first book featuring Sam Vimes, almost certainly my favorite of Pratchett's characters, since Thud! in 2005. (Vimes is such a large personality that he makes an appearance in virtually all of the Discworld books set in Ankh-Morpork, so we've gotten to see him in books like Making Money, but it'll be great to have him be the focus again.) Terry has suffered from Alzheimer's for the last few years, and I'm amazed and honored that he continues to write; from what I hear, he's no longer able to hold a pen or type on a keyboard, but he's been dictating this latest novel to his assistant. That's incredible devotion, and great evidence (as if we needed any) about how deeply Terry loves his work.

I'm deliberately staying away from knowledge about all three books, as this will be my one chance to read them relatively spoiler-free. That said, the latest issue of the New Yorker has an excerpt from 1Q84, titled "A Town of Cats." (That link will probably go behind a paywall in a few days, so print the article if you'd like to hold on to it.) I still know nothing about 1Q84 or how that story relates to the larger novel, but AToC is a remarkable piece of work. I think that it's the clearest statement Murakami has ever made on his writing style and the mode of his fiction; appropriately enough, this is something that would be impossible to convey within an essay, but that becomes beautifully clear within a story.

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