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Summer books: Carolyn Kellogg looks forward to these

June 03, 2012|By Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
(Harper Collins )

I want to let you in on a little New York secret: The city that never sleeps slacks off during the summer. Some offices have casual Fridays, others shut down at noon. When I worked there in the mid-'90s, my boss would call from the train to the Hamptons every Friday morning. Essentially, he had a three-day weekend — every weekend. Publishing is one of the businesses that slows down: There are fewer books coming out, fewer authors on tour and fewer emails being sent. Friday is a veritable email wasteland. With all that extra time — here at The Times, we don't have an abbreviated work week, after all — I get to read books I'm not reviewing for the paper. At least, that's what I tell myself.

So, "We Only Know So Much" by Elizabeth Crane (HarperPerennial: $14.99, June). It's hard for me to remember exactly when I first came across Elizabeth Crane's writing. She kept a blog, back when keeping a blog took some effort, and she wrote there unguardedly, and with style. I read some of her short stories, and they were sharp — sharp language, sharp observations, sharp humor. Then I got to meet her, and I did the fangirl things of referring to her as Elizabeth Crane, both names, because that was how I'd always thought of her. In fact, she goes by Betsy. Elizabeth Crane — Betsy — has this new novel coming out that tells the story of three dysfunctional generations living under the same roof. Its style is literary, with an edge: The point of view is wicked, the characters prickly, the language not quite quotable here. I can't wait to read past the first chapter.

The Atavist (www.atavist.com) will publish its next story soon, it promises — the vagueness is not due to summer lassitude but creative fluidity. The e-publisher, which just secured $1 million in funding, creates long-form nonfiction stories approximately every three weeks. The Atavist uses all the multimedia elements available on tablets such as the iPad — video, photos, audio, Internet links, interactive timelines — to tell each story in a different way. Coming up this summer: a story about a spy novelist who became a real spy for Winston Churchill, a surprising memoir about a drive-by shooting, and a forgotten story of an attempt to circumnavigate the world. The Atavist's tablet stories are $2.99; text-only e-books are $1.99.

Maybe you're as excited as I am to read the next novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winningauthor of "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" and "The Yiddish Policemen's Union." Michael Chabon's "Telegraph Avenue" (Harper: $27.99, September) technically won't be out until well past the time that kids have gone back to school, but I've already received an advance reviewer's copy. And with the extra time I think I'll have this summer, I won't be able to stop myself.

carolyn.kellogg@latimes.com

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