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October 19, 2012 | By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic
Back to Blood A Novel Tom Wolfe Little, Brown: 704 pp., $30 About a quarter of the way through Tom Wolfe's new novel, "Back to Blood," pornography addiction specialist Dr. Norman Lewis waits with his nurse (and mistress) Magdelena Otero to be interviewed by a "60 Minutes" crew. Norman is delirious at the prospect of his star turn - so much so that he becomes a bit, er, overstimulated. "' Now - while they're at the door!' " he grunts at Magdalena, who responds, " 'No, Norman!
December 10, 2010 | Hector Tobar
Standing outside a bookstore on 8th Street a decade ago, novelist Susan Straight looked across the street and saw a vision of Los Angeles loneliness. Men clustered around a black door, surrounded by a wall of black tile. They filled the dark, narrow space inside, reeking of cheap liquor and hurt. "It was just the saddest place I'd ever seen," Straight told me as we stood outside the Golden Gopher bar this week. "There was this lingering melancholy all around this block. You could just smell the desperation of all these men. " These days the Golden Gopher is a hip hangout whose patrons include guys in suits.
December 15, 2011 | By Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times
Life is just a long string of memories. Even our present is being pushed each second into the past. Peter Orner uses that fact to engaging effect in his new novel, "Love and Shame and Love. " The book tells the story of a young man named Alexander Popper and his family strictly through anamnesis' ethereal prism. Each chapter is a solitary memory, dusted off and glowing with latent emotional residue. It's a nontraditional storytelling device that results in a book of brief chapters, sometimes no more than a paragraph, each of which could easily stand on its own. The story jumps back and forth - like memory itself - between early family history and fairly recent recollections.
September 19, 2013 | By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic
When Stephen King published his third novel, "The Shining," in 1977, he was a writer with a lot on his mind. Initially, he told The Times in 1998, he conceived of the book as "a Shakespearean tragedy, a kind of inside-out 'King Lear,' where Lear is this young guy who has a son instead of daughters. " He even went so far as to divide the first draft into acts and scenes. Make of this what you will, but it suggests that King has always had more at stake than merely to frighten us, that he wants to get at the big themes: love, loss, loyalty, what happens between parents and their kids.
April 4, 2014 | By Carolyn Kellogg
Meyer Lansky is one of the gravitational centers of Zachary Lazar's new novel, "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" (Little, Brown and Company: 256 pp., $25). Not so much the dapper, "Boardwalk Empire"-era gangster as Lansky in 1972 in Israel, seeking to retire there under the country's Law of Return. It's hardly the most celebrated era in Lansky's life, but Lazar was going for something other than the obvious. "The initial idea of this book was to put Meyer Lansky in the same room as King David from the Bible," Lazar said via Skype from his home office in New Orleans.
January 15, 2013 | By Nicole Sperling
With "The Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown's news Tuesday morning that he would be releasing a new Robert Langdon adventure in May, we thought it wise to check in with the movie prospects for Brown's last Langdon tale, "The Lost Symbol," which resided on the New York Times hard-cover fiction bestseller list for 29 weeks and has 30 million copies in print worldwide. Sony's Columbia Pictures, which released the previous two films, "The DaVinci Code" and "Angels and Demons," owns the option to all of Brown's future projects involving Langdon, including "The Lost Symbol" and the upcoming "Inferno.
May 31, 2013 | By Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
Friends are dress shopping in the novel "Americanah"; when they get to the register, the cashier asks which of two saleswomen helped them, but they're not sure. She lists numerous physical characteristics to identify the salesperson before giving up. "Why didn't she just ask 'Was it the black girl or the white girl?'" the main character, Ifemelu, exclaims after they leave. "Because this is America," her friend tells her. "You're supposed to pretend that you don't notice certain things.
June 6, 2013 | By David Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic
When it comes to Stephen King, I'm partial to the smaller efforts: novellas, short novels, experiments, the quieter, more interior stuff. It's not that I don't like his big books - especially "The Shining," which remains the scariest thing I've ever read, and the 1996 novel "Desperation," an overarching consideration of sin and sacrifice and redemption, set in a Nevada mining town. Still, what makes King resonate for me is the detail work, the way he can get inside the most mundane situation and animate it, revealing in the process something of how we live.
November 27, 2010 | By Martin Rubin, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Most readers know the Swedish author Henning Mankell either for his political views ? he is a strident critic of Israel and participated in the protest flotilla attempting to run its Gaza blockade earlier this year ? or for his mysteries featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander. But there is a lot more to Mankell both as a writer and as an activist. The author of more than a dozen novels and many plays and television films (including his current project, a program about his father-in-law Ingmar Bergman)
September 5, 2013 | By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic
I don't read J.M. Coetzee for pleasure. To be fair, I'm not sure anyone does. The 2003 Nobel laureate writes from his head more than his heart, framing novels that are philosophical and austere, books that break down the world in highly rational ways. Over the course of his career, he's been compared to Beckett and Kafka, although despite the occasional nod in their direction - the title character of his 1983 novel "The Life and Times of Michael K. " functions to some extent as an homage to "The Trial's" Josef K. - he lacks their appreciation of humor, of life as essentially absurd.
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