Can writing confer immortality? Let’s hope for at least temporary immortality, because the season’s books are crowded with the dead. David Halberstam, Molly Ivins and Arthur Schlesinger Jr., all three of whom died earlier this year, have books coming out this fall: Halberstam’s long-awaited narrative history, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War (Hyperion, Sept. 25); Ivins’ typically bodacious Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch’s Assault Against America’s Fundamental Rights (Random House, Oct. 23); and Schlesinger’s eyewitness record of our last half-century, Journals, 1952-2000 (The Penguin Press, Oct. 4).
Continuing in this funereal mode, Philip Roth has announced the demise of a long and fruitful collaboration: Exit Ghost (Houghton Mifflin, Oct. 1), the ninth novel to feature Mr. Roth’s alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, will be Zuckerman’s last—but not, one hopes, Mr. Roth’s.
Another posthumous novel, Fire in the Blood (Knopf, Oct. 3), is on the way from Irène Némirovsky, whose Suite Française rescued her from literary oblivion. Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones, in which the narrator speaks to us from beyond the grave, follows up with The Almost Moon (Little Brown, Oct. 16), in which the narrator announces straight away that she’s killed her mother. And the dazzlingly talented Jim Shepard, whose most recent novel, Project X, was about a pair of kids planning a Columbine-style massacre, brings us Like You’d Understand, Anyway (Knopf, Sept. 25), a collection of 11 stories, including “Trample the Dead, Hurdle the Weak.”
Need a little comic relief? Try Rudolph Delson’s appealingly wacky first novel Maynard and Jennica (Houghton Mifflin, Sept. 18). Or Michael J. Gerson’s Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America’s Ideals (And Why They Deserve to Fail If They Don’t) (HarperOne, Nov. 1). Mr. Gerson, who was once George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, left the White House last summer.
Good grief, Charlie Brown! David Michaelis’ Schulz and Peanuts (HarperCollins, Oct. 16) is the first major biography of the great cartoonist. Nureyev: The Life (Pantheon, Oct. 2), by Julie Kavanagh, is by no means the first biography of the great dancer, but at 750-odd pages it’s easily the biggest. And yet it’s dwarfed by John Richardson’s A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932 (Knopf, Nov. 13). That’s volume III—with 41 years left to go before the great artist gives up the ghost.
Every season has its Shakespeare biography—this one has two: Bill Bryson’s elegant and blessedly brief Shakespeare (Eminent Lives, Nov. 1); and René Weis’ probing Shakespeare Unbound: Decoding a Hidden Life (Holt, Oct. 30).
Speaking of decoding hidden lives, Valerie Plame Wilson is telling her side of the story (or at least those parts of it the C.I.A. hasn’t censored) in Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, by Valerie Plame Wilson (S&S, Oct. 22).
Shalom Auslander’s Foreskin’s Lament (Riverhead, Oct. 4)—surely the best title of the season—is a rant against God by a young man who can’t turn his back on Him (and can’t decide whether to circumcise his son).
The fascinating Anatole Broyard was raised black and became white and went on to occupy, as Henry Louis Gates Jr. put it in his New Yorker profile, the “ultimate establishment perch”: daily book reviewer for The New York Times. Now his daughter, Bliss Broyard, has fleshed out the tale in One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life—A Story of Race and Family Secrets (Little Brown, Sept. 27).
It was in these pages, 10 years ago, that David Foster Wallace reported on his generation’s jaundiced view of John Updike: “Has the son of a bitch ever had one unpublished thought?” Not if he can help it! In Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism (Knopf, Oct. 23), our foremost man of letters includes, among many, many other things, a mini-essay describing his impressions of Philadelphia from childhood on.
Two more books about books: Michael Dirda, who’s won a Pulitzer for his criticism, offers brief introductions to nearly 100 authors, from James Agee to Zora Neale Hurston, in Classics for Pleasure (Harcourt, Nov. 5); and Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (Bloomsbury, Oct. 30), a surprise best seller in France earlier this year. I wonder which would be more useful?
Adam Begley is books editor of The Observer.
Follow Adam Begley via RSS.