Book Club

The following books are recommended by The National for their edition of the ATP Book Club. Lapham's Quarterly will be helping to run the Book Club; one session they will be discussing Patti Smith's Just Kids, and Colson Whitehead's Zone One in another session; see your timecards at the event for details. Author Stuart Evers will also be attending to participate in the discussions.

Lapham's Quarterly is a literary magazine that sets the story of the past in the frame of the present. Four times a year, the editors choose a question current in the news--foreign war, financial panic, magical thinking--and bring answers to it from authors whose powers of observation and expression have passed the test of time. On newsstands now: "Intoxication." This issue explores our deep desire to alter our mental and physical states, from the craving, to the high, and the dreaded hangover. Among the contributors, Charles Baudelaire urges one to always be drunk, Emily Dickinson gets high on life, Walter Benjamin takes a leisurely stroll on hashish, Billie Holiday dries out, Giacomo Casanova goes on a Venetian bender, and much more.

Lord Sinclair will be hosting Book Bingo again at this year's ATP, taking place in Queen Vic at 2pm on Saturday. Book Bingo is a chance for fans to pass on cherished books and discover new favourites. Fans will be asked to donate books before the start of the game, as it is as much about sharing books you have enjoyed as playing Bingo, and we will also have some new books provided by publishers and other generous organizations including Penguin who have donated copies of two of Shellac's choices: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray and The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. Every bingo call is a quote from a book and the first person to the name the book wins a book from those donated. Book Bingo has been very popular at other ATP's and gives anyone with a love of books the opportunity to go home with a new treasure.



The Art Of Fielding
(author: Chad Harbach, publisher: Fourth Estate)


In The Art of Fielding, we see young men who know that their four years on the baseball diamond at Westish College are all that remain of their sporting careers. Only their preternaturally gifted fielder, Henry Skrimshander, seems to have the chance to keep his dream - and theirs, vicariously - alive, until a routine throw goes disastrously off course, and the fates of five people are upended.

After his throw threatens to ruin his roommate Owen's future, Henry's fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his; while Mike Schwartz, the team captain and Henry's best friend, realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. Keeping a keen eye on them all, college president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, falls unexpectedly and dangerously in love, much to the surprise of his daughter, Pella, who has returned to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warm-hearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment - to oneself and to others.


The Art of Racing in the Rain
(author: Garth Stein, publisher: Harper Collins)


Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoe, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoe at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man. A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.


Atmospheric Disturbances
(author: Rivka Galchen, publisher: Harper Perennial)


'Last December, a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife...' Dr Leo Liebenstein is convinced that his wife has disappeared and that she has been replaced by a double.

While everyone else may be fooled, Leo knows she cannot be his real wife, and sets off on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love. With the help of his psychiatric patient Harvey - who believes himself to be a secret agent who can control the weather - Leo attempts to unravel this mystery. Why has his wife been replaced? What do the secret workings of The Royal Society of Meteorology have to do with it? Who is the enigmatic Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, and is he, or maybe his wife, or perhaps even Harvey, at the centre of it all? From the streets of New York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, Leo's erratic quest ultimately becomes a test of how far he is willing to take his struggle against the uncontested truth he knows to be false.

'Atmospheric Disturbances' is at once a moving love story, a dark comedy, a psychological thriller, and a deeply disturbing portrait of a fracturing mind. In this highly inventive debut, with tremendous compassion and dazzling literary sophistication, Rivka Galchen explores the mysterious nature of human relationships, and how we spend our lives trying to weather the storms of our own making.


Begin Again
(author: Kenneth Silverman, publisher: Northwestern University Press)


A man of extraordinary and seemingly limitless talents- musician, inventor, composer, poet, and even amateur mycologist- John Cage became a central figure of the avant-garde early in his life and remained at that pinnacle until his death in 1992 at the age of eighty. Award-winning biographer Kenneth Silverman gives us the first comprehensive life of this remarkable artist. Silverman begins with Cage's childhood in interwar Los Angeles and his stay in Paris from 1930 to 1931, where immersion in the burgeoning new musical and artistic movements triggered an explosion of his creativity. Cage continued his studies in the United States with the seminal modern composer Arnold Schoenberg, and he soon began the experiments with sound and percussion instruments that would develop into his signature work with prepared piano, radio static, random noise, and silence. Cage's unorthodox methods still influence artists in a wide range of genres and media. Silverman concurrently follows Cage's rich personal life, from his early marriage to his lifelong personal and professional partnership with choreographer Merce Cunningham, as well as his friendships over the years with other composers, artists, philosophers, and writers. Drawing on interviews with Cage's contemporaries and friends and on the enormous archive of his letters and writings, and including photographs, facsimiles of musical scores, and Web links to illustrative sections of his compositions, Silverman gives us a biography of major significance: a revelatory portrait of one of the most important cultural figures of the twentieth century.


Capital
(author: Maureen Duffy, publisher: Vintage/Harvill Press London Fiction)


A brilliant novel of contemporary London life and a haunting re-creation of a city throughout its ages. Meepers--the homeless, disheveled, yet enlightened and mystically knowing amateur archaeologist--searches to understand the destruction of London in the Dark Ages and seeks to predict the capital's future. In a dazzling mixture of contemporary life and period speech, London is illuminated through the voices of Neanderthal man, Saxon kings, anonymous invaders, the flea that spread the black death, and the transsexual King Elizabeth.


Conquest of the Useless
(author: Werner Herzog, publisher: ECCO Press)


A vision had seized hold of me, like the demented fury of a hound that has sunk its teeth into the leg of a deer carcass and is shaking and tugging so frantically that the hunter gives up trying to calm him. It was the vision of a large steamship scaling a hill under its own steam, while above this natural landscape soars the voice of Caruso...One of the most revered of contemporary filmmakers, Werner Herzog kept a diary during the making of "Fitzcarraldo", the lavish 1982 film that tells the story of a would-be robber baron who pulls a steamship over a hill to access a rich rubber territory. Later, Herzog spoke of his difficulties when making the film, including casting problems, reshoots, language barriers, epic clashes with the star, and the logistics of moving a 320-ton steamship over a hill without the use of special effects. Fitzcarraldo was hailed by critics around the globe, and won Herzog the 1982 Outstanding Director Prize at Cannes. "Conquest of the Useless", his diary on his fever dream in the Amazon jungle, is an extraordinary glimpse into the mind of a genius during the making of one of his greatest achievements.


The Forgotten Waltz
(author: Anne Enright, publisher: Vintage)


It is the winter of 2009 and snow covers Dublin. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina Moynihan recalls the bewildering speed of attraction and her irreparable slip into longing for Sean Vallely, a married man and 'the love of her life'. Gina remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. As the memories of her desire unfurl, so too do the complications of Gina's choice and the price she must pay for her love. The Forgotten Waltz is an unforgettable portrait of the journey of the human heart. It speaks of the sudden, momentous drama of everyday life, the volatile connections that bind us and the secrets that tear us apart.


The Great Night
(author: Chris Adrian, publisher: Granta Books)


On Midsummer's Eve three heartsick lovers are trapped in San Francisco's Buena Vista Park. Ill met by moonlight, they are stalked by a psychopathic Puck, in thrall to a beautiful Titania, and ambushed by a homeless musical theatre troupe. Together they must survive a night that might just repair their hearts, if it doesn't destroy them first.

Selected by the New Yorker as one of the best young writers in America, Adrian has created a singularly playful, moving and humorous novel - a story that effortlessly crosses the borders between reality and dreams, suffering and magic, and mortality and immortality.


How To Read The Air
(author: Dinaw Mengestu, publisher: Vintage)


The eagerly anticipated follow-up from the acclaimed author of Children of the Revolution, winner of the 2007 Guardian First Book Award. Dinaw Mengestu's first novel, Children of the Revolution, earned him comparisons to Bellow, Fitzgerald and Naipaul, garnered ecstatic critical praise and won the Guardian First Book Award for its haunting depiction of the immigrant experience in America. Now, he enriches the themes that defined his debut in a story that captures two generations of an immigrant family.

One early September afternoon, Yosef and Mariam, young Ethiopians who have spent all but their first year of marriage apart, set off on a road trip from their new home in Peoria, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee, in search of an identity as an American couple. Thirty years later, Yosef has died, and the couple's son, Jonas, is desperate to make sense of the volatile generational and cultural ties that have forged him. How can he envision his future without knowing what has come before? Leaving behind his marriage and job in New York, Jonas sets out to retrace his parents' trip and, in a stunning display of imagination, weaves together a family history that takes him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents' youth to a brighter vision of his own life in contemporary America, a story-real or invented-that holds the possibility of reconciliation and redemption. A heartbreaking masterwork about love, family and the power of imagination, How to Read the Air confirms Dinaw Mengestu's reputation as one of the brightest talents of his generation.


Island at the Center of the World
(author: Russell Shorto, publisher: Doubleday)


Drawing on 17th-century Dutch records of New Netherland and its capital, Manhattan, translated by scholar Charles Gehring only in recent decades, Shorto (Gospel Truth ) brings to exuberant life the human drama behind the skimpy legend starting with the colony's founding in 1623. Most Americans know little about Dutch Manhattan beyond its first director, Peter Minuit, who made the infamous $24 deal with the Indians, and Peter Stuyvesant, the stern governor who lost the island to the English in 1664. These two seminal figures receive their due here, along with a huge cast of equally fascinating characters. But Shorto has a more ambitious agenda: to argue for the huge debt Americans owe to the culture of Dutch Manhattan, the first place in the New World where men and women of different races and creeds lived in relative harmony. The petitions of the colony's citizens for greater autonomy, penned by Dutch-trained lawyer Adriaen van der Donck, represented "one of the earliest expressions of modern political impulses: an insistence by the members of the community that they play a role in their own government." While not discounting the British role in the shaping of American society, the author argues persuasively for the Dutch origins of some of our most cherished beliefs and their roots in "the tolerance debates in Holland" and "the intellectual world of Descartes, Grotius, and Spinoza." Shorto's gracefully written historical account is a must-read for anyone interested in this nation's origins.


Just Kids
(author: Patti Smith, publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC)


A prelude to fame, Just Kids recounts the friendship of two young artists- Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe - whose passion fueled their lifelong pursuit of art.

In 1967, a chance meeting between two young people led to a romance and a lifelong friendship that would carry each to international success never dreamed of. The backdrop is Brooklyn, Chelsea Hotel, Max's Kansas City, Scribner's Bookstore, Coney Island, Warhol's Factory and the whole city resplendent. Among their friends, literary lights, musicians and artists such as Harry Smith, Bobby Neuwirth, Allen Ginsberg, Sandy Daley, Sam Shepherd, William Burroughs, etc. It was a heightened time politically and culturally; the art and music worlds exploding and colliding. In the midst of all this two kids made a pact to always care for one another. Scrappy, romantic, committed to making art, they prodded and provided each other with faith and confidence during the hungry years- the days of cous-cous and lettuce soup.

Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. Beautifully written, this is a profound portrait of two young artists, often hungry, sated only by art and experience. And an unforgettable portrait of New York, her rich and poor, hustlers and hellions, those who made it and those whose memory lingers near.


The Marriage Plot
(author: Jeffrey Eugenides, publisher: Fourth Estate)


It's the early 1980s. In American colleges, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead - charismatic loner and college Darwinist - suddenly turns up in a seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old friend Mitchell Grammaticus - who's been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange - resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

Over the next year, as the members of the triangle in this spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they have learned. Leonard and Madeleine move to a biology laboratory on Cape Cod, but can't escape the secret responsible for Leonard's seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods. And Mitchell, traveling around the world to get Madeleine out of his mind, finds himself face-to-face with ultimate questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the true nature of love.

Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.


Please Kill Me
(author: Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain, publisher: Abacus)


What Britain refined, America defined. Assembled by two key figures at the heart of the movement and told through the voices o musicians, artists, iconoclastic reporters and entrepreneurial groupies, PLEASE KILL ME is the full decadent story of the American punk scene, through the early years of Andy Warhol's Factory to the New York underground of Max's Kansas City and later, its heyday at CBGB's, spiritual home to the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television and Blondie.

PLEASE KILL ME goes backstage and behind apartment doors to chronicle the sex, drugs and power struggles that were the very fabric of the American punk community, to the time before piercing and tattoos became commonplace and when every concert, new band and fashion statement marked an absolute first. From Iggy Pop and Lou Reed to the Clash and the Sex Pistols (the first time around), McNeil and McCain document a time of glorious self-destruction and perverse innocence - possibly the last time so many will so much fun in the pursuit of excess.


Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead
(author: Phil Lesh, publisher: Back Bay Books)


Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh has written the memoir one might have expected: energetic and flawed, but sure to be loved by fans. Lesh joined the band's original members--Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzman and "Pigpen" Ron McKernan--in 1965 and helped morph the legendary outfit from its beginnings as a jug band to the unique, psychedelic improvisational jam band that spawned arguably the most loyal, iconic audience in popular music history: the Deadheads. What a long, strange trip it was. For 30-plus years, from being the house band for Ken Kesey's acid tests to stadium tours in the 1980s and '90s, the band pioneered a new paradigm for musicians, operating as an extended, albeit dysfunctional, family. Along the way, three keyboardists died, two managers robbed the band, bad deals were signed, massive debt was accrued and drug and alcohol problems flared. In 1995, the trip finally ended (or did it?), when Garcia died. Lesh infuses his prose with his wacky personality, which is endearing, but also maddening, especially when he's rendering acid trips or discussing music. Indeed, many fans who twirled ecstatically at Dead shows will struggle to follow Lesh's extended explanations of the band's compositions. Also, the second half of the band's life gets short shrift. Nevertheless, Deadheads will surely celebrate Lesh's honest, intimate remembrances.


Skippy Dies
(author: Paul Murray, publisher: Penguin)


Ruprecht Van Doren is an overweight genius whose hobbies include very difficult maths and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Daniel 'Skippy' Juster is his roommate. In the grand old Dublin institution that is Seabrook College for Boys, nobody pays either of them much attention. But when Skippy falls for Lori, the Frisbee-playing Siren from the girls' school next door, suddenly all kinds of people take an interest - including Carl, part-time drug-dealer and official school psychopath.

While his teachers battle over modernisation, and Ruprecht attempts to open a portal into a parallel universe, Skippy, in the name of love, is heading for a showdown - in the form of a fatal doughnut-eating race that only one person will survive. This unlikely tragedy will explode Seabrook's century-old complacency and bring all kinds of secrets into the light, until teachers and pupils alike discover that the fragile lines dividing past from present, love from betrayal - and even life from death - have become almost impossible to read...


A Sport and a Pastime
(author: James Salter, publisher: Picador)


"A Sport and a Pastime is as nearly perfect as any American fiction I know," Reynolds Price wrote of James Salter's 1967 novel that tells of the mismatched love affair between Phillip Dean, a Yale dropout adrift in Europe, and Anne-Marie Costallat, a young French shopgirl. An erotic tour de force, licentious yet pure, it is also a hymn to provincial France and has been admired and quoted from since its first publication. Its stunning knowledge and insight have the power to change lives.

It brings a kind of splendor to the life that refuses to bow to convention or mores, and, like Cavafy's poems, evokes the illicit in a way that endows it with an astonishing beauty. Brilliantly written and overwhelming in its effect, it remains a triumph on every level.


Still Life With Insects
(author: Brian Kitely, publisher: The Bodley Head Ltd)


The distinctive narrative form of Kiteley's intelligent first novel commands attention and resonates with insights. In a series of spare, often lyrical vignettes (the first dated 1945, the last 1984), narrator Elwyn Farmer records obliquely the circumstances of his life as he shakily finds his way back to emotional health following a nervous breakdown. He is a Minnesota chemist and dedicated amateur entomologist, and the occasion and rubric for each entry is a sighting made of a beetle species. Into his ken come not only the bugs but his wife, two sons, a brother, business associates, grandchildren--one of whom is writing a novel about him. In his carefully observant manner, Kiteley creates the virtual opposite of the conventional sprawling family novel; this narrative is a miniature, peeking into the dramas of uneventful middle-class lives as with a microscope. As in art miniatures too, the vividness of the closeups comes at the expense of scope and breadth. Nevertheless, there is depth and poignancy in the epiphanies these moments create.


Super Sad True Love Story
(author: Gary Shteyngart, publisher: Granta Books)


In a very near future, a functionally illiterate America is about to collapse. But don't tell that to poor Lenny Abramov, proud author of what may well be the world's last diary. Despite his job at an outfit called 'Post-Human Services', which attempts to provide immortality for its super-rich clientele, death is clearly stalking this cholesterol-rich morsel of a man. And why shouldn't it? Lenny's from a different century. He TOTALLY loves books (or 'printed, bound media artifacts' as they're now known), even though most of his peers find them smelly and annoying. But even more than books, Lenny loves Eunice Park, an impossibly cute and impossibly cruel twenty-four-year-old Korean-American woman who just graduated from Elderbird College with a major in 'Images' and a minor in 'Assertiveness'. When riots break out in New York's Central Park, the city's streets are lined with National Guard tanks and patient Chinese creditors look ready to foreclose on the whole mess, Lenny vows to convince his fickle new love that in a time without standards or stability, there is still value in being a real human being.


Swamplandia
(author: Karen Russell, publisher: Chatto & Windus)


The Bigtree alligator wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Ava, a resourceful but terrified twelve year-old, must battle to save it. After the death of her beautiful and legendary mother, Swamplandia!, Ava's island home in the Florida Everglades, is under threat from a nearby competitor; her sister Osceola has eloped with a ghost, her Grandpa Sawtooth has been sent to the mainland to an old folk's home, her brother has secretly defected to The World of Darkness, and her father, the Chief, is AWOL... can a harrowing Odyssey to a perilpus part of the swamp keep that family finally afloat?


The Tiger's Wife
(author: Tea Obrecht, publisher: Phoenix)


'Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs...' A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic - Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book. Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather's death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery. From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for 'the deathless man', a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger's wife.


To Siberia
(author: Per Peterson, publisher: Vintage)


In the bitter cold of Danish Jutland, where the sea freezes over and the Nazis have yet to invade, a young girl dreams of one day going on a great journey To Siberia, while her beloved brother Jesper yearns for the warmer climes of Morocco. Their home, with a pious mother who sings hymns all day and a silent father, is as cold as their surroundings. But the unshakeable bond between brother and sister creates a vital warmth which glows in spite of the chill and the dark clouds that threaten to overtake their dreams.


The Unnamed
(author: Joshua Ferris, publisher: Penguin)


In an America gone awry with strange weather, New York lawyer Tim Farnsworth suffers a peculiar affliction: the inability to stop walking. While his wife, Jane, struggles to keep their family together in the face of the unfathomable, Tim alone must battle to survive pitiless surroundings, encounters with hostile strangers, and the unrelenting demands of his own body. These challenges force Tim to ask life's most pressing questions, which he answers in a final return on foot across country to reunite with his wife and daughter.

Stripped of all defences, and the sense of hope that lies at the very heart of the American dream, Farnsworth is compelled to confront the terrifying reality of what it is to be a human being.


What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
(author: Haruki Murakami, publisher: Vintage)


An intimate look at writing, running, and the incredible way they intersect, from the incomparable, bestselling author Haruki Murakami.While simply training for New York City Marathon would be enough for most people, Haruki Murakami's decided to write about it as well. The result is a beautiful memoir about his intertwined obsessions with running and writing, full of vivid memories and insights, including the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer. By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is rich and revelatory, both for fans of this masterful yet guardedly private writer and for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in athletic pursuit.


Zone One
(author: Colson Whitehead, publisher: Vintage)


The most chilling, witty and downright beautifully written Zombie novel you'll ever read.

A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. The worst of the plague is now past, and Manhattan is slowly being resettled. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street - aka 'Zone One' and teams of civilian volunteers are clearing out the remaining infected 'stragglers'.

Mark Spitz is a member of one of these taskforces and over three surreal days he undertakes the mundane mission of malfunctioning zombie removal, the rigours of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and attempting to come to terms with a fallen world.

But then things start to go terribly wrong...