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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Curt's most anticipated new books of 2012

Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons (Fantagraphics, April 2) While Flannery O'Connor secured her fame with her Southern Grotesque fiction such as the novel Wise Blood, she set out to be a cartoonist as a young woman. This anthology focuses on O'Connor's work for high school and college publications in the 1940s, and offers an intriguing glimpse into the gestation of a great Southern writer.

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art
(William Morrow, April 3) Novelist Christopher Moore has applied his pranksterish sense of humor to subjects ranging from vampires to King Lear, and with his latest book takes a satirical look at such great painters as Vincent Van Gogh and Toulouse-Letrec. If it's at all like Fool, it'll be the kind of book that's so funny, you won't notice how much you're learning.

Crucible of Gold (Del Rey, March 6) Naomi Novik's ingenious historical fantasy saga began by wondering how the Napoleonic Wars would have different with the presence of intelligent, flying dragons to provide aerial corps for the rival nations. The series has expanded to encompass the entire globe, as well as contemporaneous history, with Captain Bligh playing a supporting role in the last book. The latest installment sends English Captain William Laurence and his beloved, impetuous dragon Temeraire from Australia to South America, where Napoleon has opened another front in Brazil. Novik's books combine high adventure, and clever historical tidbits with a warm relationship between the captain and his dragon.

The Wind Through the Keyhole (Scribner, April 24) The same month that Stephen King co-authors a world premiere musical at the Alliance Theatre, he publishes a new volume in his mammoth, genre-busting series of books, The Dark Tower. An untold story of Roland, the series protagonist, this 320-page book (slim by King standards) finds the last gunslinger befriending a young boy while attempting to stop a shape-shifting fiend. Following the acclaimed Under the Dome and 11/22/63, King has been enjoying a creative renaissance lately, so it'll be interesting to see where Wind fits in.

The Red House (June 12, Doubleday) England's Mark Haddon made a hugely impressive literary debut with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, not to mention a satisfying follow-up, A Spot of Bother. The description of his latest novel sounds very much like the prose equivalent of one of Alan Ayckbourn's comedies of painful relationships: "Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister Angela and her family to join his for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Richard has just re-married and inherited a willful stepdaughter in the process; Angela has a feckless husband and three children who sometimes seem alien to her. The stage is set for seven days of resentment and guilt, a staple of family gatherings the world over." If it's like his previous books, the pathos should go hand-in-hand with the wit.

The Underwater Welder (Top Shelf Productions, July 2012) Last year Jeff Lemire became one of the hottest writers in mainstream comic books with his excellent, unnerving relaunch of DC Comics' Animal Man. (His first Animal Man collection, The Hunt, is on my Amazon wish list.) Lemire has long amassed a cult following for his scripts and artwork of his more personal, independent work such as Essex County. This summer's The Underwater Welder, published by Marietta's Top Shelf Productions, should appeal to fans of both sides of Lemire, as the titular worker, an expectant father, feels increasingly alienated from his family until he faces a mind-blowing experience on the ocean floor.

Other books on my radar include Lionel Asbo: The State of England by Martin Amis, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, The Fear Index by The Ghost Writer author Robert Harris, Carl Hiassen's latest YA novel Chomp and Raylan, Elmore Leonard's latest book about the main character of the TV series "Justified."

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