Monday, May 10, 2021

Doerr and Franzen Coming to a Library or Bookstore Near you this Fall

Library Journal’s fiction editor Barbara Hoffert landed two outstanding interviews last week for the virtual Day of Dialog. Lovers of exquisite fiction and big, fat family sagas, have only to wait until fall for two marvelous sounding novels.

Anthony Doerr stole my heart with “All the Light We Cannot See.” Many of us Calendar

Description automatically generatedwondered how he could possibly match that Pulitzer Prize-winning debut. According to Barbara, whose instincts I trust completely having worked with her for fifteen or twenty years, “Cloud Cuckoo Land” is “the joyous book we need right now.” And how can you not adore an author who dedicates his work to “the librarians, then, now, and in the years to come.”

From the siege of Constantinople in 1453 to present day Idaho and to a futuristic utopia, Doerr creates a tapestry of interlocking stories, a book within a book, that speaks to the connections between all living things. He told Barbara that he addresses such disparate themes as climate change, science, longing, and mortality with humor and joy, all told through the eyes of children facing complicated, difficult journeys.

Jonathan Franzen surprised me when he admitted to Barbara that he had told his publisher he only had one book left in him. Fortunately, that “one book” will be a trilogy, “A Key to All Mythologies,” which will span the ‘70’s, the mid ‘90’s, andA picture containing text, person

Description automatically generated current times. In October, the first volume, “Crossroads,” will hit bookstores and libraries and it sounds fabulous!

I am a sucker for tales of ministers struggling with their faith and apparently Russ Hildebrandt, who Franzen calls “a mass of insecurities,” will be the heart and soul of this novel. A man doomed to play second fiddle as the associate pastor of a mid-Western parish, locked into a troubled marriage, and father to three children he no longer understands.

We all remember the seventies differently. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll is the moniker I recall. But Franzen says that he wanted to investigate the small-town private struggles that were always happening under the surface of the lurid headlines, what was going on at kitchen tables all over the country. With the Vietnam war winding down, Watergate, the Black Power movement, and the sexual revolution in its heyday, Russ and his wife will be tested by their young adult children in very differing ways.

But don’t think of “The Corrections” when you meet the Hildebrandts. Franzen says he has changed a lot from the man who wrote that classic of familial dysfunction. He seems to have eschewed an agenda for straight up storytelling and admits that he loved each of the characters he’s introducing us to and tries to treat them all equally. That’s a good thing since he plans to spend five decades with them and I’ve no doubt I will be along for the full ride.

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