Reading Matters

Novelists you’ve heard of: McInerney and Eggers

Two bestselling writers – writers you’ve actually heard of – have new novels out now and in the next couple of weeks: Dave Eggers and Jay McInerney.

Eggers, a finalist for the National Book Award with “The Circle; A Hologram for the King,” has a new novel at month’s end. It’s “Heroes of the Frontier,” a darkly comic story of a mother and her two young children plagued by wildfires as they travel an Alaskan wilderness.

Here’s Eggers’ opening:

“There is proud happiness, happiness born of doing good work in the light of day, years of worthwhile labor, and afterward being tired, and content, surrounded by family and friends, bathed in satisfaction and ready for a deserved rest – sleep or death, it would not matter.

“Then there is the happiness of one’s personal slum. The happiness of being alone, and tipsy on red wine, in the passenger seat of an ancient recreational vehicle parked somewhere in Alaska’s deep south, staring into a scribble of black trees, afraid to go to sleep for fear that at any moment someone will get past the toy lock on the RV door and murder you and your two small children sleeping above.”

McInerney’s “Bright, Precious Days” follows Corrine and Russell Calloway along the byways of their beautiful life -- a loft in TriBeCa, summers in the Hamptons, twins whose birth was truly miraculous, book parties, art openings... until Russell, an independent publishser, never one to pay attention to finances, suffers a reversal and encounters an opportunity that threatens to ruin him.

Here’s McInerney’s opening:

“Once, not so very long ago, young men and women had come to the city because they loved books, because they wanted to write novels or short stories or even poems, or because they wanted to be associated with the production and distribution of those artifacts and with the people who created them. For those who haunted suburban libraries and provincial bookstores, Manhattan was the shining island of letters. New York, New York: it was right there on the title pages – the place from which the books and magazines emanated, home of all the publishers, the address of The New Yorker and The Paris Review, where Hemingway had punched O’Hara and Ginsberg seduced Kerouac, Hellman sued McCarthy and Mailer had punched everybody, where – or so they imagined – earnest editorial assistants and aspiring novelists smoked cigarettes in cafes while reciting Dylan Thomas, who’d taken his last breath in St. Vincent’s Hospital after drinking seventeen whiskeys at the White Horse Tavern, which was still serving drinks to the tourists and the young literateurs who flocked here to raise a glass to the memory of the Welsh bard.”

Dannye: dpowell@charlotteobserver.com

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