Meyer (Melville House)
Stephen Dixon. At this point, the words are synonymous with prolific output. With 27 books and hundreds, if not thousands, of short stories under his belt, the recently retired Hopkins professor sets the standard for sheer productivity. So when the protagonist of this novel struggles with writer's block, it's hard not to smile. And if Dixon actually did struggle to write this book, all the better. It doesn't show. His voice is strong, and his brand of meta-fiction, which he trailblazed when the likes of David Foster Wallace were still in diapers, seems tailor-made for our post-millennium/post-9-11 age.
Double Game (Violette/D.A.P)
The writer Paul Auster likes to push the limits of literary convention, often by tweaking reality, shuffling perspectives, crafting offbeat characters, and mixing fact with fiction. His novel Timbuktu—which is set partly in Baltimore—is, for instance, written from the point-of-view of a dog. With Double Game, Calle does Auster one better, albeit without use of a canine. Calle, a well-known conceptual artist, was the inspiration for the character Maria in Auster's Leviathan. In that book, Maria follows and photographs strangers, works as a maid in order to take pictures of the hotel rooms she cleans, and strips in a nightclub. In real life, Calle did such things and documented them as part of her work. So in her book, Calle reproduces the passages from Leviathan that she inspired and follows them up with documentation, explanations, and photographs of her real-life exploits. By doing so, she sheds light on the creation of Auster's character (fiction) and her artwork (non-fiction), while blurring the line between the two. Then, she does something truly remarkable. For the last section of this gorgeously designed book, she asks Auster to provide her with instructions to follow, in real-life. "Since in Leviathan, Auster has taken me as a subject," Calle explains, "I imagined swapping roles and taking him as the author of my actions." The results, meticulously documented by Calle, add yet another intriguing layer to Auster and Calle's mingling of fact and fiction.
These Things Ain't Gonna Smoke Themselves (Bloomsbury)
In this slim volume, Flake addresses the complexities involved in navigating a thorny and complicated relationship. A City Paper cartoonist and the author of last year's acclaimed Lulu Eightball book, Flake candidly discusses and effectively illustrates her experiences with separation anxiety, self-destructive behavior, guilt, and numerous other issues relating to the relationship and the break-up she's considering. But Flake isn't anguished about a lover or spouse. Instead, she's tormented by an addiction to cigarettes, and this comic memoir brilliantly captures the inner turmoil brought on by such a struggle. Flake's simple drawings represent a stark contrast to the glamour often associated with lighting up, and her ambiguous ending effectively underscores the long-term physical and psychological challenges addicts face.