Since 2010, Memorious editors and contributors have compiled lists of our most anticipated titles of the new year. Last year’s picks included Emma Cline’s masterful novel The Girls, Han King’s Man Booker-winning drama The Vegetarian, and our new Assistant Poetry Editor Derrick Austin’s Trouble the Water, which Mary Szybist selected for the A. Poulin Jr. Award. For the next several days, our staff and contributors will be posting the books they are most excited about in 2017. We hope you enjoy our picks, and we’d love to hear what you’re excited to read, so let us know in the Comments section what we’ve missed!
Fiction Editor Brian Trapp kicks off this year’s round with his list:
Kevin Wilson, Perfect Little World (Ecco, January)
Wilson’s first novel, The Family Fang, was one of my favorite books in recent years. The novel (about two aging performance artists and their traumatized adult children) hit all the right notes: hilarious set pieces, tonal complexity, and heart-punching pathos. In addition, one of its main characters gets smashed in the face by a rocket-launched potato. In Wilson’s sophomore effort, Perfect Little World, he writes another absurdist family novel, following Isabella Pool, a young new mother looking for answers and resources to raise her child. She soon joins “The Infinite Family Project,” a utopian experiment in which ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are. The community starts off with promise, but soon begins to fracture. Wilson is a razor sharp sentence writer and a careful observer of people. He has the comic chops and the emotional intelligence to transcend even the most absurd premise and ask: What makes and breaks a family?
Elena Passarello, Animals Strike Curious Poses (Sarabande, February)
Passarello melted my face with her first essay collection Let Me Clear My Throat, a tour-de-force meditation on all things voice, from competing in a “Stella!” screaming contest in New Orleans to the origins and applications of the Wilhelm scream, the reused scream sound you hear during deaths in countless films. In her next collection, modeled after a medieval bestiary, she investigates famous animals named and immortalized by humans, starting with a 39,000-year-old wooly mammoth. Kirkus writes that Passarello “makes connections among disparate elements and wields keen perceptions on the creatures she encounters. There are some real dazzlers. Passarello manages to chronicle humanity’s cavalier exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals without getting preachy in the process—no mean feat.” Passarello is talented enough to bring her voice to bear on any subject, animal, vegetable or mineral.
Woody Skinner, A Thousand Distant Radios (Atelier26, late 2017)
Skinner’s work is reminiscent of other great voice-driven comic writers of the American South: Barry Hannah, Donald Barthelme, Padgett Powell. Like these writers, Skinner, winner of Mid-American Review’s Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize, is funny, sure, but also capable of affecting pathos within the strangest of premises. In the title story, a man goes about burning his grandfather’s body by pouring gasoline into his mouth: “I bent over his body, pressed my ear onto his bloated belly, and listened to the gasoline slurp and fizz inside of him. It sounded like the static of a thousand distant radios, like stories and sounds refusing to take shape.” What follows is a meditation on death and the unbearable weight of American history. If his title story is any indication, the stories that do take shape in this collection will be wildly inventive and darkly comic, but always moving.
SJ Sindu, Marriage of a Thousand Lies (Soho Press, June)
In SJ Sindu’s debut novel, we meet Lakshmi, called Lucky, an unemployed programmer, and her husband, Krishna, an editor for a greeting card company. Both are secretly gay—their marriage a front for their conservative Sri Lankan-American families. Sindu, a 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow, writes deeply sensuous and evocative prose, telling an unconventional immigrant story of queer love and loss. You can read an excerpt here. Soho Press had this to say about the novel: “It doesn’t always get better. To live openly means that Lucky would lose most of the community she was born into—a community she loves, an irreplaceable home. As Lucky, an outsider no matter what choices she makes, is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a moving exploration of friendship, family, and love, shot through with humor and loss.”
Other Intriguing Titles:
The Dark and Other Love Stories, Debbie Willis (Norton, February)
Rabbit Cake, Annie Hartnett (Tin House Books, March)
The Night Ocean, Paul La Farge (Penguin, March)
Love Is No Small Thing, Meghan Kenny (LSU Press, March)
A Horse Walks into a Bar, David Grossman (Penguin, February)
Sirens, Joshua Mohr (Two Dollar Radio, January)
Brian Trapp is the fiction editor of Memorious. His short stories and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in the Sun, the Gettysburg Review, Narrative, Ninth Letter, MELUS, and Black Warrior Review, among other places. An essay of his was named Notable in Best American Essays 2013. He currently teaches creative writing at the University of Oregon.
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