From A World of New Titles: Editor’s Picks | BEA 2013, Annalisa Pesek’s picks from this year’s Book Expo America.
One book at a time
The book review editor’s work is a balancing act: keep up with the imagination and stay up on the facts. So in a way, BEA is a chance for editors to rest—at least the imagination has less to consider—and the aisles aren’t so different from those in the LJ bookroom. We meet humans instead of emails and see publishers show off in their branded booths. Mostly, BEA is about introductions to books and people.
It’s impossible to say when I was first introduced to W.H. Auden (1907–73), but the influence of his poetry reached me again when I took home the galley of the new Princeton critical edition of Auden’s paramount poem, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio (Jun.), edited by Alan Jacobs. These verses (later set to music by friend and composer Benjamin Britten) document Auden’s return to the Christian faith of his childhood, revealing his understanding of and relationship to the divine.
I was enticed by a related forthcoming title from Princeton: What Auden Can Do for You (Oct.) by best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith (“No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series). In this poignant and very personal book, McCall Smith accounts for his deep admiration of Auden and the life-changing impacts of his poetry, offering the reminder, “Where we are when we read something can make all the difference.” Meanwhile, in his The Augustinian Theology of W.H. Auden (Univ. of South Carolina, Aug.), Stephen Schuler delves into Auden’s theological insights and the influence Augustine had on Auden’s spiritual revelations and the development of his literary methods. Schuler’s examination of the poetry of these years is in stride with that of Auden’s literary executor, Edward Mendelson, the series editor of the Princeton “W.H. Auden: Critical Editions.” You’ll find out more about that in my conversation with Mendelson about Auden, scheduled for LJ’s August issue.
When the first day of BEA was over I returned to the office to find three galleys of the anticipated Volume 2 of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway 1923—1925 (Cambridge Univ., Oct.) highlighting a portion of the author’s Paris years, revealing his off-and-on or otherwise kept-at-a-distance friendship with fellow expat F. Scott Fitzgerald and other companionships like those with John Dos Passos, Morley Callaghan, Sylvia Beach, and Gertrude Stein. Hemingway was a prolific letter writer, and his correspondence fills almost 700 pages. There’s also mention of an unpublished short story. I suspect a Volume 3 to follow. For fiction readers and those bedazzled by the era and lives of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald there is further reward. The latest novel from Lee Smith, Guests on Earth (Shannon Ravenel: Algonquin, Oct.), tells the story of an orphaned child, her admittance to Highland Hospital in Asheville, NC, in 1936, meeting Zelda Fitzgerald there, and what else? I know there’s more, now back to the book.—Annalisa Pesek