Nonfiction Previews: January 2012, Pt. 3: William Gass and Pico Iyer but Elizabeth II Reigns

Bram, Christopher. Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America. Twelve. Jan. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780446563130. $27.99. LITERATURE
Himself a distinguished novelist (and gay), Bram here undertakes to investigate the significant gay writers‚ Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg, and James Baldwin‚ who came to the fore after World War II and changed both the literature and the culture of America. He also explains how they set the stage for writers to come like Edmund White and Tony Kushner. A key cultural study for informed readers.

Frank, Thomas. Pity the Billionaire: The Unexpected Resurgence of the American Right. Metropolitan: Holt. Jan. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780805093698. $25. CURRENT EVENTS
Frank, former Wall Street Journal columnist, founding editor of the Baffler, and author of the best-selling What’s the Matter with Kansas?, is frankly puzzled. The economy hasn’t been this bad since the Depression, but the Republican Right (and particularly the Tea Party Movement) is rising up to demand that we embrace the very system that has led us to the brink. And ordinary folks, including those hardest hit by recession, aren’t complaining. Set to raise everyone’s hackles; buy where books on current events matter, though Red State readers aren’t as likely to embrace.

Gass, William H. Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts. Knopf. Jan. 2012. 364p. ISBN 9780307595843. $27.95; eISBN 9780307957443. LITERATURE
Winner of more awards than can possibly be listed here, including the Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award and three National Book Critics Circle awards for his criticism (in 1985, 1996, and 2002), Gass is a critic’s critic who makes us rethink our every act of reading. Here he’s both deeply scholarly and deeply personal, discussing beloved writers (e.g., Kafka, Henry James, and Proust), issues (from the Holocaust to form and metaphor), and the basic building blocks of literature, focusing on the humble sentence. For anyone serious about literature.

Iyer, Pico. The Man Within My Head. Knopf. Jan. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780307267610 $25; eISBN 9780307957467. MEMOIR
Iyer, who’s taken us around the world in books like The Open Road and multitudinous essays in venues like the New York Review of Books, now takes us on an inner journey. Profoundly influenced by Graham Greene, particularly his concept of the outsider, Iyer sought and found echoes of Greene wherever he traveled. Not so clear was the image Iyer had of his own father, shifting like a reflection in troubled water. Iyer works through his relationship with both writer and father in this meditation, which should appeal to the intellectually hungry. With a six-city tour to Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Portland (OR), San Francisco, and Seattle.

Kranish, Michael & Scott Helman. The Real Romney. Harper: HarperCollins. Jan. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780062123275. $27.99. CURRENT EVENTS
Written by two Boston Globe investigative reporters who have followed Mitt Romney for years and just dropped into the publihser’s schedule in time for the 2012 primaries, this study plumbs Romney’s success as a 2002 Olympics organizer, investment CEO, and Republican governor of typically democratic Massachusetts while also considering his reputation for shift-with-the-winds calculation. They aim to show what kind of campaign Romney will run as presidential candidate and what kind of president he would be. Our first 2012 campaign book; out-of-the-gate fresh and boasting a 50,000-copy first printing.

Marr, Andrew. The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. Holt. Jan. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780805094169. $32. BIOGRAPHY
Plenty of folks would like to get cozy with the queen, maybe even share a cup of tea, but since that’s pretty much impossible the next best thing may be a good book. Here’s one in what will likely be a spate of titles on Queen Elizabeth II (see also Sally Bedell Smith’s Elizabeth the Queen, previewed below) as she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee‚ 60 years on the throne!‚ starting on February 6, 2012. Marr hosts his own TV show on the BBC, authored A History of Modern Britain, and has interviewed friends and advisers of the queen, and even her children, so he’s well prepped for this book. Expect a Valentine.

O’Connor, Anne-Marie. The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Knopf. Jan. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780307265647. $32.50; eISBN 9780307957566. ART HISTORY
Hailed as Gustav Klimt’s most important painting, filched by the Nazis, prominently featured at Vienna’s Belvedere Castle after the war, subject to an eight-year battle by its subject’s heirs to get it back (with other works), and, after they won, purchased for $135 million by Ronald S. Lauder for his Neue Galerie in New York, the dazzling, nearly surreal Portrait of Adele Black-Bauer I is about a lot more than just art. Longtime journalist O’Connor captures the whole story, starting with the edgy excitedness of turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna. Not a huge first printing at 20,000 copies but bound to attract attention; the painting’s fate is crucial and has long stirred interest.

Smith, Sally Bedell. Elizabeth the Queen: Inside the Life of a Modern Monarch. Random. Jan. 2012. 576p. ISBN 9781400067893. $30; eISBN 9780679643937. CD: Random Audio. BIOGRAPHY
The author of best-selling biographies about Pamela Harriman, John and Jacqueline Kennedy, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and, yes, Diana, Princess of Wales, Vanity Fair contributing editor Smith is out to get the goods here. While conducting multitudinous interviews with royal friends and family, she also had access to some of the queen’s previously unavailable correspondence and the journals of both a former adviser and a former U.S. ambassador. This will certainly be in demand; with a seven-city tour to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Kansas City (KS), San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Wilkinson, Alec. The Ice Balloon: S.A. Andrée and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration. Knopf. Jan. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780307594808 $25.95; eISBN 9780307957696. HISTORY
Did you know that in 1897, when exploration of earth and sky were all the rage, Swedish explorer S.A. Andrée tried to discover the North Pole by flying there in a hydrogen balloon? The flight failed after three days, after which Andrée and his two colleagues attempted a sledge ride back to civilization that lasted three months and ended in death on a frozen isle. Journalist/author Wilkinson (e.g., The Protest Singer) relies on the three aeronauts’ diaries and photographs, discovered decades later, to tell this story. With books on the Arctic now showing up regularly, this should attract interest.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.