Summer is almost over. Maybe you’ve already been to the beach. Maybe you’ve got one more trip left before the kids go back to school. Maybe you never had kids and we just ambushed you and made you have to think about some uncomfortable things. In any case, you need a book. Something to while away the hours on the sand, something to keep you company inside as you hide from the sun, something to distract you from the feelings we accidentally dislodged. Here are a few choices to get you started. You’re welcome/sorry!
(available Aug. 13)
Marigold by Will Clarke
The problem with satire these days is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to outkick the coverage of reality. Would it surprise you if, say, Elon Musk were found to be leading a sex cult? That is not exactly the plot of the latest novel by Dallas’ Will Clarke (Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles, The Neon Palm of Madame Melançon), but it isn’t terribly far off, so the author must hustle to stay a step ahead of the news.
Marigold takes its title from Marigold Sunshine Whitaker, an airport massage therapist who talks to angels and swears by a self-help manual called The Elements of Abundance. (Which exists: Clarke wrote that, too, under the name Aurora Aberdeen, and its first 50 pages feature all-caps statements like YOUR BRAIN IS ALSO A MONEY MACHINE in 48-point type surrounded by white space.) Very quickly, Marigold finds herself inside an ambitious athleisure brand with designs on being the next Apple or Amazon, run by a wolf in bee-striped yoga pants named Krish McKinley, sort of the Tyler Durden of billionaire narcissists.
From there, Clarke folds in pretty much everything about modern life (outside of cryptocurrency) that seems like it could be a scam or a cult or both, from TED Talks and improv comedy to corporatized mindfulness and Instagram wellness influencers and more. It’s a statement of where we seem to be headed that Marigold, with its fleet of Tesla Cybertrucks and coffee-colonic companies called JavaDaButt, could read as straight reportage in a year or two. And also that the intentionally ridiculous The Elements of Abundance could probably work as a real self-help book. Clarke might have accidentally created his own cult.
Oleander City by Matt Bondurant (Blackstone)
Matt Bondurant wrote the novel on which the Shia LaBeouf movie Lawless was based. For a handful of years, he taught at UTD, and during his time in Dallas, before he took a position at Ole Miss about seven years ago, Bondurant would sometimes exercise his elbow with two D Magazine editors, Zac Crain and me. That he named two villains in this book after his old drinking buddies has no bearing on my assessment of the work. It is a deeply researched, finely written historical fiction about the 1900 hurricane that leveled Galveston and a racially charged boxing match that was staged amid the destruction. It’s cliché to call a book a page turner, but that’s what this is.
The Shehnai Virtuoso and Other Stories by Dhumketu
Deep Vellum has branched out, but its core is still publishing works in translation. Two of the Dallas outfit’s most recent show off its capabilities in that regard. The Shehnai Virtuoso and Other Stories (out now) is the first significant English-language collection of work by the late Dhumketu, considered one of the masters of Indian Gujarati-language short stories. Jenny Bhatt selected and translated at least one story from his 24 published volumes. Edited by Ali Kinsella, Zenia Tompkins, and Ross Ufberg, Love in Defiance of Pain: Ukrainian Stories (available Sep. 13) showcases the strength of the Ukrainian people through a mix of voices and approaches and a mix of published and previously unpublished work. The right book at the right time.
More Local Titles for Your Shelf
Perish by LaToya Watkins
Watkins’ debut novel follows four members of a Black Texan family as they come together to say goodbye to their mother and grandmother, causing them to grapple with long-held secrets.
(available Aug. 23)
Driving Lessons by Tim Coursey
The artist and furniture maker’s first work of fiction, a series of interconnected stories, first appeared in rough, unedited form as part of his exhibition at SMU’s Pollock Gallery early last year.
Half Outlaw by Alex Temblador
In her first adult novel, Temblador tells the story of the half-Mexican Raqi, raised by her uncle and his all-White motorcycle club, as she goes on the special Grieving Ride following his death.
You’ve Been Chosen: Thriving Through The Unexpected by Cynt Marshall
This memoir from the Mavericks’ CEO details her rise from a NorCal housing project through the corporate ranks at AT&T and her battle with stage 3 colon cancer.
(available Sep. 13)
Hog Wild by Jonathan Woods
(Close to the Bone)
A former Special Forces sniper is tasked with ridding a South Texas cattle ranch of its feral hog infestation. The hogs band together to stop him in this wild tale he describes as “Animal Farm meets Animal House.”
(available Aug. 26)