Fall Guide: Matthew Vincent Explains How It All Went So Freakin' Wrong

Meet the screw-ups of [you] Ruined It For Everyone!

Exley
By Brock Clarke
October

Known for being more savage to his literary forebears than Cunningham, Brock Clarke (An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England) uses Frederick Exley's "fictionalized memoir" as the basis for a fan's notes on A Fan's Notes, essentially following boy hero Miller and his therapist as they attempt to figure out why the kid's father abandoned his family, and why Miller needs to find Exley, the writer of his father's favorite book. As books about books go, it probably won't read much like The Hours. Algonquin, 320 pp., $24.95

The False Friend
By Myla Goldberg
October

Celia is haunted by the memory of her betrayal of a childhood friend, Djuna, with whom she had a particularly bad fight just before Djuna disappeared into a spooky wooded area of their neighborhood and went missing for 21 years. Cinematically weaving together Celia's uneasy present with her disturbing past, Goldberg, the author of the highly acclaimed Bee Season, explores the intensity and volatility of friendships between young girls as well as the slipperiness of fidelity and memory. "We are," says the narrator, "because we remember." Doubleday, 272 pp., $25.95

Listen to This
By Alex Ross
October

Alex Ross's unlikely bestseller The Rest Is Noise grabbed us by the ears and challenged our assumption that 20th-century concert music was elitist and ugly. For his encore, he has taken a sneakier approach, compiling and expanding upon a number of his New Yorker essays that link modern composers to popular music: examining Verdi's mass appeal; profiling Björk with respect to her love of Stockhausen and Icelandic composer Jón Leifs; tracing the "walking bass line" through history. Is the distinction between classical and pop a specious one? Ross may convince you. FSG, 384 pp., $27

The Instructions
By Adam Levin
November

One of the more troubling legacies of high modernism is that it caused many people to think that "great book" meant "inscrutable brick by a white guy." In the past few years, however, there's a new brick-making paradigm—J.K. Rowling has changed the game. Like Paul Murray's recent Skippy Dies, a fat Irish tome populated with naughty, non-magical boarding school boys, The Instructions is another long story about short people. Adam Levin's Foster-Wallacian effort concerns Guiron Maccabee, a 10-year-old delinquent and scholar who gets kicked out of many a private school, and eventually becomes a notorious revolutionary. Are books getting longer because everyone's unemployed? I guess it's a good time to finish those Bolaños. McSweeney's, 924 pp., $29 

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