Books: A powerful novel from Joyce Carol Oates; less so from Paul Auster; an Iranian poet and more in books


Hi, I’m books editor Carolyn Kellogg with the latest in books.


Joyce Carol Oates is a phenomenon of productivity, often publishing more than a book a year. With so much output, her work can be uneven, but she’s hit the mark with “A Book of American Martyrs,” writes reviewer Steph Cha. The massive novel takes on the issues surrounding abortion, free speech, gun rights and the death penalty through the lens of an abortion doctor, his killer and the families they leave behind. “These are the daughters of men fighting over women’s rights, left behind by their fathers,” writes Cha in her review. “It seems just that they get a voice.”



Paul Auster is a significant novelist who has written “surpassingly beautiful” books, writes reviewer Michelle Dean. But “4 3 2 1,” his new 800-plus-page doorstopper, misses the mark. It’s the story of a single life, told four times, taking different turns along the way. Sounds good, right? Read our review to find out what went wrong.

Paul Auster
(Alicia Huerta / EPA)


Neil Gaiman has such devoted fans that many will snap up his new short story collection “Norse Mythology” — retelling the old Norse myths, featuring Thor, Loki and their ilk — no matter what critics say. Our reviewer Douglas Wolk finds Gaiman’s prose charming, as always, but thinks the book falls short. “For admirers of his fiction, it’s the equivalent of going to see a rock band you like and finding that they’re just playing a set of Chuck Berry covers that night,” he writes in his review. “Great material, yes, and executed nicely, but less than the inventiveness we go to him for.”



During the 2008 recession, journalist Jade Chang attended a Bel-Air party to celebrate Trump Tower in Dubai, and she was struck by the contrast of luxury and loss. Soon, she had begun writing “The Wangs vs. the World,” her humorous debut novel — a bestseller — about a wealthy Chinese American family that suddenly loses its fortune and drives across the U.S. to put itself together again. “Everything is simultaneously absurd and funny and totally heartbreaking, all at the same time,” Chang tells Agatha French, who profiles the author.

Jade Chang
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)


This week publisher Simon & Schuster announced that it will publish a new book of essays by Hillary Clinton of inspiration and “stories from her life, up to and including her experiences in the 2016 presidential campaign.”

Exiled Iranian poet Mohsen Emadi does not foresee being able to return to the U.S. after Donald Trump’s executive order. With a trip to Finland already scheduled, Emadi, who was in Los Angeles, gave a last-minute reading to a sympathetic audience, arranged by publisher Phoneme Media.

Debuting at No. 6 in nonfiction on our bestseller list this week is Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi’s book of essays about the 2016 presidential campaign, “Insane Clown President.”


If you’ve ever wished that you could live at Pooh Corner, now’s your chance. The country house owned by A.A. Milne, the creator of “Winnie-the-Pooh,” is for sale in England for about $2.38 million. I find authors’ homes fascinating, so let me tell you about Cotchford Farm: The six-bedroom, five-bathroom house, which dates to the 16th century, has charming details like fireplaces, exposed beams, a brick terrace and gardens. It has been modernized, of course, with a new kitchen and a pool (where another owner, Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, met his premature end) and sits on 9.5 acres. There’s even a worn stone statue of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Christopher Robin on the grounds — the fictional character was named for Milne’s own son.

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