Hemingway’s Mythology, Leonard Cohen’s War, Courtroom Drama: New Book Picks

Our latest book selections, hand-picked by Mitch Kaplan of Books & Books, include two new takes on iconic North Americans and a cool thriller from a compelling Miami author. Order them at the links below.

NONFICTION

The Importance of Not Being Ernest: My Life with the Uninvited Hemingway by Mark Kurlansky

Journalist Mark Kurlansky has previously tackled such Hemingway-adjacent subjects as Havana and fly fishing in his previous books, so it stands to reason he would make an ideal cataloger of the literary giant himself. But The Importance of Not Being Ernest is not a standard-issue Hemingway biography, of which there are many. Rather, Kurlansky’s reporting takes him down personal, as well as literary-historical, rabbit holes, charting some of the ways his own career has paralleled the legend of his seminal influence. He was in Idaho the day Hemingway died in that unlikeliest of states, for instance, and also spent important professional years in Paris and Spain, two of Hemingway’s haunts him. The book, manna for Ernest’s hardcore followers, is chock full of anecdotes and historical facts, and even includes a detour with two winners of the Key West Hemingway Lookalike contest. Mitch Kaplan will lead a virtual talk with Kurlansky at 8 pm June 13; tune in here.

Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai by Matti Friedman

An important, hybrid work of music and war reporting, Friedman’s carefully researched book captures a pivotal year for both Leonard Cohen and his ancestral homeland of Israel. Cohen was 39 and creatively flummoxed in 1973, when Egypt attacked Israel on a high holiday, thus starting the Yom Kippur War. Putting patriotism over comfort, Cohen departed his home from him on the Greek island of Hydra for the bloody sands of the Sinai Desert, where he would perform for young soldiers fighting for their lives and the freedom of their people. This harrowing adventure left a permanent mark on the Canadian poet-songwriter, who had previously announced the premature end of his music career; instead, it inspired many of the tracks on his 1974 comeback album, New Skin for the Old Ceremony. Who By Fire explores all of this, supplemented by newly unearthed selections from an unfinished Cohen manuscript and rarely scene photographs from the period.

FICTION

Neruda in the Park by Cleyvis Natera

Named by numerous taste-making outlets as one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2022, Neruda in the Park marks the debut novel of Cleyvis Natera, already a multiple award-winning author with an MFA from New York University. It centers on an invented but familiar sight: a fictional Dominican enclave in Upper Manhattan that is soon to be on the chopping block for gentrification, as a tenement building is set to be razed for the construction of luxury condos. This development strains the tight filial bond between the selfless Eusebia, a proud elder of the community, and her 29-year-old daughter Luz, who has been navigating the bougie waters of the white legal world. As Eusebia concocts a series of schemes to derail the construction, Luz strikes up a serious relationship with the developer of the company her mother is working tirelessly to take down, setting up an explosive finale—and establishing Natera as a provocative new voice in fiction.

With Prejudice by Robin Peguero

The closest thing in this column to a beach read, this legal thriller with a local provenance is being heralded as one of the smartest and most original entries in the ubiquitous genre. The death of a free-spirited young woman leads authorities to arrest and try Gabriel Soto, whose strands of hair were discovered in the victim’s bedroom. The focus of With Harm is the seven-member jury—among them a no-nonsense tax auditor, a soft-spoken physician and a paranoid neighborhood watchman—each of whom brings his or her own baggage to a decision of life or death. Meanwhile, an ambitious young prosecutor and a grandstanding public defender battle it out on their side of the proceedings, in a narrative full of unpredictable revelations. Author Peguero knows his way around a courtroom; he is a former homicide prosecutor in Miami and is currently a US House investigative counsel specializing in domestic terrorism.


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