And so here we are, at the beginning of a shiny new fall. Fall is to the literary world what summer is to movie season: the season when the big names come out to play, when the big advertising budgets and media blitzes roll out. And every season, the books are accompanied with a certain amount of buzz—book chat, both positive and negative, from agents, librarians, and other literary folks with early access to review copies.
Sometimes, these books are instant classics, the kind of reading experience that engages even people who don’t pay that much attention to books. But as with summer blockbusters, sometimes that hype amounts to not much at all. Duds collide with runaway bestsellers, famous authors sometimes fail to impress their beloved fans, and new writers appear from (seemingly) nowhere to become household names.
This year, we’ve got new books from Zadie Smith, Michael Chabon, Maria Semple, Jonathan Safran Foer, Bruce Springsteen, and many more on the way. Thanks to Oprah’s pre-publication endorsement, we’ve already seen Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad become one of 2016’s rare must-reads. (Speaking of which: Hugo House is bringing Whitehead to Seattle Public Library on September 17th. Save that date.) It’s all almost too exhausting to think about.
Before book blockbuster season fully consumes us next week, let’s kick off our fall with a book from an unfamiliar name. Indian author Anuradha Roy’s newest novel, Sleeping on Jupiter, is the first big buzz-book of fall book season. Monday, she reads at Elliott Bay Book Company as part of her very first reading tour of the United States.
Jupiter begins with our protagonist, Nomi, witnessing her father’s murder:
When the pigs were slaughtered for their meat they shrieked with a sound that made my teeth fall off and this was the sound I heard soon after my mother cut the grapefruit, and the men came in with axes…In my sleep I hear the sound of pigs at slaughter, the sound my father made.
Nomi is adopted and moves to Norway; she comes back to India a grown woman with a project in mind. The book addresses sexism and homophobia and masculine violence in a new way; it’s a novel that pushes at its culture as a force of modernity.
Jupiter has already been nominated for a Man Booker Prize and it’s won and been shortlisted for a bunch of other huge literary awards. And if you think that awards don’t mean anything—you’re only partly right, by the way, but that’s an argument for another time—you should know that the book buzz on this one is off the charts. Local booksellers can’t stop gushing over Roy’s latest, and booksellers are rarely wrong. Jupiter is that rarest of novels: a fiction that serves as an agent of social change. That’s hype you can believe in.