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January 2, 2011 by markstani

The first Observer New Review of 2011 gives a load of reasons to be optimistic about the cultural year ahead. First, there’s a brilliant piece about the upcoming Anna Nicole Smith opera at the Royal Opera House. I’m queuing for tickets. Second, there’s a review of a great-sounding book called Palo Alto by James Franco, which is out this week. It’s a bunch of sharp tales about disillusioned adolescents. It might sound cliched but the write-up suggests it’s going to be better than most.

Also, there’s an interview with David Vann ahead of the release of his next book, Caribou Island. I’ve never read his stuff, but I might now. Another paper reckons the so-called ‘misery memoir’ is going to be the big publishing trend of 2011. Who outside the thumpy, frowny literary establishment really wants to read stuffy old has-beens mulling mortality? David Vann, who maybe had more cause than most to head down the misery route, just sounds like a guy who loves writing. He might be worth checking out for that reason alone.

July will bring the long, long awaited (by me, anyway) debut novel by Donald Ray Pollock, whose dark and dirty short story collection Knockemstiff is one of my all-time favourites. Finally, one I missed in 2010: Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty – a gripping series of semi-fictions set in Khrushchev’s Russia. Believe me, it’s better than it sounds.


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