"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
| Fall is the book industry’s busiest, craziest season — the time when
publishers come muscling in, sharp elbows at the ready, with their biggest,
most ambitious titles. Thousands of books are released almost
simultaneously; most of them will die quickly without the oxygen that
reviews, press attention and word-of-mouth buzz provide.
Each fall (and spring) for the past three years, as Salon’s senior editor
in charge of book reviews, I’ve helped the magazine plan our book coverage
by plowing through a high heap of publishers’ catalogs to compile a list of
some of the most interesting forthcoming titles — a picky, whimsical,
wildly subjective list that I forward to the rest of Salon’s editorial
staff. This year we thought: Why not share this raw data with our readers?
What better way to provide a quick, opinionated preview of some of this
season’s best books?
Here are the November books that captured our fancies. Before you dig in,
keep in mind that publication dates are notoriously shifty — a book that’s
promised in September often doesn’t arrive until December, or sometimes
until the following March. Titles, too, often change in the months prior to
N O V E M B E R _ F I C T I O N :
Bainbridge, Beryl: “Master Georgie” (Carroll & Graf). The Crimean
War, as seen through eyes of participants. Nominated for Booker Prize;
Boyle, T. C.: “Stories” (Viking). His collected short fiction.
Chekhov, Anton: “The Undiscovered Chekhov” (Seven Stories).
Newly found youthful writings.
Clark, Joseph: “Jungle Wedding” (Norton). Short stories — first
published in GQ, Playboy, etc. — about yearning to break free of American
Cunningham, Michael: “The Hours” (FSG). Loosely based on the life
and work of Virginia Woolf.
Driscoll, Jack: “Lucky Man, Lucky Woman” (Norton). About a marriage
in crisis; winner of several small press awards.
Foden, Giles: “The Last King of Scotland” (Knopf). About Uganda in
the 1970s, from author who has been editor of the Times Literary
Follett, Ken: “The Hammer of Eden” (Crown). Thriller.
Gorey, Edward: “The Haunted Tea Cozy: A Dispirited and Distasteful
Diversion for Christmas” (Harcourt Brace).
Greenberg, Alvin: “How the Dead Live” (Graywolf). Short stories
about American middle-class life.
Grimes, Martha: “The Stargazey” (Holt). Mystery novel.
Kingsolver, Barbara: “The Poisonwood Bible” (HarperFlamingo).
Evangelical Baptist minister’s family goes to the Congo in the 1950s.
Kohout, Pavel: “The Widow Killer” (St. Martin’s). Translated from
Czech; suspenseful novel set in World War II-era Prague.
Krantz, Judith: “The Jewels of Tessa Kent” (Crown).
Lish, Gordon: “Arcade or How to Write a Novel” (Four Walls).
Mahony, Philip (editor): “From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of Vietnam and
Its Aftermath” (Scribner).
Maraini, Dacia: “The Silent Duchess” (Feminist Press). Translated
from the Italian; much-praised novel about a young duchess, sexually abused
as a child, who loses her ability to see and hear.
Maurensig, Paolo: “Canone Inverso” (Holt). Story of violin, from
Holocaust family to New York City; translated from the Italian by Jenny McPhee.
Munro, Alice: “The Love of a Good Woman” (Knopf). New stories.
Nesmith, Michael: “The Long, Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora” (St.
Martin’s). The search for a mythic musician, by former member of the
O’Barr, James (editor): “The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams”
(Del Ray). Stories and essays about — and inspired by — the cult
O’Donnell, Mark: “Let Nothing You Dismay” (Knopf). From talented
comic writer, novel about holiday parties.
Patterson, James: “When the Wind Blows” (Little, Brown). Mega-thriller.
Pelevin, Victor: “A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia: And Other
Stories” (New Directions). New collection from the author of “Omon Ra.”
Sharpe, Matthew: “Stories from the Tube” (Villard). Short stories,
inspired by TV commercials.
Shelley, Mary: “Maurice, Or the Fisher’s Cot” (Knopf). Long-lost,
thus-far-unpublished story — a morality tale for children — by the author
Steel, Danielle: “Mirror Image” (Delacourt). Twins and their
Wolfe, Tom: “A Man in Full” (FSG). Long-awaited follow-up to
“Bonfire of the Vanities,” set in Atlanta.
Wright, Charles: “Appalachia” (FSG). Poems.
Alexander, Caroline: “Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic
Apted, Michael: “42 Up” (New Press). Based on new installment of his
Auster, Paul and Sophie Calle: “Double Game and the Gotham Handbook”
(DAP). Writer and artist collaboration, about New York City.
Batterberry, Michael: “On the Town in New York” (Routledge). 25th
anniversary edition of acclaimed study of American eating habits.
Baudrillard, Jean: “The Cool Provocateur” (Verso). Interviews with
the French social critic.
Beck, James: “Three Worlds of Michelangelo” (Norton). On his influences.
Bennahum, David: “Extra Life: Coming of Age in Cyberspace” (Basic).
Wired writer’s memoir.
Bennett, Tony: “The Good Life” (Pocket). Crooner’s memoir.
Betchel, John: “Harvard Observed: An Illustrated History of Harvard in
the 20th Century” (Harvard).
Blackman, Ann: “Seasons of Her Life” (Scribner). Biography of Madeleine
Bowie, David: “21 Talk” (DAP). Rocker interviews visual artists.
Brightman, Carol: “Sweet Chaos: The Greatful Dead’s American Adventure”
(Potter). Author won NBCC award for Mary McCarthy bio.
Bugliosi, Vincent: “Final Verdict: The True Account of the Murder of
John F. Kennedy” (Norton).
Burrough, Bryan: “Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir”
Burrows, Edwin: “Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898″ (Oxford).
Busch, Frederick: “A Dangerous Profession: Writing as Risk” (St.
Canby, Vincent and Janet Maslin: “The New York Times Guide to the Best
1,000 Movies Ever Made” (Times).
Carter, Jimmy: “On Aging” (Ballantine/Library of Contemporary Thought
Ceruzzi, Paul: “A History of Modern Computing” (MIT).
Cher: “The First Time” (Simon & Schuster). Memoir; Chastity Bono’s
memoir was published last month.
Cohen, Anthony Michael: “The Underground Railroad: A Personal Journey
Through History” (Hyperion). Black historian retraces trail.
Cook, Anne Mariah: “Running North: A Yukon Adventure” (Algonquin).
On dogsled trek.
Daniels, Les: “Superman: The Complete History” (Chronicle).
Davis, Ossie and Ruby Dee: “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together”
(Morrow). Marks their 50th wedding anniversary.
Dawkins, Richard: “Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the
Appetite for Wonder” (Houghton Mifflin). By Oxford professor.
Derber, Charles: “Corporation Nation” (St. Martin’s). How Americans
are losing control to a “hidden government” — corporations.
Diamant, Anita: “Saying Kaddish: How to Comfort the Dying, Bury the Dead and Mourn As a Jew” (Schocken).
Doonan, Simon: “Confessions of a Window Dresser: Tales from a Life in
Downs, Linda: “Diego Rivera: The Detroit Industry Murals” (Norton).
Dozier, Rush: “Fear Itself” (St. Martin’s). On origin and nature of
Du Plessix Gray, Francine: “At Home with the Marquis de Sade” (Simon &
Edmunds, Lowell: “Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail”
(Johns Hopkins University).
Fenton, James: “Leonardo’s Nephew: Essays in the History of Art and
Artists” (FSG). New York Review of Books contributor.
Fernandez, Alina: “Not in My Father’s House” (St. Martin’s). Memoir
by Fidel Castro’s daughter; now lives in U.S.
Ferraro, Geraldine: “Framing a Life: A Family Memoir” (Scribner).
Politician, on four generations of her family.
Follain, John: “Jackal: The Complete Story of the Legendary Terrorist,
Carlos the Jackal” (Arcade).
Franklin, Lynn: “May the Circle Be Unbroken: An Intimate Journey into
the Heart of Adoption” (Harmony).
Gabler, Neal: “Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality”
Gallagher, Nora: “Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith”
(Knopf). Writer spends year with church in Santa Barbara.
Gibson, Ian: “The Shameful Life of Salvador Dali” (Norton). His
greed, ambivalence toward fascism, etc.
Gottfried, Martin: “Balancing Act: Bio of Angela Lansbury” (Little,
Greider, William: “Fortress America: The American Military and the
Consequences of Peace” (Public Affairs).
Gussow, Adam: “Mister Satan’s Apprentice: A Blues Memoir” (Pantheon).
Heimel, Cynthia: “The Call of the Wild Girl: Crucial New Sex Tips”
(Simon & Schuster).
Holden, Anthony: “Charles at Fifty” (Random House). On Prince Charles.
Holmes, Larry: “Larry Holmes: Against the Odds” (St. Martin’s).
Horwitz, Richard: “Hog Ties: Pigs, Manure, and Mortality in American
Culture” (St. Martin’s). Author is American Studies professor.
Hughes, Robert: “On Fishing” (Ballantine/Library of Contemporary Thought
series). Time magazine’s art critic.
Ignatieff, Michael: “Isaiah Berlin: A Life” (Metropolitan). Based on
tape recorded conversations during last 10 years of Berlin’s life.
Jones, Nancy: “Nashville Wives: Intimate Interviews with the Wives of
Today’s Country Superstars” (Cliff St./HarperCollins).
Jones, Stephen: “Others Unknown: The Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy”
(Public Affairs). By Timothy McVeigh’s lawyer.
Kalins, Dorothy (editor): “Saveur Cooks Authentic American” (Chronicle).
Karpin, Michael: “Murder in the Name of God: The Plot to Kill Yitzhak
Kempton, Murray: “Part of Our Time: Some Ruins and Monuments of the
Thirties” (Modern Library). Intro by David Remnick.
Kennedy, Diana: “My Mexico: Half a Lifetime of Culinary Adventures”
(Clarkson/Potter). Famed cook’s autobiography, recipes.
Kingsbury, Paul: “The Encyclopedia of Country Music” (Oxford).
Kirsch, Jonathan: “Moses: A Life” (Ballantine).
Klemperer, Victor: “I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years,
1933-1941″ (Random House). From a professor of French literature at
Dresden University and a veteran of World War II.
Krebs, Peter: “Red Hook: Beer Pioneer” (Four Walls). Story of indie
Leaming, Barbara: “Marilyn Monroe” (Crown).
Lopate, Phillip: “Totally, Tenderly, Tragically: Essays and Criticism from a Lifelong Love Affair with the Movies” (Anchor).
Lovell, Mary S.: “A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel
Lynch, David: “Lynch on Lynch” (Faber). Interviews with director.
Magnusenzensberger, Hans: “Zig Zag: The Politics of Culture and Vice
Versa” (New Press). Essays by German social critic.
Marnham, Patrick: “Dreaming with His Eyes Open: The Life of Diego
Marwick, Arthur: “The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France,
Italy and the United States, 1958-1974″ (Oxford). British historian.
McDougal, Dennis: “The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden
History of Hollywood” (Crown).
Miles, Barry: “Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats” (Holt).
Milosz, Czeslaw: “Road-Side Dog” (FSG). Essays, poems, parables.
Moeller, Susan: “Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine,
War and Death” (Routledge).
Moravec, Hans: “Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind” (Oxford).
Mort, Jo-Ann (editor): “Not Your Father’s Union Movement: Inside the
Musil, Robert: “Diaries” (Basic). From author of “Man Without Qualities.”
Nachman, Gerald: “Raised on Radio” (Pantheon). History of radio.
Neville-Sington, Pamela: “Fanny Trollope: The Life and Adventures of a
Clever Woman” (Viking).
Newman, Paul: “Newman’s Own Cookbook” (Simon & Schuster).
Nobokov, Dominique: “New York Living Rooms” (Overlook). Photos, with
intro by James Fenton.
Olalquiaga, Celeste: “The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch
Experience” (Pantheon). On theory and practice of kitsch.
Ortega, Bob: “In Sam We Trust: The Untold Story of Sam Walton and How
Wal-Mart is Devouring America” (Times).
Patterson, Orlando: “Rituals of Blood: Redefining the Color Line in
Modern America” (Counterpoint). Harvard professor.
Paternostro, Silvana: “In the Land of God and Man: Confronting Our
Sexual Culture” (Dutton). Analysis of Latin American culture.
Paulos, John Allen: “Once Upon a Number: A Mathematician Bridges Stories
and Statistics” (Basic). On link between narrative and numbers.
Preston, Diana: “A First-Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race
for the South Pole” (Houghton Mifflin).
Rabe, John: “The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe”
(Knopf). Author now known as “the Oskar Schindler of Nanking.”
Remnick, David: “King of the World: The Creation of Muhammad Ali”
(Random House). New editor of the New Yorker, on boxer’s early days.
Romano, Ray: “Everything and a Kite” (Bantam). Star of sitcom
“Everybody Loves Rymond.”
Rosengarten, David: “Taste: One Palate’s Journey Through the World’s
Greatest Dishes” (Random House).
Rymer, Russ: “American Beach: A Saga of Race, Wealth and Memory”
(HarperCollins). Race relations, as seen through a Florida town that is
America’s first black seaside resort
Saffian, Sarah: “Ithaka: A Daughter’s Memoir of Being Found”
(Basic). Young author was tracked down by her biological parents.
Sanders, Deion: “Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life”
(Word). Athlete on shedding his wicked ways.
Sanders, Larry: “Confessions of a Late-Night Talk-Show Host: The
Autobiography of Larry Sanders” (S&S).
Santiago, Esmerelda (editor): “Las Christmas: Favorite Latino Authors
Share Their Holiday Memories” (Knopf).
Scovell, Jane: “Oona: Living in the Shadows” (Warner). Bio of
daughter of Eugene O’Neill, wife of Charlie Chaplin.
Sennett, Richard: “The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences
of Work in the New Capitalism” (Norton).
Seward, Desmond: “Caravaggio: A Passionate Life” (Morrow).
Sikov, Ed: “On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder”
Sis, Peter: “Tibet: Through the Red Box” (FSG). Son’s portrait of father’s life in 1950s Tibet.
Sokal, Alan: “Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Philosophers’ Abuse of
Science” (Picador USA). Debunking Lacan, Virilio, etc.
Sperber, Murray: “Onward to Victory: The Creation of Modern College
Spurling, Hilary: “The Unknown Matisse” (Knopf). Biography.
Steadman, Ralph: “Gonzo the Art” (Harcourt Brace). Career retrospective.
Vendler, Helen: “Seamus Heaney” (Harvard). Close readings of Nobel
Von Furstenberg, Diane: “A Signature Life: My Adventures in Fashion,
Business and Life” (Simon & Schuster).
Waldron, Ann: “Eudora: A Writer’s Life” (Doubleday). Biography of
Walcott, Derek: “What the Twilight Says” (FSG). Essays.
Wallach, Janet: “Chanel: Her Style and Her Life” (Doubleday).
Watson, Steven: “Prepare for Saints: Gertrude Stein, Virgil Thompson,
and the Mainstreaming of American Modernism” (Random House).
Weaver, Mary Anne: “A Portrait of Egypt: A Journey Through the World of
Militant Islam” (FSG).
Winfrey, Oprah: “Journey to Beloved” (Hyperion). On making of film
version of Toni Morrison’s novel.
Dwight Garner is Salon's book review editor.More Dwight Garner.
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)