I fell in love with American literature not through Jack Kerouac with his tales of on the road but through the 80’s so-called literary Brat Pack of TamaJanowitz, Jay McInerney and of course Bret Easton Ellis. I later went on to discovered RalphEllison, Toni Morrison, Harper Lee, Truman Capote and Flannery O'Connor and of course The Beat Generation.
So we have five lauded new texts to feast on, each looking at the contemporary American experience in an entirely different way as this great country goes through huge change.
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster £20.00 Waterstones (Shop Now)
On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born.
From that single beginning, Ferguson's life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives.
Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Chapter by chapter, the rotating narratives evolve into an elaborate dance of inner worlds enfolded within the outer forces of history as, one by one, the intimate plot of each Ferguson's story rushes on across the tumultuous and fractured terrain of mid twentieth-century America.
A boy grows up-again and again and again.
As inventive and dexterously constructed as anything Paul Auster has ever written 4 3 2 1 is an unforgettable tour de force, the crowning work of this masterful writer's extraordinary career.
The Nix by Nathan Hill £16.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)
If Samuel had known his mother was leaving, he might have paid more attention. He might have listened more carefully to her, observed her more closely, written certain crucial things down. Maybe he could have acted differently, spoken differently, been a different person.
Meet Samuel: stalled writer, bored teacher at a local college, obsessive player of online video games. He hasn't seen his mother, Faye, in decades, not since she abandoned her family when he was a boy. Now she has suddenly reappeared, having committed an absurd politically motivated crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the Internet, and inflames a divided America.
The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she's facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel's help.
As Samuel begins to excavate his mother's - and his country's - history, the story moves from the rural Midwest of the 1960s, to New York City during Occupy Wall Street, back to Chicago in 1968 and, finally, to wartime Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. Samuel will unexpectedly find that he has to rethink everything he ever knew about his mother - a woman with an epic story of her own, a story she has kept hidden from the world.
The Blot by Jonathan Lethem £16.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)
Alexander Bruno is a man with expensive problems.
Sporting an impeccable tuxedo and trotting the globe, he has spent his adult life as a professional gambler and a successful one at that. His particular line of work: backgammon, at which he extracts large sums of money from men who think they can challenge his peerless acumen. In Singapore, his luck turned.
Maybe it has something to do with the Blot - a black spot which has emerged to distort Bruno's vision. It's not showing any signs of going away. In fact, it's spreading, and as Bruno extends his losing streak in Berlin, it becomes clinically clear that the Blot is the symptom of something terrible.
There's a surgeon who can help, an elite specialist, the only one in the world. But surgery is going to involve a lot of money, money that he’s running through fast, to the dismay of his pasty-faced manager, Edgar Falk. Worse than that, it means returning home. To the land of 'bullying, psychosis and bad taste' otherwise known as contemporary America; specifically: the garish, hash-smoke streets of Berkeley, California. Here, the unseemly Keith Stolarsky - a childhood friend in possession of an empire of themed burger bars and thrift stores - is king. And he's willing to help Bruno out.
But there was always going to be a price
The Fall Guy by James Lasdun £12.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)
They took the tunnel out of Brooklyn and headed up the West Side Highway, Charlie slowing the heavy vehicle at every intersection to avoid the speed cameras and accelerating hard for the next stretch. All the way through Midtown the lights cooperated with his progress, spreading green welcomes as if waving some dignitary through checkpoints. Not that Charlie noticed of course, Matthew observed to himself; Charlie would never deign to notice such a trivial piece of luck.
It is summer, 2012. Charlie, a wealthy banker with an uneasy conscience, invites his troubled cousin Matthew to visit him and his wife in their idyllic mountain-top house.
As the days grow hotter, the friendship between the three begins to reveal its fault lines, and with the arrival of a fourth character, the household finds itself suddenly in the grip of uncontrollable passions.
Who is the real victim here? Who is the perpetrator? And who, ultimately, is the fall guy?
A story of fracture in paradise, where ancient resentments and current desires lurch violently to the surface and an idyllic summer retreat becomes a stage for lies, lust and revenge, The Fall Guy is Lasdun's most entertaining novel yet: a taut psychological thriller that is superbly written, darkly vivid, with an unforgettably febrile atmosphere of erotic danger.
Moonglow by Michael Chabon £18.99 Waterstones (Shop Now)
The world, like the Tower of Babel or my grandmother's deck of cards, was made out of stories, and it was always on the verge of collapse.
How does a single life become a story and a story encapsulate a world?
Moonglow: a novel unfolding in a final, deathbed, confession. An old man, his tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, his memory stirred by the imminence of death, tells stories to his grandson, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried.
Why did he try to strangle a former business partner with a telephone cord? What was he thinking when he and a buddy set explosives on a bridge in Washington, D.C.? What did he feel while he hunted down Wernher von Braun in Germany? And what did he see in the young girl he met in Baltimore after returning home from the war?
From the Jewish slums of pre-war Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of a New York prison, from the heyday of the space programme to the twilight of 'the American Century', Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week.