Gilbert, King, Pynchon: Favorite, cult authors return this fall

Like television, publishing used to be predominantly seasonal; like television, publishing is now a year-round business, with both commercial and literary books published throughout the year. This fall brings lots of heavy hitters eager to remind readers what serious sales figures are all about. There are also a number of anticipated literary books, and a few that seek to combine both writing and storytelling.

Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with “The Signature of All Things,” (September) a semi-historical family saga set in the 18th and 19th centuries. Gilbert became rich and famous with“Eat, Pray, Love” which enabled her return to fiction – she hasn’t written a novel in more than 10 years.

Also returning after a hiatus is Anna Quindlen, whose new novel,“Still Life With Bread Crumbs,” (February) concerns itself with a famous photographer running out of money and options who moves to a small town. Hopefully the book will be more dynamic than its title.

Another welcome return is that of Bridget Jones, the habitually overbooked, emotionally awkward singleton who hasn’t been heard from in 14 (!) years. Helen Fielding’s“Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy” (October) finds our heroine coping unsuccessfully with Twitter and child-rearing, and asking the question: Is it morally wrong to lie about your age when dating online? If nothing else, the book could serve as a comeback vehicle for Renee Zellweger.

Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” (September) picks up Danny Torrence as a middle-aged alcoholic years after his crazy/possessed father tried to kill him in “The Shining.” Redrum! (In the afterword, King once again goes out of his way to make more obsessively snarky comments about Stanley Kubrick’s film of his novel, when he should be lighting candles in gratitude.)

Urban life occupies two major talents. Jonathan Lethem’s “Dissident Gardens” (September) is the crowded, entertaining story of a wife and mother in Queens who’s a committed Communist and dominates her family and friends for 50 years. Thomas Pynchon’s “Bleeding Edge” (September) takes place just before 9/11, when the world seemed comparatively carefree, and involves a bunch of cops and grifters in New York City. And Russell Banks, who possesses a more merciless temperament than either Lethem or Pynchon, has a new collection of short stories, “A Permanent Member of the Family” (November).

An equally bleak existence is posited by Margaret Atwood, whose “Madd Addam” (September) completes the trilogy begun by“Oryx and Crake” and“The Year of the Flood.” The new novel begins with most of the earth’s population having been wiped out. You might think that would solve the majority of the world’s problems, but Atwood begs to differ – things only get worse.