For those who like fiction, the idea of crafting a character who is the stand-in for the novelist is more interesting than poking into a publisher’s financial records. “Frantumaglia” is the real accomplishment.
Books are slow food. It generally takes two years, two hardworking years, to cook up a book from idea to publication. Some writers can go faster — those who publish a book a year (or more) are working at top speed — while others write much more slowly, ruminating and reworking and false-starting for a decade or more. By the time we readers get them, books are self-contained objects, narratives that have evolved outside of the relentless news cycle and Twitter chatter. More than any other medium, books give us deep, rich stories that stand apart from the hubbub.
Except sometimes, that years-long process winds up being right in the center of the conversation. Which brings us to these, the 10 most important books of 2016. No matter when they started or how long they took, they touched on something that was essential this year, and will be essential when we look back at it from 2017 and beyond.
“Frantumaglia” by Elena Ferrante
Ferrante, the Italian author of the internationally bestselling Neapolitan novels, is a phantom, a pseudonym. “Frantumaglia” is an autobiographical assemblage of writings, sharing some of her history (possibly fabricated) and explaining that she wants to remain unknown because of the burdens put on female writers. Weeks before the book’s American release, a European journalist claimed to have discovered Ferrante’s true identity, raising questions of who needs to know what about whom. For those who like fiction, the idea of crafting a character who is the stand-in for the novelist is more interesting than poking into a publisher’s financial records. “Frantumaglia” is the real accomplishment.