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June 13, 2011

We chose Jean Echenoz’s Lightning as this week’s Read This Next title for two reasons: it’s by Echenoz, and it’s about Tesla.

Echenoz has had an interesting and diverse career as a writer. His first few books—Cherokee, Big Blondes, Double Jeopardy, Chopin’s Move—are fun, noirish sort of novels. A few years back though, after I’m Gone and Piano, Echenoz embarked on a “suite” of three books about historical figures: Ravel (about Maurice Ravel), Running (about Emil Zátopek), and Lightning (about Nikola Tesla).

These three novels may signal a sort of new direction in terms of what Echenoz is writing about, but all three are infused with the typical Echenoz voice. And it’s that signature voice that transforms the “Eccentric Genius Suite” from a series of biographies or historical works into charming novels that lucidly depict the quirky lives these people led.

Over the past few years, Tesla has sort of come back into the public eye, especially thanks to Samatha Hunt’s The Invention of Everything Else. The reasons for this resurgence of interest are varied, ranging from the general strangeness of his person and the movie-like quality of his life, to the way that Tesla was one of the last pure inventors—one who was destroyed by big business and his own inability to function in that world.

Lightning is a stunning novel that is captivating right from the start. In our advance preview, you can read about Gregor/Tesla’s birth, his early successes, his fall out with Edison (who always comes off as a bastard when you read about Tesla), and the start of the “War of Currents.”

Lightning
Jean Echenoz
On Sale: 24 June 2011
Translated by Linda Coverdale
The New Press

Past Read This Next Features
Every week, Read This Next previews a forthcoming work of literature, offering interested readers an opportunity to check out great new books before they're available anywhere else.

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