The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books





Books are what I do : Write (very slowly), Read (rapidly or at leisure), Re-read (for pleasure or reference), Buy and Sell (my livelihood), Catalogue and Describe (ditto), Edit, Publish, Review (for The New York Review of Science Fiction and others), Recommend or Give away, Receive, and — unavoidably and repeatedly  — Lift (whether singly or in boxes). I concede a fondness for private eye novels, equalled by my interest in the quirky, erudite, or obscure, and surpassed only by my love of the literature of the fantastic.

— Henry Wessells

Buchnarr, 1494. Ware! Ware! Ware the Book-Fool!


25 January 2015




critical fiction

Best Book 2013

Best Books
2012 2011
2010 2009




turkey city

making light

Eight Years of the Endless Bookshelf

Your correspondent has noted some interesting books during these years — such as the Beehive, the Mammoths, and Gothic classics such as this one  or this one; and your correspondent intends to continue looking, and reading. Thank you for reading and communicating. During the coming months, updates may be irregular as I am in the midst of a difficult book (as well as a few secret projects and the customary reading), but you may always prod or send a note.

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Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure. . . .

— Marcel Proust. A la recherche du temps perdu. Tome I. Du côté de chez Swann. Detail of the first page of text, from the NRF edition, Paris, 1919.

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current reading :

— Thomas Pynchon. Gravity’s Rainbow. The Viking Press, [1973]. Re-reading.

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The Tale of Brown Jenkin

From the newly unsealed manuscript of Beatrix Potter’s ‘ Tale of Brown Jenkin ’, with her expressionist watercolors prefiguring the set designs of ‘ The Cabinet of Dr Caligari ’ :

Following budgetary retrenchments at National Trust properties, Mrs Tiggy Winkle takes in a lodger, Brown Jenkin, and frets over his laundry. Brown Jenkin comes and goes at odd hours, and tracks nasty stains across Mrs Tiggy Winkle’s floor and carpet. Mrs Tiggy Winkle declines an invitation from her new lodger, Brown Jenkin, to take a stroll through time and space.

The story thus far : National Trust austerities obliging Mrs Tiggy Winkle to take a lodger, Brown Jenkin, whose eccentric habits and hygiene alarm Mrs Tiggy Winkle. She must speak to him today, there is no doubt : Brown Jenkin has eaten one of Sally Henny Penny’s leggings. Emboldened after a tot of Jenny Wren’s elderberry cordial, Mrs Tiggy Winkle knocks on Brown Jenkin's door. Inside, she finds the walls odd.

“ . . . oh dear, oh dear ”, said Mrs Tiggy Winkle, stepping over the threshold into Brown Jenkin’s sharp angled, bone-strewn attic, in Salem, 1692.

“ . . . lilly-white and clean, oh! most terrible particular . . . ” sings Mrs Tiggy Winkle as she tidies Brown Jenkin’s attic room, “ wherever can he be . . . ”.

When Brown Jenkin and Mrs Tiggy Winkle go dancing at the non-Euclidean Country Dance and Interdimensional Wormhole, Keziah Mason, spinster, of Arkham, Mass., follows Brown Jenkin and Mrs Tiggy Winkle, along lines and curves, to Hill Top Farm, near Coniston.

The dovecote and the henhouse, and the trout in the beck suffered most after the arrival of Brown Jenkin at Hill Top Farm ; and Mrs Tiggy Winkle’s floors.

An inserted clipping from the Westmorland Gazette (ca. 1922?) :
Keziah Mason, Tues., aged 107, long a resident at Hill Top, Sawrey, known for her stories . . . . by the kitchen fire at Hill Top Farm, Keziah Mason said she came from away and beyond  . . .  her listerners thought Wales or the Borders, perhaps.

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[Note the innate conservatism and nostalgia of the writings of Beatrix Potter and H.P. Lovecraft.]

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just received :

— Tom La Farge. The Broken House. Book one of The Enchantments. Spuyten Duyvil, [forthcoming, 2015]. Trial cover on a proof copy.

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From the attic :

— Snake‚Äôs-hands a chapbook about the fiction of John Crowley. [Preface by Harold Bloom] Edited by Michael Andre-Driussi and Alice K. Turner. Sirius Fiction, [2001].

In memoriam : Alice Turner (1939-2015), fiction editor of Playboy and a friend of writers. Washington Post obituary here.

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recent reading

— Charles Willeford. The Way We Die Now. A Novel. Random House, [1988].
— — Sideswipe. A Novel. St. Martin’s Press, [1987].
— — Miami Blues. A Novel [1984]. With an introduction by Lemore Leonard. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard paperback.
Re-read these three, and enjoyed the way Willeford dumped Hoke Moseley into appalling circumstances to see what would happen. And knock me down with a feather : Willeford included a recipe at the end of Miami Blues : Mrs. Frank Mansfield’s prize-winning vinegar pie. Willeford’s recipe serves a different purpose than those in knitting and bake shop cozies  (see The Cockfighter ). Don Herron’s bio-bibliography Willeford (1997), published by D-Ray Macmillan, is the key work on this late model American Beckett.

— Arthur Ransome. Winter Holiday [1933]. Jonathan Cape, [twenty-fourth impression, 1964].
      “ Softly, at first, as if it hardly meant it, the snow began to fall. ”

— Michael Connelly. The Burning Room. A Novel. Little, Brown, [2014].

— Jonathan Swift. The Annotated Gulliver’s Travels. Edited, with a biographical introduction and notes, by Isaac Asimov. Clarkson N. Potter, [1980].

— Thomas Pynchon. Inherent Vice [2009]. Penguin paperback.

— Arthur Machen. The Terror [1917]. With an introduction by Vincent Starrett. White Lion, [1973].

— Michael Zinman. What Does Richard Cheney Read ? [Annals of Collecting 6 (2014)].

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The Private Life of Books : poems by Henry Wessells, with duotone photographs by Paul Schütze, published on 15 September, a few copies still available, details here :

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Wander in the Archives

The Archives of the Endless Bookshelf have been swept and tidied and a guide has been prepared to assist wanderers. Index would be too strong a term : the headwords tend to be suggestive rather than directive. Start here. Have fun.

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This creaking and constantly evolving website of the endless bookshelf : some entries are brief mentions, others take the form of more elaborate essays and reviews. Someday, not soon, comments or interactivity. Right now you’ll have to send links to me, dear readers. [HWW]

electronym : wessells at aol dot com

Copyright © 2007-2015 Henry Wessells and individual contributors.

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