The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books

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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!

 

21 March 2016

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A Conversation

In January 2018, your correspondent will be presenting an exhibition, A Conversation Larger than the Universe : Science Fiction and the Literature of the Fantastic from the Library of Henry Wessells, at the Grolier Club in New York City. The exhibition will present books from late eighteenth century Gothic and by Mary Shelley up through to the present, as well as some periodicals, autograph, typescript or visual materials, and ephemera. An illustrated catalogue will accompany the show and is in preparation : the expected publication date is to be at the time of the exhibition (additional details will be announced in coming months).

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recent reading

— Wilfred Thesiger. Arabian Sands Illustrated, folding map at back. Dutton, 1959. First American edition. Beautifully written account of a vanished mode of life. “ I found myself in a hostile and incomprehensible world, ” wrote Thesiger of arriving in England to attend school. During the years 1945-50, he walked all over southern Arabia under austere conditions. “ No, it is not the goal but the way there that matters, and the harder the way the more worth while the journey. ” [Re-reading for the first time in thirty or more years ; a gift of TL.]

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— [Katherine Burdekin]. Swastika Night by Murray Constantine. London: Victor Gollancz, [June 1937]. The publisher’s file copy, in the rare dust jacket. Science fiction as understanding the present: hers, and ours. Also the Feminist Press paperback, with an excellent introduction by Daphne Patai.

— John D. MacDonald. A Purple Place for Dying [1964]. Random House paperback.

— SF Eye 15, 1997. Stephen P. Brown, editor. Jack Womack special issue. Interviews and reviews, and a fine critical fiction essay by Lucy Sussex, The Anxiety of Influence, about Philip K. Dick and Katharine Burdekin.

— Peter Straub. Interior Darkness. Selected Stories. Doubleday, [2016]. Fifteen stories, including the marvelous, astonishing “ Pork Pie Hat ”, a tale of jazz, memory, the Matter of America, and of time.

— Douglas Rushkoff. Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus. How Prosperity Became the Enemy of Progress. Portfolio/Penguin, [2016].

— Peter Dickinson. Hindsight. Pantheon Books, [1983].

— Peter Dickinson. The Old English Peep Show. Harper & Row, [1963].

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— Matt Ruff. Lovecraft Country. A Novel. Harper, [2016]. A bold and well written book, turning the work of H.P. Lovecraft inside out as the tool to confront the Matter of America (Slavery and its aftermath). Wow ! A clear picture of appalling time in America, and as thorough and devastating a reading of H.P.L. as ever performed. And what an imaginary book, right on page one :

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— Carolyne Larrington. The Land of the Green Man. A journey through the supernatural landscapes of the British Isles. I.B Tauris, [2015].

— Lord Dunsany. Rory and Bran. G.P. Putnam’s, [1937]. Dunsany’s deeply nostalgic tale of rural Ireland.

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next up :

— Riccardo Stephens. The Mummy. With a new introduction by Mark Valentine. Valancourt Books, [2016]. Originally published 1912, reprinted in POD paperback (the cover lamination feels a bit odd, no, I mean viscous) ; the text from the 1923 Hutchinson edition has been set in Dante MT and printed on decent paper.

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Buy a Book, Support the Endless Bookshelf

The first occasional list of books from Temporary Culture is now posted here. It is a miscellaneous list and includes titles in print from the press (such as The Private Life of Books, above), as well as some review copies, recent books worth reading, and a few choice items, offered for sale at friendly prices. Buy a book, support the Endless Bookshelf.

I said this at the outset: In cyberspace, bookshelves never sag and will stretch to a Borgesian infinity. I keep some books, but others move on to find a place on someone else’s shelves.

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This & That

In Memoriam : William S. Wilson (1932-2016)

Taking a picture of an artist taking a picture : hommage to Ray Johnson, west 25th street in Chelsea, 11 Sept. 09.

William S. Wilson (1932-2016), interpreter and champion of the work of Ray Johnson, was also author of a great collection of short stories Why I Don’t Write Like Franz Kafka (Ecco Press, 1977). I met Bill Wilson at Columbia and valued his clear thinking about the import of words (he once told me to change one word, and that has made all the difference). We spoke intermittently but always en rapport despite passage of weeks or months. Bill suggested many lines of inquiry and reading, and the conversations developed over years. Not long after his death I saw a picture of the blue plaque for Luke Howard, taxonomist of clouds, and thought of Bill. He once wrote (in another, fictional context), “ Everything that happens after I die continues the story of my life. ” A larger memorial celebration is planned for early April.

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Kevin J. Maroney, editor and publisher of The New York Review of Science Fiction, has published a special David. G. Hartwell Memorial issue, no. 330, with contributions from Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Samuel Delany, Gregory Benford, Michael Bishop, David Brin, Jim Morrow, Rudy Rucker, Michael Swanwick, your correspondent, and many others. It is available here.

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Your correspondent will be at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory, Thursday through Sunday, 7-10 April. If you would like passes, please let me know. Come say hello.

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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 © 2007-2016 Henry Wessells and individual contributors.

Produced by Temporary Culture, P.O.B. 43072, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043 USA.