The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books





December 2008

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


Feb.-Nov. 08

january 08

autumn 07

september 07

29 December 08

Happy New Year

The Endless Bookshelf wishes all a peaceful and happy and healthy new year, filled with books worth reading, and days worth spending in the woods.

Temporary Culture is pleased to announce the imminent publication of All of You on the Good Earth , a sonnet by Ernest Hilbert, commissioned as a printed broadside New Year’s greeting. After the edition was signed and divvied up, the Anonymous Other and I had a pleasant vegetarian meal with the poet at a west Philadelphia Eritrean restaurant. A few copies were briefly available for sale, details here .

I am returning to Dombey and Son , which I am reading in a modest first edition bound in old black polished calf (illustrations somewhat foxed). For the time being I have interrupted my readings in the archaeology of the vampire tale. The serial roller-coaster delights of Varney the Vampire ; or, The Feast of Blood  began to pall.

A friend [SM] gave me a copy of Reading Matters. Five Centuries of Discovering Books  by Margaret Willes (Yale Univ. Pr., 2008), and I am reading it with much pleasure. There is much familiar ground here, stories of Pepys and Johnson and Dibdin and other old friends, but Willes has really made the subject new : her case studies and broader narrative alike integrate awareness of feminist issues and women readers with the more familiar, older studies of books (where literature and the world of books might almost have seemed a male preserve). I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

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How the World Learns What the World Is Reading :
Public Transport Reading Project phase II (December 2008)

PTRP phase II
Intermittently during my commute, I have resumed observations of public transport reading. I have begun to use the twitter platform (see left for a few recent posts) and, accordingly, I have devised a few simple ground rules :

— Cite where possible : title, author, edition, binding (form, color, age, or wear), etc.
— Cite location (city, mode of transport) and any other conditions as may be helpful

— Consider the etiquette & drama of observing & inquiring what book a person is reading and act appropriately to time and place : I am sometimes diffident and shy about interrupting a reader. You might not be.

Abbreviations :
m = man
w = woman
hc = hardcover
pb = mass market paperback
tpb = trade paperback

If using twitter, preface note with PTRP report to allow for subsequent retrieval.
It will not have escaped the attentive reader that I use the phrase public transport with all the potential for multiplicity of meanings. Where the reader is transported depends as much upon the book as upon the train or bus or subway.
Eventually I will put up a page to record some of the observations assembled in this manner.

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14 December 08

The Ten Best Books I Read in 2008

— Little Brother  by Cory Doctorow (Tor, 2008)

— The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing  edited by Richard Dawkins (Oxford Univ. Pr., 2008)
— Stardust. Being a Romance within the Realms of Fairy  by Neil Gaiman, pictures by Charles Vess (4 parts, DC Comics, 1997-8)
— Manhattan Nocturne  by Colin Harrison (1996 ; Picador paperback, 2008)
— The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories  by John Kessel (Small Beer Press, 2008)
— Rhetorics of Fantasy  by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan Univ. Pr., 2008)
— Lud-in-the-Mist  by Hope Mirrlees (1926)
— The Country You Have Never Seen. Essays and Reviews  by Joanna Russ (Liverpool Univ. Pr., 2007)

— Dracula  by Bram Stoker (1897) [RR]
— Kyd for Hire  by [Timothy] Hyde Harris (1977) [RR]

Little Brother  is at the top by design, the others follow in alphabetical order — the list includes a couple of older books read for the first time in 2008 ; and the last two titles are books re-read that are more memorable and significant than a long shelf of books seen this year.

— Henry Wessells

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Recent reading

— Cosmocopia. A Novel  by Paul Di Filippo. Artwork by Jim Woodring (Payseur & Schmidt, 2008)
— Rhetorics of Fantasy  by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan Univ. Pr., 2008)
— The Cat’s Pajamas & Other Stories  by James Morrow (Tachyon, 2004)
— The Best of Michael Swanwick  by Michael Swanwick (Subterranean, 2008)
— The Man Who Had No Idea. A Collection of Stories  by Thomas M. Disch (Gollancz, 1982)

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12 December 08

Still making books
The bindery process continues for Forever Peace. To Stop War  (as does phase II, the pamphleteering). I am just finishing The Best of Michael Swanwick (Subterranean Press, 2008) and, while commuting, I have started Varney the Vampire ; or, The Feast of Blood (1847; Dover reprint in 2 vols.).
And, oh dear , I just signed up to twitter (see at left). What I think is that this may offer a medium for the Public Transport Reading Project to find new energy. We shall see.

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7 December 08

Dark Dreams : The Prints of Francisco Goya

The Anonymous Other and I met a couple of friends at an exhibition of the complete series of Goya’s Los Caprichos  (1799) at the Zimmerli Museum on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick. A harrowing and fascinating sequence of images, and an excellent presentation that permitted close scrutiny. The only other time I have seen the complete series of prints was while leafing through a set in a contemporary binding during the view of the Bérès collection in Paris. To see the actual prints, instead of the ubiquitous reproductions, is to note the complexity of detail, the precise anatomy of the monsters, and the placement of figures in landscapes out of time and space. The show is open for another week and worth a visit.

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I alone do not seek to please the present. I note this with a laugh.

Transcribed from one of the notebooks of the reclusive scholar-artist Gong Xian (1619-1689), from Dreams of Yellow Mountain : Landscapes of Survival in Seventeenth-Century China , an exhibit of calligraphy and poetry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2004), including Landscapes and Trees and Sixteen Ink Landscapes with Poems . I found a card with the above citation while looking for something else.

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This creaking and constantly evolving website of the endless bookshelf : I expect that some entries will be brief, others will take the form of more elaborate essays, and eventually I will become adept at incorporating photos or comments and interactivity. Right now you’ll have to send links to me, dear readers. [HW]

electronym : wessells at aol dot com

Copyright © 2008 Henry Wessells and individual contributors.

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