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31 July 2011

Current reading :

— Joseph Conrad. The Secret Agent. A Simple Tale  (1907).

— — — —

Readercon

An enjoyable visit to this year’s Readercon, where I saw friends, met some new readers and writers, and had the pleasure of hearing Howard Waldrop talk and read “ Kindermarchen ” and “ The Bravest Girl I Ever Knew ” (Scott Edelman has posted the Howard Waldrop hour at : http://t.co/LHqgtd1 ). My talk, “ Standing in the Shadows of ‘ Lud ’ ” was well attended and well received (an edited version will be put in order for Wormwood ). I read “ The Secret Door ; or, David Hartwell’s Library ” and a couple of works in progress. As always, some of the best conversations had nothing to do with the planned events, and some others will be continued through the coming months. I look forward to reading the advance copy of Liz Hand’s novel, Radiant Days  (forthcoming from Viking, 2012) given to me.

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— Lauren Beukes. Zoo City (2010 ; Angry Robot paperback, 2011). A very dark novel, sf as observation of the abuse of power. Brilliantly observed present day Johannesburg, sparkly hard-boiled prose, with great range of voices and a couple of excellent conceits. The characters are flawed and compelling, and the tremendous visual image of the “ Undertow ” is fully earned. This won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in its U.K. edition earlier this year. The picture of the cover above is from the publisher’s website ; my copy of the U.S. printing, just out, bears a blurb from William Gibson and an announcement of the Clarke Award.

— — — —

Recent reading :

— Joan Aiken. The Monkey’s Wedding and Other Stories . Small Beer, [2011].

— Russell H. Greenan. It Happened in Boston ?  Random House, [1968]. Really something, insane narrative of creativity & deceit ; The Horse’s Mouth  as a horror novel ,with some really fine descriptions of visionary artworks.

— Stuart Neville. The Ghosts of Belfast . Soho pbk., [c. 2010]. First published as The Twelve , 2009. Exceedingly dark, harrowing novel of Belfast.

— Helene Tursten. Detective Inspector Huss . Translated by Steven T. Murray. Soho paperback, [c. 2003].

— Don Dellilo. Great Jones Street . Houghton Mifflin, 1973. [Re-read]. The ultimate rock ’n’ roll novel.

— S. Barkworth. The Nijmegen Proof. A Romance of Rare Books . Holmes Publishing, 1988.

 

— — — —

14 July 2011

Current Reading :

— Tom Whalen. The Birth of Death and Other Comedies. The Novels of Russell H. Greenan. Dalkey Archive Press, 2011. Astonishing guidebook to a dark, comic world, by a very attentive reader. Greenan is an author who was utterly unknown to me until this morning when I opened the book. I am pleased to report that the Montclair Public Library has copies of It Happened in Boston ?  (1968) and two other novels by Greenan. Tom Whalen is an author and professor of film criticism whose work came to my attention through the « criticalfiction.net » project, where there is a short interview we composed.

— Philippe Delerm. La première gorgée de bière et autres plaisirs minuscules. Récits . Gallimard, [1997 ; 2011]. A charming book of reflections upon ordinary matters. “ Un couteau dans la poche ” gets at the very knifeness of the folding knife one might carry in a pocket in the twenty-first century, “ never to use it, but to take it out once in a while, touch it, look at it, for the simple satisfaction of opening and closing it. ”

Recent reading :

— Joseph Conrad. Under Western Eyes (1911). Quietly, indirectly ( very ! ), Conrad places combustible substances (characters) in proximity ; awaiting a spark. It is a prediction of the Russian revolution : folly and stupidity and tragedy and deceit. “ Somewhat over-determined ” is how a friend described it, but Razumov and Natalia Haldin act as they must with a logic that is unstoppable. And the minor characters ! Councillor Mikulin, his sinsiter power and his inevitable downfall ; the revolutionist assassin and traitor Nikita !

— Joseph Conrad. Lord Jim (1900).

— Peter Cannon. Forever Azathoth. Parodies and Pastiches . Subterranean Press, 2011. Lovecraft related fiction from the perceptive and persistent author of Pulptime  (1984) and The Lovecraft Chronicles (2004 ; Subterranean Press, 2008). A feast for the initiate, and Cannon’s wide-ranging allusions push Lovecraftian themes into collision with Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and even James Herriot. This edition (which does not duplicate the 1999 Tartarus Press edition) Includes the three inimitable stories first published in Scream for Jeeves  (1994).

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Philip K. Dick to Avram Davidson, Amecameca

In the show of the Richard Prince collection at the Bibliothèque Nationale (via Adrian Dannatt).

http://www.bnf.fr/fr/evenements_et_culture/expositions_videos/a.video_richard_prince.html :

In the interview with the curator, he observes : “ no Burroughs without Céline, no Houllebecq without Burroughs ”.

— — — —

Five good rock ’n’ roll novels :

— Don Delillo. Great Jones Street  (1973).
— Nick Hornby. High Fidelity  (1995).
— Salman Rushdie. The Ground beneath Her Feet  (1999).
— Roddy Doyle. The Commitments  (1987).
— Timothy d’Arch Smith. Alembic  (1992).

via E-Verse Radio

http://www.everseradio.com/top-five-rock-n-roll-novels-by-ernest-hilbert-and-henry-wessells-with-help-from-rose-solari-and-others/

— — — —

New Edition

— Mirrlees, Hope. Paris a Poem. [With an afterword by Mike Tortorella]. Illustrated. Text printed in blue on Arches paper. Pp. [iv], 23, [24, blank]; [8] ff. Small folio, [Olympia, Washington]: Printed by Mike Tortorella at Pegana Press, 2010 [but 2011]. One of 50 numbered copies, hand bound by Ars Obscura (Joel Radcliffe); from a total edition of 75 copies printed. Blue cloth over boards, spine titled in gilt, upper cover with vignette.

— — — —

Readercon

You correspondent will be participating in Readercon 22 in Burlington, Mass., from Friday to Sunday, 15 to 17 July. Scheduled appearances :

Friday 15 July
8:00 p.m. 
Tom Disch : SF Writer in Spite of Himself
Panel with John Clute, John Crowley (leader), Samuel R. Delany, Gregory Feeley, Charles Platt, Henry Wessells.

Saturday 16 July
6:00 p.m. 
Standing in the Shadows of ‘ Lud ’ (talk)
On novels of the fantastic in the interwar years, including Stella Benson’s Living Alone (1919), William M. Timlin’s The Ship That Sailed to Mars (1923), Elinor Wylie’s The Venetian Glass Nephew (1925), Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes or the Loving Huntsman (1926), and Lord Dunsany’s The Curse of the Wise Woman (1933).

Sunday 17 July
10:00 a.m.
Kaffeeklatsch
Jacob Weisman and Henry Wessells

12:00 p.m. 
The (Re)turn of the Screw
Panel with Michael Cisco, Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan (leader), Geoff Ryman, Henry Wessells.
On recent works which may be interrogated as to whether the fantastic element is real or imagined by the characters.

1:30 p.m. 
Reading
A new story, “ The Purple Brilliant ; or, No Survivors but Ideas ”.

Plenty of time to sit in on other panels and/or talk with writers and friends. If you see me, come and say hello. I will have with me copies of all books published by Temporary Culture for any who wish to purchase them, as well as a copy of the new edition of Paris a Poem .

— — — —

A Bake-Pan for the Dough-Faces

— [Marsh, Leonard]. A Bake-Pan. For the Dough-Faces. By One of Them. Burlington, Vermont : Published by C. Goodrich, 1854. An odd and always compelling image from the cover of a mid-nineteenth-century polemical pamphlet.

— — — —

A very small edition (with Bellydancing)

— (HARTWELL, DAVID G.) A Festschrift For David Hartwell on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. [Edited by Henry Wessells]. 57 pp. 4to, [Upper Montclair, New Jersey :] Temporary Culture, 10 July 2011. Limitation on p. [2]: Printed, not Published, in an edition of one copy [numbered in ink :] 1. On p. [5] : Contents [list of 7 stories]. Green cloth, black spine label.

 

This birthday Festschrift for David Hartwell was the fruit of a small and successful conspiracy among friends, and we managed to keep it a surprise even as the circle of those in the know expanded to include other members of the Tor staff and beyond, including artist Scott Brundage whose illustration adorns the Michael Bishop story, which went live on the Tor.com website the day after delivery of the book at a well attended birthday party in Westchester county (complete with bellydancer).

— — — —

27-28 June 2011

Five Good Poet-Novels

—  John Crowley. The Translator (Morrow, 2002). A Russian poet exiled in the American midwest during the Cold War ; or what (really) happened in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
— Christoph Ransmayr. Die letzte Welt. Mit einem Ovidischen Repertoire (Greno, 1988) ; The Last World, translated by John Woods (Grove Press, 1990). Ovid in exile.
— Elinor Wylie. The Orphan Angel (Knopf, 1926). Shelley saved from drowning and brought to frontier America.
— Derek Marlowe. A Single Summer with LB (Cape, 1969). Lord Byron and friends, in the eventful summer of 1816.
—Julian Symons. Death’s Darkest Face (Macmillan, 1990). The disappearance of Hugo Headley, poet and rogue ; and the dissolution of a family.

With two asides :

— Avram Davidson. Vergil in Averno (Doubleday, 1987). This is a novel of Vergil as sorcerer, not as poet. Guy Davenport called it “ a philosophical poem ”.

I have not yet read the major work by Hermann Broch : Der Tod des Vergil (Pantheon, 1945) ; The Death of Virgil. Translated by Jean Starr Untermeyer (Pantheon, 1945).

This category was suggested by Tom Disch, to whom The Translator was dedicated, and who bears no responsibility for the choices of your correspondent.

— — — —

‘ the Apollo of the woods ’

The neighboring tulip tree was in blossom at the end of May and this reminds me each year of a superb passage from Whitman (Specimen Days)  :

[. . .] Then the tulip tree near by — the Apollo of the woods — tall and graceful, yet robust and sinewy, inimitable in hang of foliage and throwing-out of limb ; as if the beauteous, vital, leafy creature could walk, if it only would. (I had a sort of dream-trance the other day, in which I saw my favorite trees step out and promenade up, down and around, very curiously — with a whisper from one, leaning down as he pass’d me, We do all this on the present occasion, exceptionally, just for you.)

 

— — — —

The Mysterious Island

An excellent memoir of a Parisian bookseller, Verne specialist bookseller Michel Roethel, by Howard A. Rodman :
http://lareviewofbooks.org/post/6416815578/the-mysterious-island

This serves as another example of the serendipity of modern communications and the true nature of the world of books, for one of the books in the upper reading room of the Endless Bookshelf (also known as the attic) is a copy of Destiny Express. A Novel, inscribed by the author, Howard A. Rodman, 8 March 1990 :

“ Writing is the most miserable path which leads to everything …”

— — — —

— Wendy Walker. Hysterical Operators. The Inspector of Factories Visits the Lover of Melodrama . Libellulæ Number 2. Proteotypes, [2010]. A critical fiction inspired by the case of Constance Kent (the subject of Walker’s Blue Fire) and making use of elements of nineteenth-century melodrama and Andrew Ure’s The Philosophy of Manufactures (1835). Hysterical Operators  forms part of Walker’s forthcoming book, My Man and Other Critical Fictions .

— — — —

Recent reading :

— Joseph Conrad. Nostromo. A Tale of the Seaboard (1904) ; in the 1925 Edinburgh edition of the Works. A key text for novels of south American political intrigue, it reads as an archetype of John Buchan’s The Courts of the Morning , Graham Greene, and many others (always with the perpetually recursive narrative chronology of Conrad, who sometimes makes Tristram Shandy seem a simple, direct line ) ; and there are numerous resonances of Nostromo in Avram Davidson’s El Vilvoy de las Islas . The first in a project to read (or re-read) all of Conrad in coming months. Next up is Lord Jim .

— John Clute. Pardon This Intrusion. Fantastika in the World Storm . Beccon Publications, 2011. Compendium of recent writings on the literature of the fantastic. Essential reading, and a way of looking at literatre that effectively integrates all of his criticism into a single, vast book of fifty years’ span (it was always thus, now clearly articulated). I expect I will review this, or post a longer consideration at the next update. There are many memorable sentences, the most may be the reminder that the genres of the fantastic are “ tools for seeing . . . not what we ultimately see ”. Essential reading.

— Rudy Rucker. Nested Scrolls. The autobiography of Rudolph von Bitter Rucker  (forthcoming from Tor, 2011). For a review in The New York Review of Science Fiction .

— Timothy d’Arch Smith. Alembic. A Novel . Dalkey Archive Press, [1992]. Science fiction novel of bureaucracy, alchemy, rock ’n’ roll, and rare books. The antics of Nicholas Sparks, depraved megastar frontman of Celestial Praylin, the crazed adoration of the fans, and the scary manipulations of the government office of experimental alchemy are all rendered through the eyes of Thomas Graves, antiquarian, and the sort of overly sensitive, self-centered post-adolescent person who is the ultimate novel protagonist — so long as he survives the events and grows up to tell the tale. Some really beautifully planned effects and resonances.

— — — —

— Johan Kugelberg and Will Swofford Cameron, curators. Dreamweapon.| The Art and Life of Angus MacLise 1938-1979 . Boo-Hooray, 2011. Exhibition catalogue for a great visual and verbal show drawn from the archve of percussionist and visionary Angus Maclise of New York and Kathmandu. Very intense, as in this note, ten days before his death :

— — — —

— Brecht Evens. Night Animals. A Diptych about What Rushes through the Bushes . [2007, as Nachtdieren  ; Top Shelf Productions, 2011]. In Little, Big , when Auberon is learning Spanish he sees the gender of nouns as reflecting a general sexiness of the world ; Evens’ world is even wilder, his watercolors are startling, and he knows how to make stories move along.

— [D.J. Watkins-Pritchford]. Brendon Chase. By “ B. B. ” Illustrated by the author. Hollis & Carter, 1946 [First published, 1944; reprinted 11.46].Story of three English schoolboys who don’t return to school but lift the gardener’s .22 rifle and run off to the eponymous wood to live off the land. Entertaining and nicely illustrated but there are some unresolved structural issues in the narrative — part way through one sees that the tale is being narrated at thirty years’ remove (i.e., in the Edwardian days of The Shooting Party or during the author’s childhood) and there are times when it feels the narrator was almost ready to ditch third person and get into the immediacy of the first person, but this never happens. On these grounds, and because of the boys’ reliance upon a quaint hermit charcoal burner (borrowed from the Swallows and Amazons books, perhaps?) Brendon Chase does not figure as a precursor of My Side of the Mountain (1959) by Jean Craighead George.

— — — —

And a bumper crop of detective novels, new and old :

— Bill Pronzini. Camouflage. A Nameless Detective Novel  (Forge, forthcoming, June 2011).
— — Betrayers. A Nameless Detective Novel. Forge, [2010]. Pronzini’s prose is taut and he knows the greater San Francisco Bay area very well. In recent years, as Pronzini gives voice to other members of the agency, the novels have found a way past the limits of the close first person narrative that he has so successfully sustained.

— Colin Dexter. Everything on the shelf at the library : Last Seen Wearing , The Wench Is Dead , Service of All the Dead , The Daughters of Cain , The Path through the Woods , and The Remorseful Day 

— Michael Connelly. The Fifth Witness. A Novel. Little, Brown, [2011].

— Lawrence Block. A Drop of the Hard Stuff . Mulholland Books. Little, Brown, 2011. Memory dance, the voice of Matthew Scudder.

— — — —

Readercon & Other Travels

Your correspondent will be participating in Readercon 22 in Burlington, Mass., from Friday to Sunday, 15 to 17 July. My scheduled appearances (still tentative) :

Friday 15 July
8:00 p.m. 
Tom Disch : SF Writer in Spite of Himself (panel)

Saturday 16 July
6:00 p.m. 
Standing in the Shadows of ‘ Lud ’ (talk)
On novels of the fantastic in the interwar years, including Stella Benson’s Living Alone (1919), William M. Timlin’s The Ship That Sailed to Mars (1923), Elinor Wylie’s The Venetian Glass Nephew (1925), Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes or the Loving Huntsman (1926), and Lord Dunsany’s The Curse of the Wise Woman (1933).

Sunday 17 July
10:00 a.m.
Kaffeeklatsch
Jacob Weisman and Henry Wessells
12:00 p.m. 
The (Re)turn of the Screw (panel)
on recent works which may be interrogated as to whether the fantastic element is real or imagined by the characters
1:30 p.m. 
Reading
I will be reading a new story, “ The Purple Brilliant ”

A schedule with plenty of time to sit in on other panels and/or talk with writers and friends. If you see me, come and say hello. I will have with me copies of all books published by Temporary Culture for any who wish to purchase them.

— — — —

on the side of an abandoned building, Faubourg Tremé, New Orleans

— — — —


Your correspondent was in New Orleans and Baton Rouge recently, for the ABAA bookseller showcase at the RBMS Preconference, to exhibit A Noble Fragment, a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible (above), and other interesting treasures. A new friend in New Orleans turned our visit into a vegetarian gastronomical adventure with great culinary suggestions and fine conversation. And, of course, a Book :

— Pableaux Johnson. Eating New Orleans. From French Quarter Creole Dining to the Perfect Poboy. More than 100 Essential Louisiana Eating (& Drinking) Experiences . The Countryman Press, [August 2005]. Inscribed by the author. First and only edition, published just before the devastating hurricane that changed the Crescent City. A fun and well written guide, now of enduring historical documentary importance as a survey of how things were (see photo of abandoned building, above). The author is at work on various culinary projects, bayoudog.com , and (sigh), the postprintproject.com , “ storytelling possibilities in a post-print, post-browser environment . . .  it’s time to tell damn good stories with the tools we have at hand ”. Although the Endless Bookshelf does not, in fact, look forward to a post print world, with thinkers like Johnson it might prove to be a little bit more interesting.

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It was not, of course, lack of books, that prompted the long pause since the last instalment of the Endless Bookshelf, but the contrary — such as the mid-1930s American binding (above). The next regular update of the Endless Bookshelf will be on 27 July. And don’t forget to look at the Critical Fiction website, « criticalfiction.net », and its interactive forum.

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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 comments or interactivity. Right now you’ll have to send links to me, dear readers. [HWW]

electronym : wessells at aol dot com

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