The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books





November & December 2017

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


12 December 2017




critical fiction

Best Books
2016 2015
2014 2013
2012 2011
2010 2009



turkey city

making light

Best Book of 2017

‘ We didn’t want a piece of the pie ; we wanted a new recipe altogether ’

— Selma Miriam and Noel Furie. Our Daily Lives Have to Be a Satisfaction in Themselves. 40 Years of Bloodroot. Essays by Selma Miriam & Noel Furie. Photographs by Noel Furie. Illustrated. 144 pp. Bridgeport : Alder & Frankia, 2017. Hand sewn in illustrated card covers. Edition of 200 copies.

Beautifully produced anthology of writings by the founders of Bloodroot Collective and the Bloodroot feminist vegetarian restaurant and bookstore in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The essays chart the founding and evolution of the restaurant and include introductions from earlier cookbooks published by the collective as well as recent personal essays and talks by Selma Miriam and Noel Furie. “ Now sometimes folks ask, how are your precepts different from humanism, or environmentalism, or animal rights, and we say, we may have much or all in common, but we came to these decisions from our understanding of feminism. ”

The book is illustrated throughout with photographs from the Bloodroot archives and is edited, designed, printed, and bound by Emily Larned, whose work your correspondent has followed for more than a decade. *. A small, perfect book rich in ideas and experiences, and one where form and function are inseparable : the soft mulberry tones of the risographic printing and the unadorned spine (mulberry stitching to show) are pleasing to the eye and hand. For the attentive reader, to read 40 Years of Bloodroot is as sustaining as a visit to Bloodroot.

The best book I read in 2017.

[click on this image to enlarge]

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A Conversation larger than the Universe

A Conversation larger than the Universe is in press and will be published by the Grolier Club in January 2018. Details of the subscriber issue, to be published by Temporary Culture, and related news of the book and exhibition are found here.

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recent reading

— Cory Doctorow. Walkaway. Tor, [2017].

— John Crowley. Novelties & Souvenirs. Collected Short Fiction. Harper Perennial paperback, [2004].

— Patricia Wentworth. The Alington Inheritance. J.B. Lippincott, [1958].

— S.K. Datta-Ray. Smash & Grab. Annexation of Sikkim [1984]. [Revised with a new introduction.] [Tranquebar Press paperback, 2016]. Comprehensive account by a journalist and eyewitness. The original edition was effectively suppressed by legal action in India and was not widely distributed.

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“ All around you —  behind the brake, across the hedgerow, under the branches. Some can stretch a hand and touch it —  to others it is a million miles away. ”

—  John Buchan. Midwinter [1923]. Re-reading : the wild wood of old England, the greenwood as interstitial space, and an unchronicled episode in the life of Samuel Johnson, 1745.

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— Maria Dahvana Headley. “ Memoirs of an Imaginary Country, ” in : Global Dystopias, edited by Junot Díaz. Boston Review. Fall 2017. Intense critical fiction, a feminist re-appropriation of Casanova’s hollow-earth utopia, Icosameron (1787). It is the story Maria performed at Readercon earlier this year (with additional commentary).

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‘ Peak Victorian ’ in Wormwood 29

The newest issue of Wormwood, the critical journal edited by Mark Valentine, includes “ Peak Victorian, ” an essay on three books published in 1885 : After London by Richard Jefferies, the Richard F. Burton translation of the Arabian Nights, and The Purple Land That England Lost by W. H. Hudson. The essay is chapter III of A Conversation larger than the Universe.

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Tropic of Kansas

And if you have not yet read Tropic of Kansas by Christopher Brown, published by Harper Voyager in July, look for a copy. I read it in typescript before publication : the best book I read in 2015.

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5 November 2017

A Conversation larger than the Universe

Your correspondent is pleased to report that the collection of essays and catalogue to accompany ‘ A Conversation larger than the Universe ’, an exhibition scheduled to open on 25 January 2018 at the Grolier Club in New York, is in production.
A Conversation larger than the Universe. Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic 1762-2017 will be published by the Grolier Club in January 2018. The fully illustrated book includes an original foreword, “ A Hatful of Adjectives ” by John Crowley, and is designed by Jerry Kelly. A small edition with additional material and signed by the contributors will be published by Temporary Culture. A few notes here.

Updated information concerning the exhibition and book will be available later in November.

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recent reading

— Wendy Walker. The Camperdown Elm. Drawings and text. Spuyten Duivil, 2017.

Writing and drawing inform each other at every turn. The meander of branches suggests pathways of travel. Line finding itself in obedience to inner and outer forces can be taken as the essence of both Drawing and Story. Here is a branch whose deviations are rife with surprise ; it could be the formal model for a tale, but I prefer to take it as an example of what a sentence could be.

“ Camperdown Sentence ”

My copy came as a presentation from the author and artist, with a brouillon of that excellent passage on the backing of a sketch pad. Wendy Walker is also author of The Secret Service (1992) and My Man and other Critical Fictions (2011).

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— John Crowley. Ka. Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr. [Illustrated by Melody Newcomb.] Saga Press, 2017.
What a book, what a voice, this story-telling Crow —  and the funny old man who listens to him.

He, Dar Oakley, was himself inside a story, which was also inside him, packed within him like another Crow, and he knew now why he had for so long felt both crowded and empty.
Go read this book.

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‘ He was forbidden to play by the well. It was his favourite place to play. ’
— Edward St. Aubyn. The Patrick Melrose Novels. Never Mind [1992]. Bad News [1992]. Some Hope [1994] and Mothers Milk [2006]. Picador [paperback] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2012].
‘ It’s the hardest addiction of all. Forget heroin. Just try giving up irony, that deep-down need to mean two things at once, to be in two places at once, not to be here for the catastrophe of a fixed meaning. ’
— Edward St. Aubyn. At Last. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2011].

Hilarious, harrowing, the Melrose novels are a swift and nimble cognate of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time, only not so polite. Bad News is a three-day drug binge in New York circa 1982, privilege diving from the Concorde to the Pierre and down into the gutter. The prose redeems all excesses, and the medley of voices in Patrick’s head in chapter seven is something to be experienced. Some Hope charts the convergence of incompatibles at an English country house party, looking into the self-deceptions of each character with a flair for language. At Last is a funeral you will not forget. Don’t know why I had not read these before now.

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— Joel Meyerowitz. Cézanne’s Objects. Illustrations from color photographs. 111 pp. Damiani, [2017]. Superb photographs of the objects in Cézanne’s atélier, photographed 2011 to 2015 against the grey wall of the studio. Detail of page 103, three skulls.

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— Michael Swanwick. Touchstones. [Three Stories]. Dragonstairs Press, 2017. Edition of 50 copies.
“ . . . to test the purity of gold ”

— James Crumley. The Mexican Tree Duck. With an appreciation by Maxim Jakubowski. Scorpion Press, 1993.

— Franz Bartelt. Hôtel du Grand Cerf. Roman. Seuil, 2017.

— [John Crowley]. Totalitopia plus “ This Is Our Town ” and “ Everything That Rises ” and “ Paul Park’s Hidden Worlds ” and “ I Did Crash a Few Parties ” Outspoken Interview and much more. PM Press, 2017.
“ . . . about as close to a practical utopia as it’s possible to get and still live in the ordinary. ”

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— Mark Valentine. A Country Still All Mystery. Tartarus Press, [2017].

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— Brigitte Aubert. Mémoires secrets d’un valet de cœur. Seuil, 2017.

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— M.L. Biscotti. Six Centuries of Foxhunting, An Annotated Bibliography. Foreword by Norman Fine. Rowman & Littlefield. James Cummins Bookseller, [2017]. Edition of ten deluxe copies. Now mostly dispersed.

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— Edogawa Ranpo. Le démon de l’île solitaire [1930]. Traduit du japonais par Miyako Slocombe. 10 18 Grands détectives, [2017].

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— Dominique Lesbros. Paris Bizarre. Catalogue déraissonné de curiosités et d’étrangetés. Parigramme, [2017].

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— Gabino Iglesias. Zero Saints. A barrio noir. Broken River, 2015. This is an astonishing crime novel. Fernando is a minor criminal in Austin and a man between worlds and the narrative mix of Spanish and English is dislocating but compelling and immediate.

What happens when you cross la frontera is that you want to clean up, find a good job somewhere, meet a beautiful, sweet girl. You want the American Dream. But fuck all that. The American Dream is as false as the meat in your one-dollar burger and the canned laughter you hear on television. And It’s even worse for you. You have no skills and no diploma and no friends and no nada. You’re a problem. Un ilegal más. A television joke. A wetback. You’re nothing but an issue brainless white politicians discuss from the safety of their offices. That’s when any offer becomes salvation, any desperate move a solution, every bad idea something that gives you a bit of hope. That’s when you realize that you will always live in a silent war and that anyone who’s not from your patria can be your enemy at any moment.

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Image by Iris de Moüy (from the book bag of Ofr. Paris, rue du Petit-Thouart, Paris 3e).

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— Under the Radar. Underground Zines and Self-Publications 1965-1975. Edited by Jan-Frederik Bandel, Annette Gilert, Tania Prill. Spector Books, 2017.
Large format illustrated catalogue produced from an exhibition of ’zines in the collection of Jan-Frederik Bandel, at the Center for Artists’ Publications / Weserburg Bremen 10 October 2015 to 14 February 2016.

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Summer of Love at the de Young

Stewart Brand. Whatever It Is. 1966. From the Summer of Love exhibition at the De Young Museum, San Francisco. Not illustrated in catalogue.

A wonderful immersive exhibition, especially to see so many posters of the different styles all together. One small case of books, and lots of interesting handbills. Jim Marshall’s portrait of Grace and Janis; the anti-draft message from Joan Baez and the poster, Girls Say Yes to boys who say NO; and Wavy Gravy’s rainbow jumpsuit. There were two rooms with music playing very loud, and even a space for dancing.

— Jill D’Alessandro and Colleen Terry. Summer of Love. Art Fashion an Rock and Roll. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. De Young. University of California Press, 2017.

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Steven Black at the Bancroft Library wrote a fine short essay on “ two representative figures who, in 1967, circled each other warily, but never met ” : Joan Didion and Chester Anderson.
Collections as Connectors, Holding from Off-Center

In “ Slouching Towards Bethlehem ” Didion chronicled her search for the Connection: Anderson was the figure of mystery Didion sought but never found. Black writes, “ Despite this missed connection with Chester Anderson, by detailing her forays into the Haight-Ashbury and other hippie enclaves around San Francisco, Didion captured in prose a time in violent flux. ” Chester Anderson’s name does not appear in the index for Summer of Love, though several of the publications of the communications company were on view in the exhibition. Chester Anderson had used the advance from his science fiction novel The Butterfly Kid to buy a Gestetner printing machine and set himself up as printer to the Diggers and the Summer of Love.

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You correspondent will be at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair next weekend, 10-12 November in the Hynes Convention Center, 900 Boylston Street. Come say hello (booth 120, James Cummins Bookseller). Copies of The Private Life of Books and Donald Trump The Magazine of Poetry will be available. Let me know if you would like a ticket.

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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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