Maurice Sendak’s Pop-Up Book of Monsters (Book Acquired, 10.24.2014)

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Postlude (Book Acquired, 10.17.2014)

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I love it when parcels from Athens-based publisher Pilotless Press show up. The new one is Postlude by Haldon Lockly.

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The blurb from Pilotless:

This is a story of the eye, or what the eye sees when it finally opens, though the story pretends to be a story about death (which is actually the case with every story ever written). To add to the confusion, this is also a story about death and about what comes after, although it pretends to be a story about the eye, or what it sees when it finally opens (which is actually the case with most of the stories ever written). If we must be exact, this is the story of a missed paycheck and what comes after, or the story of a man who doesn’t want to die, although he is already dead, or at any rate the story of a man whose eyes are closed and what it takes to open them.

First paragraph:

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The Trip to Echo Spring (Book Acquired, 10.20.2014)

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Olivia Laing’s The Trip to Echo Spring got a lot of a buzz when it came out in hardback last year. It’s out in trade paperback now from Picador. Their blurb:

In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six extraordinary men: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver.

All six of these writers were alcoholics, and the subject of drinking surfaces in some of their finest work, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to A Moveable Feast. Often, they did their drinking together: Hemingway and Fitzgerald ricocheting through the cafés of Paris in the 1920s; Carver and Cheever speeding to the liquor store in Iowa in the icy winter of 1973.

Olivia Laing grew up in an alcoholic family herself. One spring, wanting to make sense of this ferocious, entangling disease, she took a journey across America that plunged her into the heart of these overlapping lives. As she travels from Cheever’s New York to Williams’s New Orleans, and from Hemingway’s Key West to Carver’s Port Angeles, she pieces together a topographical map of alcoholism, from the horrors of addiction to the miraculous possibilities of recovery.

Captivating and original, The Trip to Echo Spring strips away the myth of the alcoholic writer to reveal the terrible price creativity can exert.

You can read an excerpt here.

Not crazy about the claustrophobic cover.

Dead Man’s Time (Book Acquired, 10.10.2014)

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Peter James’s Dead Man’s Time. Publisher’s blurb:

A vicious robbery at a secluded Brighton mansion leaves its elderly occupant dying. Millions of pounds’ worth of valuables have been stolen.

But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, heading the enquiry, rapidly learns, there is one priceless item of sentimental value that her powerful family cherish above all else. And they are fully prepared to take the law into their own hands, and will do anything – absolutely anything – to get it back.

Within days, Grace is racing against the clock, following a murderous trail that leads him from the shady antiques world of Brighton, across Europe, and all the way back to the New York waterfront gang struggles of 1922, chasing a killer driven by the force of one man’s greed and another man’s fury.

A reissue of the ninth novel in the multi-million copy bestselling Roy Grace series, from the #1 chart topper, Peter James

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (Book Acquired, 10.07.2014)

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Stephen Collins’s The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is really really good. Full review forthcoming.

New Alain Badiou — The Age of the Poets (Book Acquired, 10.10.2014)

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New from Verso Books, a collection of writings from philosopher Alain Badiou. Verso’s blurb:

The Age of the Poets revisits the age-old problem of the relation between literature and philosophy, arguing against both Plato and Heidegger’s famous arguments. Philosophy neither has to ban the poets from the republic nor abdicate its own powers to the sole benefit of poetry or art. Instead, it must declare the end of what Badiou names the “age of the poets,” which stretches from Hölderlin to Celan. Drawing on ideas from his first publication on the subject, “The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process,” Badiou offers an illuminating set of readings of contemporary French prose writers, giving us fascinating insights into the theory of the novel while also accounting for the specific position of literature between science and ideology.

More to come—but for now: Diagrams! (I will try to understand them in context):

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Anthony Burgess’s Napoleon Symphony (Book Acquired, 10.02.2014)

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Anthony Burgess’s 1974 novel Napoleon Symphony gets the trade paperback reissue treatment from Norton. Their blurb:

Anthony Burgess draws on his love of music and history in this novel he called “elephantine fun” to write.

A grand and affectionate tragicomic symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte that teases and reweaves Napoleon’s life into a pattern borrowed—in liberty, equality, and fraternity—from Beethoven’s Third “Eroica” Symphony, in this rich, exciting, bawdy, and funny novel Anthony Burgess has pulled out all the stops for a virtuoso performance that is literary, historical, and musical.

Krazy Kat (Book Acquired, 9.19.2014)

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I picked up this first edition of the first collection of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat a few weeks ago. Not sure if there was originally a dust jacket (?). Anyway, there’s an essay-length introduction by e.e. cummings. From that intro:IMG_3449 IMG_3462 IMG_3454
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Silent Murders (Book Acquired, 9.02.2014)

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Mary Miley’s Silent Murders. Macmillan/Minotaur’s blurb:

Vaudeville actress Leah Randall took on her most daring role ever when she impersonated missing heiress Jessie Carr in order to claim Jessie’s inheritance inThe Impersonator. Now that the dust has settled around that tumultuous time in her life, Leah has adopted Jessie’s name as her own and moved to Hollywood, where she’s taken a modest but steady job in the silent film industry.

Jessie’s thrilled when Bruno Heilmann, a movie studio bigwig, invites her to a party. She’s even more delighted to run into a face from her past at that party. But the following day, Jessie learns that sometime in the wee hours of the morning both her old friend and Bruno Heilmann were brutally murdered. She’s devastated, but with her skill as an actress, access to the wardrobes and resources of a film studio, and a face not yet famous enough to be recognized, Jessie is uniquely positioned to dig into the circumstances surrounding these deaths. But will doing so put her own life directly in the path of a murderer?

Saving Simon (Book Acquired, 9.15.2014)

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Saving Simon by Jon Katz is new in hardback from Random House. Their blurb:

In this heartfelt, thoughtful, and inspiring memoir, New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz tells the story of his beloved rescue donkey, Simon, and the wondrous ways that animals make us wiser and kinder people.

In the spring of 2011, Jon Katz received a phone call that would challenge every idea he ever had about mercy and compassion. An animal control officer had found a neglected donkey on a farm in upstate New York, and she hoped that Jon and his wife, Maria, would be willing to adopt him. Jon wasn’t planning to add another animal to his home on Bedlam Farm, certainly not a very sick donkey. But the moment he saw the wrenching sight of Simon, he felt a powerful connection. Simon touched something very deep inside of him. Jon and Maria decided to take him in.

Simon’s recovery was far from easy. Weak and malnourished, he needed near constant care, but Jon was determined to help him heal. As Simon’s health improved, Jon would feed him by hand, read to him, take him on walks, even confide in him like an old and trusted friend. Then, miraculously, as if in reciprocation, Simon began to reveal to Jon the true meaning of compassion, the ways in which it can transform our lives and inspire us to take great risks.

This radically different perspective on kindness and empathy led Jon to a troubled border collie from Ireland in need of a home, a blind pony who had lived outside in a pasture for fifteen years, and a new farm for him and Maria. In the great tradition of heroes—from Don Quixote to Shrek—who faced the world in the company of their donkeys, Jon came to understand compassion and mercy in a new light, learning to open up “not just to Simon, not just to animals, but to the human experience. To love, to risk, to friendship.”

With grace, warmth, and keen emotional insight, Saving Simon plumbs the depths of the bonds we form with our animals, and the rewards of “living a more compassionate, considered, and meaningful life.”

The Haunting Ballad (Book Acquired 9.12.2014)

IMG_3296.JPGThe Haunting Ballad by Michael Nethercott. PW’s review:

Set in 1957, Nethercott’s diverting second Lee Plunkett mystery (after 2013’s The Séance Society) takes the Connecticut PI and his fiancée, Audrey Valish, to Greenwich Village. At the Cafe Mercutio, they witness an acrimonious dispute between two performers, “song-catcher” Lorraine Cobble and troubadour Byron Spires. When Lorraine apparently leaps to her death from the roof of her apartment building, her distraught cousin, Sally Joan Cobble, hires Lee to prove she didn’t commit suicide. Lee is the nominal detective, but the heavy lifting is done by wily Irishman Mr. O’Nelligan, who lends sage advice and guidance. Together, the duo approach Lorraine’s former housemates, such as “ghost chanter” Mrs. Pattinshell and 105-year-old Civil War vet Cornelius Boyle. Nethercott has fun with the bustling Bohemian atmosphere and Lee and Audrey’s awkward romance, but reserves the best lines for the exchanges between O’Nelligan and Lee as they close in on the unlikely culprit.

The Accidental Universe (Book Acquired, 9.17.2014)

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Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe is new in trade paperback next month from Random House. From James Orbesen’s review earlier this year in Bookslut:

Comprised of a number of essays, The Accidental Universe documents recent discoveries about our universe, the quest for a complete Standard Model of physics to explain, literally, everything, and the recently uncovered Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle” that grants subatomic particles their mass. This is balanced by Lightman’s reflections on human nature, our mutual condition, and our place in a vast cosmos beyond our reach. This creates an interesting tension that runs throughout the collection, beginning right at the beginning in the titular essay.

Lightman starts with that: “The history of science can, in fact, be viewed as the recasting of phenomena that were once accepted as ‘givens’ as phenomena that can now be understood in terms of fundamental causes and principles.”

Science peels away layers that obscure the truth at the heart of our universe. However, after centuries of constant triumph, scientists have run into a brick wall. For every new discovery, new questions arise that science may not also be able to answer. After affirming what science has done, he pulls away the table cloth: “According to the current thinking of many physicists, we are living in one of a vast number of universes. We are living in an accidental universe. We are living in a universe incalculable by science.”

Microreview of Ben Marcus’s Leaving the Sea (Book Acquired, 9.17.2014)

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The kind people at Random House sent me a trade paperback of Ben Marcus’s latest collection, Leaving the Sea. The trade paperback comes out in early October.

I actually read the book this summer, and enjoyed it, was frustrated by it, occasionally sickened by it, was enthralled by at least two stories (“The Loyalty Protocol” and “The Moors”), and found one story to be so terribly sad and distressing and horrifying that I hope to never read anything like it again, which is kind of a compliment (“Rollingwood”).

I jammed Leaving the Sea into a riff on stuff I wished I’d written about in the first half of 2014. This is what I wrote:

Leaving the Sea, Ben Marcus: A weird and (thankfully) uneven collection that begins with New Yorkerish stories of a post-Lish stripe (like darker than Lipsyte stuff) and unravels (thankfully) into sketches and thought experiments and outright bizarre blips. Abjection, abjection, abjection. The final story ‘The Moors’ is a minor masterpiece.”

Read “On Not Growing Up” from the collection at Conjunctions. First paragraphs:

—HOW LONG HAVE YOU been a child?

—Seventy-one years.

—Who did you work with?

—Meyerowitz for the first phase: colic, teething, walking, talking. He taught me how to produce false prodigy markers and developmental reversals, to test the power in the room without speaking. I was encouraged to look beyond the tantrum and drastic mood migrations that depended on the environment, and if you know my work you have an idea what resulted. The rest is a hodgepodge, but I don’t advocate linear apprenticeships. A stint in the Bonn Residency. Fellowships at the Cleveland Place, then later a stage at Quebec Center. I entered that Appalachian Trail retreat in 1974, before Krenov revised it, but had to get helicoptered out. Probably my first infant crisis, before I knew to deliberately court interference. The debt to Meyerowitz is huge, obviously, if just for the innocence training. Probably I should have laid off after that, because now it’s all
about unlearning.

—Unlearning as Kugler practices it? That radical?

—I skip the hostility to animals. I skip the forced submersion and the chelation flush. That’s proven to be a dead end. But Kugler is a walking contradiction in that respect, isn’t he? He keeps a horse barn.
He does twilight childishness, and now he’s suddenly opposing the Phoenix baby-talk crowd, who I think are not as threatening as he makes out.

—They’re not registered.

Wouldn’t It Be Deadly? (Book Acquired, Like Last Week or the Week Before)

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Wouldn’t It Be Deadly by D.E. Ireland. PW’s write up:

Set in London in 1913, this tongue-in-cheek series kickoff from the pseudonymous Ireland picks up where the musical My Fair Lady left off. Eliza Doolittle has left her irascible mentor, Henry Higgins, to work for a rival elocution teacher, Emil Nepommuck. Nepommuck features her transformation from street flower-seller to someone who passed for a duchess prominently in his advertising, and manages to steal some of Higgins’s students. When someone fatally stabs Nepommuck in the back outside his apartment, Higgins, who confronted the man earlier, becomes Scotland Yard’s prime suspect. Higgins turns out to be hiding a secret, which is out of character with his stage and film personae. Some readers may find character names like Harrison and Shaw a bit heavy-handed, though others may smile when Higgins describes Eliza as a “fair lady” or wonders why anyone would care about the “rain in Spain.” A