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

Three Can Keep a Secret (Book Acquired Some Time in August, 2014)

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Archer Mayor’s Three Can Keep a Secret is, the press materials assure me, the 24th in a series of Joe Gunther mysteries. Holy cow! Publisher Macmillan/Tor’s blurb:

Joe Gunther and his team—the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI)—are usually called in on major cases by local Vermont enforcement whenever they need expertise and back-up.  But after the state is devastated by Hurricane Irene, the police from one end of the state are taxed to their limits, leaving Joe Gunther involved in an odd, seemingly unrelated series of cases. In the wake of the hurricane, a seventeen year old gravesite is exposed, revealing a coffin that had been filled with rocks instead of the expected remains.

At the same time, an old, retired state politician turns up dead at his high-end nursing home, in circumstances that leave investigators unsure that he wasn’t murdered.  And a patient who calls herself The Governor has walked away from a state mental facility during the post-hurricane flood. It turns out that she was indeed once “Governor for a Day,” over forty years ago, but that she might have also been falsely committed and drugged to keep her from revealing something that she saw all those years ago.  Amidst the turmoil and the disaster relief, it’s up to Joe Gunther and his team to learn what really happened with the two corpses—one missing—and what secret “The Governor” might have still locked in her brain that links them all.

 

The Purchase (Book Acquired, 9.03.2014)

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Linda Spalding’s novel The Purchase is new in trade paperback from Random House. Their blurb:

Pennsylvania, 1798. Daniel Dickinson, a devout Quaker, has just lost his wife. When he marries a fifteen-year-old Methodist orphan to help with his five small children, his fellow Quakers disown him for his impropriety. Forced out of the only community he’s ever known, Daniel moves his family to the Virginia frontier. He has in hand a few land warrants, with which he plans to establish his new homestead.
Although determined to hold to his Quaker belief in abolitionism, Daniel is now in a slave state, and he soon finds himself the owner of a young boy named Onesimus. This fatal purchase sets in motion a twisted chain of events that will forever change his children’s lives—and his own. An unforgettable story of sacrifice and redemption, The Purchase powerfully explores questions of fate, faith, loyalty, and conscience.

Dmitry Samarov’s Where To? (Book Acquired, 8.22.2014)

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Where To? A Hack Memoir is Dmitry Samarov’s sequel to Hack.

Publisher Curbside Splendor’s blurb:

Dmitry Samarov’s illustrated memoir captures encounters with drunken passengers, overbearing cops, unreasonable city bureaucracy, his fellow cabdrivers, a few potholes, and other unexpectedly beautiful moments. Accompanied by dozens of Samarov’s original artworks—composed during traffic jams, waits at the airport, and lulls in his shifts—the stories in Where To? provide a street-level view of America from the perspective of an immigrant painter driving a cab for money.

I interviewed Dmitry about his art and his writing a few years ago, and he described Hack:

Hack started as a zine around 2000 as a way for me to make sense of my three years driving a cab in Boston (1993-1997). It was called Hack because the license to operate a taxi in Boston was called a Hackney Carriage License and they used to call cabbies hacks in the old days. It was my first attempt at writing outside of school homework assignments and there really wasn’t much writing, it was mostly pictures. Those pictures were a challenge too because, as I’ve said, I work primarily from direct observation and the only way to do these were from memory. These illustrations were made to work together with the words, not to stand on their own and that has continued to be the case through the whole history of Hack.

I started driving a taxi in Chicago in 2003 and revived Hack as a blog late in 2006. To my surprise, it got notice pretty quickly from some in the local press—Whet Moser, then of theChicago Reader especially—-and my high school pal John Hodgman mentioning it in a magazine didn’t hurt either. That got it noticed by a publicist at University of Chicago Press named Levi Stahl. He bought a copy of my self-published compilation (see the third one down) and eventually pitched Hack as a book to his employers. They published it in October 2011.

Lars Iyer’s Wittgenstein Jr (Book Acquired, 8.29.2014)

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Lars Iyer’s latest is now available in hardback from Melville House. Iyer discussed the novel a bit with me when I interviewed him last year:

Wittgenstein Jr? A difficult novel to write, not least because it is my first attempt at pure fiction. I had the safeguard of basing it on the life of the real Wittgenstein, replaying it in a Cambridge University of the present. But I had to dream up characters, narrative incident, narrative colour… Above all, I had to find new rhythms of writing, which fit my version of Wittgenstein himself, and fit his students. Everything is about rhythm!

There’s high despair and low humour – a lot of humour. There’s romance. There’s paranoia. There’s utopianism: dreams of friendship, of politics, of meaning. There’s lyricism. There’s madness. There’s anti-Cambridge-dons invective. There’s dance. There are songs (all novels should have songs). There are long walks in the snow. Allusions to Paul, paraphrases of rabbinical commentaries on the Bible, quotes from Wallace Stevens, from Goethe, lines from Pretty Woman… Dramatic re-enactments of great philosophical deaths…

We could probably maybe add the novel to David Markson’s list from Vanishing Point:

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks (Book Acquired, 8.19.2014)

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David Mitchell’s new novel The Bone Clocks showed up at Biblioklept World Headquarters earlier this week, but I’ve been busy with the start of the Fall semester and haven’t had a chance to get into it yet. Here’s publisher Random House’s blurb:

Following a terrible fight with her mother over her boyfriend, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her family and her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: A sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.

For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.

A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting on the war in Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder.

Rich with character and realms of possibility, The Bone Clocks is a kaleidoscopic novel that begs to be taken apart and put back together by a writer The Washington Post calls “the novelist who’s been showing us the future of fiction.”

An elegant conjurer of interconnected tales, a genre-bending daredevil, and a master prose stylist, David Mitchell has become one of the leading literary voices of his generation. His hypnotic new novel, The Bone Clocks, crackles with invention and wit and sheer storytelling pleasure—it is fiction at its most spellbinding.

Clarice Lispector/Tom Clark (Books Acquired, 8.15.2014)

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(In a Sense) Lost & Found (Book Acquired, 7.26.2014)

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I’ve read Roman Muradov’s debut graphic novella (In a Sense) Lost & Found a few times now and it’s great—hits the trifecta of strange, beautiful, and smart. It’s new from Nobrow Press. Here’s their blurb:

(In a Sense) Lost and Found, the first graphic novel by rising star Roman Muradov, explores the theme of innocence by treating it as a tangible object; something that can be used, lost, and mistreated. Muradov’s crisp, delicate style conjures a world of strange bookstores, absurd conspiracies, and charming wordplay. A surreal tale in the mold of the best American alternative comics, In a Sense retains its distinctly Eastern perspective.

Muradov lets the art tell this surreal story of a girl looking for something that the narrative refuses to reveal to us. There is no exposition, and readers looking for dialogue that explains everything to them will likely be perplexed. The book is gorgeous, rich, dark—I would include some panels here but the pages are so thick and dark that my iPhone simply can’t handle them. (The picture I took of the cover, above, does no justice to the book’s aesthetics). I’ll get some hi-res images for the full review I plan to post next week though. Great stuff.