Book Shelves #43, 10.21.2012


Book shelves series #43, forty-third Sunday of 2012

Kind of a hodgepodge shelf—some literary biography, a few now-redundant collections, some literary criticism, art books, etc.

Tracy Daugherty’s Donald Barthelme biography Hiding Man is on the far left; I reviewed it a few years ago, taking note of my favorite part, the so-called postmodernists’ dinner.

Next to it is Susan Sontag’s Reborn, a collection of early journals that I also reviewed.

Next to these two is Sara Davidson’s Loose Change. My aunt gave me a box of books years ago (lots of Asimov and Octavia Butler) and this was in here.

I knew about it because of a long essay in a 2007 issue of The Believer.


I picked up Penguin’s The Essential James Joyce in Jimbocho, an area in Tokyo known for used bookstores.

I recall paying maybe ¥100 for it. It comprises a few selections from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, some of  Joyce’s (totally unessential) poetry, and the entirety of Dubliners, Exiles, and Portrait. I’ve kept it because of sentiment (and  I like the cover).


Book Shelves #42, 10.14.2012


Book shelves series #42, forty-second Sunday of 2012

Couldn’t really get a good pic of the whole shelf, so in portions, starting with a spread of postmodernist favorites from years past. Julia Kristeva was a particular favorite of mine in grad school, but her Portable stands up well outside of, jeez, I dunno, theory and deconstruction and all that jazz; there are plenty of memoirish essays, including a wonderful piece on Paris ’68 and Tel Quel &c. Sam Kimball‘s book The Infanticidal Logic of Evolution and Culture still maintains an important place in the way I approach analyzing any kind of storytelling. Love the cover of this first American edition of Foucault’s Madness and Civilization, which I bought for a dollar years ago at a Friends of the Library sale:


I may or may not have obtained the The Viking Portable Nietzsche through nefarious means in my sixteenth year. In any case, it’s not really the best intro (I’m partial to The Gay Science), but it’s not bad. The Plato I’ve had forever. I never finished Bloom’s The Western Canon, although I’ve returned to it many times in the past five or six years, as I’ve opened up more to his ideas. I wrote about many of the books on this shelf, including a few by Simon Critchley.


The book I’d most recommend on this section of the shelf—indeed, the entire shelf—is Freud’s The Future of an Illusion:


The end of the shelf moves into more pop territory, including two good ones by AV Club head writer Nathan Rabin. You might also note Reality Hunger, a book that I am increasingly afraid to go back to, fearing that I probably agree more with Shields’s thesis, even if I didn’t particularly like his synthesis.


Adam Thirlwell’s The Delighted States is an overlooked gem that should have gotten more attention than Shields’s “manifesto.” He shares a bit of Georges Perec (whose writing helped spark this project of mine):


James Wood’s How Fiction Works got my goat: 


From my review:

Like most people who love to read, both academically and for pleasure, I like a good argument, and Wood’s aesthetic criticism is a marvelous platform for my ire, especially in a world that increasingly seems to not care about reading fiction. Wood is a gifted writer, even if his masterful skill at sublimating his personal opinion into a front of absolute authority is maddening. There’s actually probably more in his book that I agree with than not, but it’s those major sticking points on literary approaches that stick in my craw. It’s also those major sticking points that make the book an interesting read. I’d like to think that I’m not interested in merely having my opinions re-confirmed.

Book Shelves #41, 10.07.2012



Book shelves series #41, forty-first Sunday of 2012

Lots of lovely books and mags with pictures.

Several years worth of subscription to The Believer, with an unsorted stack setting up front:


I suppose I could write a whole post about The Believer, which I think is an excellent mag but no longer subscribe to, but instead, here’s a cover from Charles Burns:


Charles Burns also shows up in this section, which includes stuff by R. Crumb, Daniel Clowes, Art Spiegelman, and more:


The wife got me a subscription to The Paris Review last year; then, some unsorted books, and then the Nausicaä collection (also courtesy the wife):


Nausicaä spread out on my couch. (My son and I ended up looking through them for an hour):



Book Shelves #40, 9.30.2012


Book shelves series #40, fortieth Sunday of 2012

So we dip into the penultimate book shelf in this series, the one I shot last week in hazy hangover.

(This shelf is lower right; I’ll be working down to up and right to left).

Kids puzzles and a toy accordion block some books on folklore, history, and music.


As always, sorry for the glare, blur, and poor lighting. Blame my ancient iPhone 3gs .

A book my grandmother gave me a few years ago:




This is a wonderful old collection:


Pissing in the Snow: I’ve gone to that well more than once.


Kind of a motley crew here; the Barthes is misshelved but the lit crit shelves above are too full, so . . .


Musical bios. More of these are scattered around the house. I gave away a few recently.

Some of these books made it on to a list I wrote of seven great books about rock and roll.


Anthony Scaduto’s Dylan bio, which I, ahem, *borrowed* from my uncle years ago.

It made the rounds in high school but I managed to get it back somehow (but not its cover):


Book Shelves #38, 9.16.2012


Book shelves series #38, thirty-eighth Sunday of 2012

The final entry on this corner piece.

What have these volumes in common? They are all aesthetically pleasing.

They are all too tall to fit elsewhere comfortably.

Several issues of McSweeney’s, some art books, and some graphic novels:


I’ve already expressed my strong enthusiasm for Charles Burns’s X’ed Out. The Acme Library pictured is part of Chris Ware’s series, and is beautiful and claustrophobic.

McSweeney’s #28 comprises eight little hardbacked fables that arrange into two “puzzle” covers:




I’ve also written enthusiastically about Max Ernst’s surreal graphic novel, Une Semaine de Bonte:



America’s Great Adventure is this wonderful book that pairs American writing (poems, songs, excerpts from novels and journals) with American paintings to tell a version of American history:




It probably deserves its own review. Short review: It’s a wonderful book if you can find it.

Book Shelves #37, 9.09.2012


Book shelves series #37, thirty-seventh Sunday of 2012

Eggers, Dave. Beloved, reviled, sainted, hated.

I wrote about Eggers at some length here already, so I won’t repeat myself.

Book Shelves #36, 9.02.2012




Book shelves series #36, thirty-sixth Sunday of 2012

Continuing the corner book shelf in the family room.

The bookends are tschotskes from a ¥100 shop; we bought them years ago in Tokyo.

Not particularly fancy but they have a sentimental value. (The big guy is a tanuki, if you’re unfamiliar).

The tin on the far left is filled with miscellaneous papers, old stickers, other small bricabrac.



Only four books on this shelf—the more-or-less complete works of J.D. Salinger, in gloriously ratty mass paperback editions:


Not sure if these are my wife’s or mine—probably a mix of both. I stole most of these from my high school.

The Catcher in the Rye was as important to me as any other book, I suppose. I wrote about it here.

Nine Stories contains some of Salinger’s most disciplined stuff.

It took me years to finally find the discipline to read Seymour, which is probably the best thing he wrote.


Book Shelves #34, 8.19.2012



Book shelves series #34, thirty-fourth Sunday of 2012

A little end table next to the couch in our family room.

The books on top are little art books we keep out for the kids to look at, including People



On the second shelf, along with a cooking magazine: The People Could Fly and Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons:




There are two drawers; one holds electronic manuals. The second holds McSweeney’s #33, the newspaper issue, which was pretty damn unwieldy:


A comic from the McSweeney’s by Michael Kupperman:


Book Shelves #33, 8.12.2012


Book shelves series #33, thirty-third Sunday of 2012

This is the end cap shelf of the coffee table in our family room, which is really the room where the kids play.

Mostly old ratty Shakespeare paperbacks and other slim volumes. Some of the hundreds of CDs I have that I haven’t played in ages.



I reread Henry IV last year, using these editions; still one of my favorite plays.

Contains some of my favorite moments in literature (I especially love the part where Falstaff calls his soldiers his “rag of Muffins”):


Book Shelves #32, 8.05.2012


Book shelves series #31, thirty-first Sunday of 2012

I had forgotten about this Norman Rockwell book, which I promptly took out and put on the coffee table:


It’s funny to think how corny I used to think the guy was . . .


. . . which I guess he is, corny, I mean, but he’s also a master painter, with cartoonish sensibility.

And if at times he’s goofy, well, he also exhibited a social conscience in his art that was, well, human-centered.


A harmonica book:


And a guitar book:


Talking Heads are my favorite band. An old girlfriend found this tabloidy book at a thriftstore and gave it to me for my birthday. This was like 16 years ago. I’d forgotten where the book was:


There’s a few copies of Far Side stuff on this shelf:


And Frank Miller’s Wolverine graphic novel, which was my favorite thing in the world when I was 11.

Sad Wolverine:


One of at least three Magritte books in the house is on this shelf. A drawing from said volume:


A Gustav Klimt coloring book:




Book Shelves #31, 7.29.2012



Book shelves series #31, thirty-first Sunday of 2012

When I started this project I thought it would be a fun way to keep stock of the books that I have, and also a way to perhaps question why I hold on to the books that I hold on to.

I mean, why keep a book after you’ve read it?

Anyway, at times throughout this series I’ve gotten bored, or rushed; other times I’ve thought the idea was stupid, or narcissistic, or something even worse (although I don’t know what).

I like the shelves above the pedestrian, utilitarian jobber that I’ll feature this Sunday and the next: lots of aesthetically pleasing stuff there.

Not so this one, which holds photos and cookbooks and art books and old notebooks and sketchbooks and every kind of etcetera:


At least that’s what I thought until I started digging into the cramped top shelf, dutifully bound to this project.

I wound up really enjoying myself, pausing over volumes that I haven’t looked at in ages, like this beauty:


I’m not sure if the aesthetic joy of this postcard collection comes across in these lousy iPhone photo shots.

I got this on a trip to London when I was 11. It was just my mom and my brother and I. First we went to Singapore. We were coming back to the States for Christmas, and also to live, eventually. My brother broke his leg in Singapore jumping down some stairs and we didn’t realize it was broken until we got back to Florida.


I used to draw and paint all the time, especially as a kid. Mostly animals.

There are at least a dozen skinny books like this on the shelf:


I must have done hundreds of these as a kid:


The shelf is also full of old comic strip collections that you probably recognize, like these guys:


And this guy (and yes, I have the 7″ record from this collection)


I also spent half an hour revising Rublowsky’s 1965 volume Pop Art, which is kind of fascinating in its contemporary proximity to its subject.

The cover’s not interesting, but Ken Heyman’s photos are; they show the artists in process. This one is kinda famous:


And here’s Roy Lichtenstein: