Books Acquired (Most of April)

I thought I’d jump in on the Books Acquired feature on the blog, so below is a picture and some words about the books I got this past April. Significantly fewer than average as I’m *trying* to read the books I already have but, you know, it doesn’t really ever stop.

Little Schopenhauer wanted to be in the picture.

Little Schopenhauer wanted to be in the picture.

 

It was in this interview on the blog that I heard about Gabriel Josipovici’s philosophical novel. I’ve been on the hunt for more books like this in the past couple of years, and if it’s anyone’s recommendation about novels that wax philosophical, it’d be a philosopher’s. Goldberg: Variations also promises to slake an obsessive thirst for books about composers and their madness (or illness). I also seem unable to shake an attraction for books that tell stories about other stories, with the latter being the “actual story” of the book. From the back: “At the turn of the eighteenth century, a writer–a Jew–enters an English country manor, where he has been invited to read through the night to his host until the gentleman falls asleep. What unfolds then are seemingly unconnected stories covering a vast array of topics–from incest to madness to a poetic competition in the court of George III. And what emerges by the end is a breathtaking tapestry in which past and present, imagination and truth, are intricately woven together into one remarkable whole.”

I saw Kate Zambreno read from this book back in 2011 when it was originally published by Emergency Press. Since then she’s written a “critical memoir” titled Heroines, which explores the writer’s relationship with the “wives and mistresses” of the 20th-Century modernist greats. It’s my understanding that Zambreno has also reworked through Green Girl for this republish. Which I can’t imagine doing. Seems terrifying and harrowing. Only about 20 pages in so far, but it definitely has, for desperate lack of a better term, a European feel to it that’s rare for American writers. The sentences vibrate along the same manic, anxious and panicky frequencies of favorites like Bernhard, Rhys and Woolf. From the back: “Ruth is a young American in London, trying desperately to navigate a world in which she attracts the unwanted gaze of others while grappling with the uncertainty of her own self-regard. Haunted equally by self-doubt and by a morbid fascination with the beautiful, cruel, and empty people around her, Ruth darts quietly through the rainy sidewalks of her present, trying to escape her future.”

I know Steve Mitchelmore, blogger of This Space, is a big Peter Handke fan. I tweeted him a couple of months ago and he recommended that I start with this one. I’m looking forward to reading an Austrian (or Austro-Hungarian and descendants of) that isn’t cantankerous and odorous a la Bernhard. But, as expected, this book seems like it’s going to be really fucked up. The back: “In the summer of 1960, Filip Kobal leaves his home in search of his missing brother, Gregor. Not quite twenty, he is armed only with two of his brother’s books; a copybook and a dictionary in which Gregor has, revealingly, marked certain words. Filip’s investigations of language–of the laws of naming objects, and of the roots of alienation in the discrepancy between objects’ names and our experience of them–becomes, finally, an investigation of himself and the world around him.”

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Books Acquired, Some Time in April, 2014

Got way way behind on this feature of the blog this month. I don’t even know if readers like this feature, this “Books Acquired” thing. It’s mostly been a way to give some kind of press for unsolicited review copies, as well as books I buy compulsively.

Anyway: I’m not too into the cozy mystery thing, but I love this cover for some reason. Just makes me laugh:

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From the Kirkus review of Hannah Dennison’s Murder at Honeychurch Hall:

Kat Stanford quit her job as star of the reality TV show Fakes & Treasures, hoping to find a quiet place to open an antiques store with her mother, Iris. She wasn’t counting on Iris’ impetuous decision to buy a carriage house from the dowager Countess of Grenville, mother of the owner of Honeychurch Hall. Arriving in Little Dipperton, Devon, to help her mother settle into what sounded like a picturesque cottage, Kat finds Iris living instead in a dilapidated building with holes in the floors; antiquated fixtures; Kat’s father’s ashes in a Tupperware container; and aggressively spiteful neighbors, Eric Pugsley and his wife, the leather-clad housekeeper. Iris insists they’re trying to drive her out of the carriage house, and Kat isn’t sure that would be so bad, especially after the Honeychurch nanny, who warned her about the place, disappears. Worse yet, a conversation Kat overhears between Eric and the Earl of Grenville makes Iris’ suspicions sound uncomfortably plausible. The earl’s first wife died from what were supposedly natural causes but possibly weren’t, a 20-year-old robbery has never been solved, and mystery surrounds a pair of toy bears, not to mention the odd ghost. Kat’s even more shocked to discover that Iris has a secret identity and a closer connection to Honeychurch Hall than her daughter imagined. When she stumbles on a body in a hidden grotto, the only element missing from the well-stuffed plot is romance—a deficiency the local detective inspector just might remedy.

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Professor Noah’s Spaceship (Book Acquired, 3.29.2014)

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Browsing books with my son the other day, Brian Wildsmith’s Professor Noah’s Spaceship caught my eye. Absolutely gorgeous illustrations and a charming story.
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Another Moby-Dick (Book Acquired, 3.29.2014)

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At the bookstore today with my youngest child, I couldn’t resist yet another copy of Moby-Dick, despite the many several editions already in our home.

Just love Hieronimus Fromm’s vivid illustrations here.

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Flann O’Brien’s Complete Novels (Book Acquired, 3.24.2014)

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I was looking for something else when I found Everyman’s edition of The Complete Novels of Flann O’Brien. I gave away The Third Policeman to a friend who has yet to read it; I can also now give away At Swim-Two Birds. (I won’t give away my copy of The Poor Mouth though, which is illustrated by Ralph Steadman).

Kenneth Patchen (Book Acquired, 3.07.2014)

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Two by Grace Paley (Books Acquired, 3.07.2014)

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I’d been wanting to pick up a collection of Grace Paley’s stories for awhile now. I wasn’t sure whether or not to pick up Enormous Changes at the Last Minute or The Little Disturbances of Man, so I just got both. The covers helped convince me, I’ll admit—I’m a sucker for Hopper, and John French Sloan is no slouch either. (I’m tempted here to launch into some vague critique of the covers that books by women get but nah).

I’ve already read most of Enormous Change, ingesting most of the tales while sitting in my car, waiting to pick my kids up after school, which seems like a perfect place to read it. Smart, odd, often sharp, scathing, precise, etc.—great stuff. I’ll try to do a full review but I’ve got a huge backlog. In the meantime, check out “Wants.”

Bitter Eden (Book Acquired, 2.12.2014)

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This one looks pretty good. Blurb from publisher Picador:

Bitter Eden is based on Tatamkhulu Afrika’s own capture in North Africa and his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II in Italy and Germany. This frank and beautifully wrought novel deals with three men who must negotiate the emotions that are brought to the surface by the physical closeness of survival in the male-only camps. The complex rituals of camp life and the strange loyalties and deep bonds among the men are heartbreakingly depicted. Bitter Eden is a tender, bitter, deeply felt book of lives inexorably changed, and of a war whose ending does not bring peace.

Read an excerpt here.

Double Donald Barthelme (Books Acquired, 2.13.2014)

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Two remaining (late period) Donald Barthelme novels I haven’t read.

The King is a first edition paperback (with an author photo on the whole back cover—very odd) illustrated by the wonderful Barry Moser.

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Kafka/Cerebus (Books Acquired, 1.31.2014 + Bonus Circumcision Anecdote)

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Picked up books last week, not needing them, but hey.

A digest of Kafka’s diaries; good stuff, great random reading.

This is a great little anecdote:

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Austerlitz is of course the name of a W.G. Sebald novel. From that novel:

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I also picked up the sixth issue of Swords of Cerebus by Dave Sim. It’s a second printing and in terrible shape and I already have the issues in other forms (reprint and graphic novel) but it’s still a pretty rare find. And I am a nerd.

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The book also includes a short little excellent wordless comic, “A Night on the Town,” where Cerebus parties with a corpse. I have the reprint somewhere else, but still:

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Naked Came the Post-Postmodernist (Book Acquired, Some Time in January)

20140204-155456.jpgNaked Came the Post-Postmodernist showed up some time a few weeks ago and I still haven’t made time for it, despite an interesting premise and its collective authorship. Blurb:

Who killed Eric Davenport? A senior mathematics professor at Underhill College has been found dead in his office, the victim of murder. At Underhill, a small liberal arts college with a pricy tuition and a pampered student body, all of the students are close to their professors. But at least one loved Eric Davenport in a deeply inappropriate fashion. Some hated him. And then there is the faculty at war with itself. And the idiotic administration. And the twin boys who live next to campus. And what’s with all those praying mantises?

The collective work of Sarah Lawrence writing class 3303 – R, taught by novelist Melvin Jules Bukiet, here is a send-up of contemporary campus life that is also the latest installment in an inglorious literary tradition of wacky fun. And the mayhem hasn’t stopped. Soon, a student is found dead in the library, and, from the quad to the dorms, crime scenes and crises begin to multiply. A wealthy alumni donor becomes alarmed. Enter a libidinous medical examiner. Depicting rampant insecurities and raging egos, and with a cast of characters from conflicted faculty to student cliques, from hemp kids to Ugg girls and the J Crew crew, Naked Came the Post-Postmodernist takes us on a journey some may find eerily familiar. . . .

Some Really Lovely Books Acquired, 1.21.2014 (Thanks Ryan!)

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I was pleasantly surprised to get a box of great stuff in the mail from Ryan Mihaly, a frequent contributor to this blog (check out the second part of his interview with translator Ilan Stavans). Inside the handsome Penguin Classics Goethe was this little card:

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I had never even heard of The Thoughtbook, Fitzgerald’s boyhood diary. Sample:

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Tom Clark is The Best.

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And always Hell.

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Thanks again, Ryan!

Gordon Lish’s Goings In Thirteen Sittings (Book Acquired, 1.13.2014)

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So I read five of the thirteen stories in Gordon Lish’s forthcoming collection Goings In Thirteen Sittings (OR Books) the afternoon it arrived. Each story, told by a narrator named “Gordon,” I could not help but here in Lish’s precise but gruff voice. Great stuff. Full review forthcoming.

Bonus:

Today, Electric Literature is running Lish’s story “In the District, Into the Bargain.” First paragraph:

Here’s a bit for you. It’s an impressive one too. My bet is you are going to be really refreshingly impressed with it, or by it, which I have to tell you is what I myself was when the woman involved in the event disclosed her heart to me. First, as to setting—temporal, spatial, all that. So, fine, so the thing starts maybe all of an hour ago just a block from where I am sitting right this minute typing this up for you to read it and get out of it the same kick I did. She types too—the woman. She is always typing, is my understanding—or was, back when I used to see her somewhat, let us just fancy, social-wise. As a matter of fact, when I said to her, “What’s up? I mean what are you doing here in this neighborhood? Do you have a pass, were you issued a pass, a license maybe, any kind of a permit you can show me authorizing you to come up here into this restricted district of mine?” she laughed. I think she thought I was trying to be funny. Let me tell you something—that’s the one thing I never try to be—namely, funny. No, no, I was just doing what I could to maybe get away with having to snoggle for the usual sort of talk, lay on her a smart-aleck greeting of a sort, which apposition I only went to the bother of just now constructing so I could say sort and sorts, repeating and repeating stuff to stuff the insidious silence with insidious sound, however otiose or bootless or inutile dexterity appears (to be?) on the surface. You get what I’m getting at?—the stressing of the effect of there being something sly down beneath down under things as regards below the surface, see? But which surface, eh wot? Or, anyway, surface of exactly what, eh wot? (You see? Can’t help myself. It’s like this thing I’ve got which is like an irresistibly compulsive thing.) Oh, boy, I am all of a sudden so tired. I, Gordon, son of Reggie, am all of a sudden so suddenly utterly all in, just fucking pooped. Like, you know, like weary, wearied, ausgespielt if you’re German, right? Nap. But, hey, before I fall and hit my head, I’m just going to go ahead and take myself a little teensy tiny nap, fair enough? Be back in a shake, I promise.

His Day Is Done (Book Acquired, 1.07.2014)

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His Day Is Done: A Nelson Mandela Tribute is a slim hardback book of a poem that takes fewer than five minutes to recite.

Here are the opening lines:

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I’m restraining myself here but oh dear lord this is pretty bad poetry and there’s something that strikes me as utterly crass about the whole business of this little book, although I have no doubt that Angelou’s intentions are the purest (and even publisher Random House’s)—but yeesh.