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

Books, Writers

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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).

Two by Grace Paley (Books Acquired, 3.07.2014)

Books, Writers

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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)

Books

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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.

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

Books, Literature, Writers

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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)

Books, Literature, Writers

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!)

Art, Books, Comics, Literature, Writers

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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)

Books, Literature, Writers

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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)

Books, Literature, Poetry, Writers

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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.

A Philosophy of Walking (Book Acquired, Some Time in December of 2013)

Books, Writers

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A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros is new in English translation from Verso Books. Their blurb:

In A Philosophy of Walking, Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B—the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble—and shows what it tells us about ourselves.

He draws attention to other thinkers who also saw walking as a central part of their practice, and ponders over things like why Henry David Thoreau entered Walden Woods in pursuit of the wilderness; the reason Rimbaud walked in a fury while Nerval rambled to cure his melancholy. We learn how Rousseau had to walk to think, Nietzsche in order to write, while Kant walked to distract himself from contemplation. Brilliant, erudite and always entertaining, Gros is certain to make you reconsider this everyday activity.

I had hoped to crack into this a bit more over the holidays, but got wrapped up in another Verso book, Balestrini’s Tristano—and also like four other books. More to come.