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 #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:


McSweeney’s #4 (Box of Books Acquired 6.14.2012)


The novelist John Warner (The Funny Man), in an act of incredible kindness, sent me a copy of McSweeney’s #4, which he helped to put out years ago. In one of our emails, John offers the following:

It could be the best issue ever, a kind of platonic ideal of the McSweeney’s aesthetic before people started saying that things had a McSweeney’s aesthetic, a more innocent time if you will. My memory is that we were selling them at a live event at the Ethiopian Diamond restaurant in Chicago that we set up to help promote Neal Pollack’s book, and somehow the leftovers wound up in my trunk and I’ve been hauling them place to place ever since. . .

It’s a sort of fun artifact of the early/carefree days of McSweeney’s before Dave was DAVE, and the whole thing was still very haphazard.

It’s difficult to overstate the range of writers here: Lydia Davis, Jonathan Lethem, George Saunders, Rick Moody, Haruki Murakami, a three-act play by Denis Johnson, and much, much more:


 There are also many short stories, including “On the Set” by John Warner, his second published story:


It’s wonderfully absurd.

To read something hilarious and absurd and ultimately kind of touching, read John’s interview with critic Kevin Morris, who hated The Funny Man.

Book Shelves #18, 4.29.2012


Book shelves series #18, eighteenth Sunday of 2012.

Lots of issues of McSweeney’s on this shelf. I abandoned The InstructionsSome Tintin omnibuses. Crumb-illustrated Kafka bio. Bookended by Will Eisner’s masterwork A Contract with God:


A Chris Ware comic from McSweeney’s #13:


The Best Book Cover of 2011 (So Far)

Our Favorite Book Covers of 2010

We know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover and blah blah blah, but really, c’mon, aesthetic sensibilities go a long way. Here are a some of our favorite covers for books published in 2010.

Has Melville House made a book that’s not really really good looking? This NY indie not only put out some of our favorite reading of 2010, they also put out some of the best designed books of the year. Books like Jean-Christophe Valtat’s Aurorarama and Mahendra Singh and Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting Carroll evince a diverse aesthetic range unified by simple and attractive designs. We absolutely love the cover for Tao Lin’s Richard Yates; the visual non sequitur dovetails nicely with the book’s arbitrary name.

In fact, it’s a trio of forthcoming books from Melville House that prompted this post. In January, they’ll release the first in a series of books by Nobel winning German author Heinrich Böll. The first three books, which arrived at Biblioklept World Headquarters yesterday, are beautiful, simple, and elegant.

We’ve started The Clown; a review of the book’s guts forthcoming. Another book with a cool cover that we haven’t read yet is Adam Ross’s Mr. Peanut. We know someone on Twitter pointed out that skulls are the smiley faces of this decade but we can’t remember who gets credit, so let’s just pretend you heard that witticism here first.

We haven’t read Adam Levin’s mammoth début The Instructions yet, but a copy arrived today, and man is it beautiful. McSweeney’s knows how to do a hardback right–why encumber a book with a dusty dust jacket that’s going to get in the reader’s way when some gold embossing will do much nicer? Our copy is white but we couldn’t find an image of a white one on the internet, so here’s a blue one because Jesus Christ we’re not about to start photographing books now, are we?

We like both covers for Tom McCarthy’s C, but maybe we’re biased here because we loved the book so much.

We also love the cover of Charles Burns’s X’ed Out.

Picador’s British edition of Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature in the Americas is somehow playful and deadly serious at the same time (just like the book).

Another one on the posthumous tip: We’re not big into tattoos but we can’t help digging this cover for David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System.

Cormac McCarthy’s Self-portrait

From Burt Britton’s collection of self-portraits, um, Self-portrait. McSweeney’s 34 has taken the work as inspiration. See a full gallery here, including portraits from Jorge Luis Borges, Maurice Sendak, and Margaret Atwood, among others. This goofy Cormac McCarthy self-portrait is priceless, especially from a guy famous for images of trees hanging with dead babies.

Jonathan Lethem’s Self-portrait

From McSweeney’s 34, out now.

Poster Making

If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the ‘Fuck you’ signs in the world. It’s impossible. –Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye

Royal Art Lodge piece from Lots of Things Like This, a slim volume of pictures with words (or words with pictures?) included with McSweeney’s #27 (two other books comprise the issue: a volume of short stories including pieces by Jim Shepard and Stephen King, and a really cool notebook of weird doodles and crazy thoughts by Art Spiegelman). Other artists represented in Lots of Things Like This include Magritte, Goya, Warhol, Raymond Pettibon, Jeffrey Brown, Leonard Cohen, David Mamet, David Berman, Basquiat, and more.

Summer Reading List: Anthologies to Know and Love

No summer reading is complete without imbibing the variegated prose of an anthology. The following are the literary equivalents of skillfully-detailed mixtapes, made by a friend who wishes to communicate only that he or she has your best interest at heart.

The 2008 O. Henry Prize Stories anthology is a great way to play catch up on all of the reading you missed last year. Culled from publications like Zoetrope, Harper’s, Granta, and Tin House, this anthology features established masters like William Gass and Alice Munro along with newer voices. There are plenty of highlights and no duds. Sharon Cain’s “The Necessities of Certain Behaviors” explores an amorphous world of gender-bending, while Stephen Millhauser’s “A Change in Fashion” imagines a new mode where women cover every inch of their flesh from the gaze of men. Lore Segal’s “Other People’s Deaths” perfectly captures the painful awkwardness and shame we experience when encountering, um, other people’s deaths. Similarly, the title of Tony Tulathimutte’s “Scenes from the Life of the Only Girl in Water Shield, Alaska” is spot-on, and Gass’s contribution, “A Little History of Modern Music,” is the funniest monologue we’ve read all year. But our favorite in the collection has to be Edward P. Jones’s “Bad Neighbors,” which examines the changing fortunes of an African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. A great collection, and if a story disappoints you, there’ll be three to make up for it.

In the ultimate in lazy reviewing, we will let the title of McSweeney’s kids anthology Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things That Aren’t as Scary, Maybe, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents Who Disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Farf, and One Other Story We Couldn’t Quite Finish, So Maybe You Could Help Us Out stand as its own summary. However, this is a beautiful book with lots of lovely pictures, and the collection is worth it for Nick Hornby’s story alone. Good stuff.

Edited by superstar Chris Ware, The Best American Comics 2007 serves as a delicious tasting menu of some of the best comix published in the past few years. Although hardcore comix fans will no doubt have already read the selections from Charles Burns’s Black Hole and Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve, there’s plenty here for aficionados and newbies alike.

Chances are you’ve read a number of the canonical texts in 50 Great Short Stories, but it’s also likely you haven’t read them in years. We’ve had this book for years, and have revisited often to indulge in old favorites for new inspiration. Classics like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Hemingway’s “The Three-Day Blow” nestle up against lesser-reads like Edmund Wilson’s “The Man Who Shot Snapping Turtles” and Francis Steegmuller’s “The Foreigner.” And have you read Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” since high school? No? Shame on you! What about Carson McCuller’s “The Jockey”? Dorothy Parker? Kipling? Consider it a light crash course in great literature.