Two or three Barry Hannahs, depending on how you look at it (Books acquired, 14 and 18 Aug. 2017)

img_7707-1

Earlier this summer I visited Alias East Books East in Los Angeles, where the clerk kindly let me handle a signed first edition of Barry Hannah’s novel RayIt was like sixty bucks, so I didn’t handle it too fondly. But somehow the image of the signature rattled around in my silly skull all summer—probably because I spent a big chunk of July slurping up Long, Last, Happy. I wanted to find out some info about Hannah’s last quartet of stories—the last four stories in L, L, H—and doing a search of his name in Twitter led me to a link for a signed first-edition hardback copy of his slim 1985 collection Captain Maximus. (The title is a joke on his then-editor, Gordon “Captain Fiction” Lish, who apparently Hannah referred to as “Captain Minimus” in some of their letters). I might have had a scotch or two, but I bid on the book (eighteen bucks). No one else bid on it, so it’s mine now.

The cover is lovely, purple and orange, designed by Fred Marcellino, and under the bright shiny jacket is this:

img_7709

I love the reserved arrogance of those initials!

And of course the signature, dated five years after the book’s publication and geographically anchored to the town my grandfather and namesake attended college in—

img_7710

I didn’t actually own a copy of Captain Maximus beforehand, and I think the only stories from it included in Long, Last, Happy (which, by the way is a great starting place for Hannah) are “Fans,” “Ride, Fly, Penetrate, Loiter” and “Even Greenland” (you can read “Even Greenland” at Ben Marcus’s website). This particular copy has clearly never been read.  Which leads me to this afternoon. I went to my favorite used bookstore to pick up a copy of Ishmael Reed’s The Terrible Threes—I just finished The Terrible Twos, a novel that is too prescient and too funny and too cruel and you should read it read it read it—and well anyway, I went to see if maybe they had a copy of Yonder Stands Your Orphan, which they didn’t the last time I was there, but they did today. Under it was a well-thumbed 1986 Penguin paperback edition of Captain Maximus. I need to read Yonder (which hell by the way my god what a bad cover c’mon people) before I can write the Thing I want to write on the final stories in Long, Last, Happy (or at least I think I need to read it, or anyway, I want to). And the second copy of Captain Maximus, at three dollars in store credit, is something I don’t have to worry about cramming into a pocket or dropping into a bathtub or eventually giving away to a friend.

Advertisements

Kronos and Kairos — Carmen Chami

carmen_chami-_khronos_y_kair__s-___leo_sobre_tela-_150_x_105cm

Kronos and Kairos by Carmen Chami (b. 1974)

Mother with Two Children — Egon Schiele

mother-with-two-children-1917es

Mother with Two Children, 1917 by Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Diomedes Devoured by His Horses (After Moreau) — Sandra Yagi

Diomedes Devoured by His Horses (after Moreau), 2009 by Sandra Yagi

Angel of Anatomy — Leonor Fini

tumblr_lxcp4uy2Sk1qghk7bo1_540

Angel of Anatomy, 1949 by Leonor Fini (1907-1996)

Diomedes Devoured by His Horses — Gustave Moreau

Diomedes Devoured by His Horses (1865) by Gustave Moreau (1826 – 1898)

Boy on Fence — Ken Danby

35267d889c6787ffaa80b692e09c7ca3--canadian-art-fence.jpg

Boy on Fence, 1965 by Ken Danby (1940-2007)

Two Views — Samuel Bak

bk1126_images

Two Views, 2007 by Samuel Bak (b. 1933)

The Reader — Grace Cossington Smith

the-reader-1916.jpg!Large

The Reader, 1916 by Grace Cossington Smith (1908-1971)

Untitled — William Eggleston

eggleston-tomatoes

Untitled (from The Democratic Forest), 1983-1986 by William Eggleston (b. 1938)

Melting Point of Ice — Jean-Michel Basquiat

56ee5be9a7ef519c1cb9bb8b5f2602df_7514

Melting Point of Ice, 1984 by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)

Melancholia — Otto Dix

Melancholia, 1930 by Otto Dix (1891-1969)

On buying a second copy of William Gaddis’s JR (Book acquired, 5 Aug. 2017)

img_7680

I was at the bookstore last week, killing a spare hour, looking for nothing in particular, when I spotted a first edition Knopf paperback copy of William Gaddis’s novel J R. The book is one of my favorites—I first read it in 2012 and then again in 2016 (which maybe means I’ll reread it again in 2020?). I’ll cobble really quickly from my 2016 review here:

Only a handful of novels are so perfectly simultaneously comic and tragic. Moby-Dick? Yes. Gravity’s Rainbow? Absolutely. (G R and J R, a duo published two years apart, spiritual twins, massive American novels that maybe America hardly deserves (or, rather: theses novels were/are totally the critique America deserves)). I guess maybe what I’m saying is J  R is the Great American Novel to Come . . .

The book is a performance, an opera, an essay on America, a howl, a condemnation, a farce, a romance, a tragedy. When I read it in 2012 I couldn’t believe how prescient it was, a feeling reconfirmed with force four years later. J R diagnoses and describes and ridicules American corporatism, the industrial-military-entertainment-banking-education-etc. -complex. And then it weeps.

. . . in J R the reader becomes the performer, making the voices, singing the voices, (muttering the voices), navigating all the trash, the entropy—J R is a novel of unraveling, where art trips over commercial trash and literal trash–old ads, betting tickets, stock ticker tape, phone book pages, train tickets, scraps. Is there another American novel so aware of its own textuality, its own metatextuality—I mean one that doesn’t goddamn wink all the time at its readers like so much clever postmodern slop?

Well so and anyway, I was browsing the shelves of my local, looking for nothing, as I said, although I was ambling through the “GA-” section in the hopes of maybe picking up a copy of William Gass’s The Tunnel, when I spied the J R, with its bold oh-so-seventies design, its big stiff spine unbroken and seemingly unbent. After handling it a few minutes, I resigned myself to a pic and a tweet—

I didn’t intend to buy another paperback copy of J R, even a first edition, even though it was only seven bucks, and even though I have trade credit out the ying-yang there—I mean, I have a perfectly fine Penguin edition; better to leave the J R  for some other person to acquire, no? But qithin a few minutes Twitter folks had talked me out of my plan to not acquire it, advice that was perhaps not unwanted.

img_7681

The Knopf edition—the cover design is by Janet Halverson, by the way—has a much longer summary blurb than my 1993 edition (and indeed, a much longer summary blurb than one usually sees on a paperback). The Penguin edition features an introduction by Frederick Karl (that readers should wait to read until after they’ve finished the book), a bibliography of “Suggestions for Further Reading,” and a new dedication page:  “For Matthew: Once more unto the breach, dear friend, once more” (I’m guessing the dedication is to Gaddis’s son Matthew). The ’93 Penguin does not have this though:

img_7683

But! The Penguin edition’s colophon promises that “Errors in the original publication have been corrected by the author for the first Penguin edition” (1985 btw).

Other than that, the two edition are pretty much typographically the same—the pages are aligned, and both editions are consistent with the same typographical oddities, like JR’s famous handwritten “Alsaka” memo and his logo designs and Gibbs’s pocket scrap citations.

The big difference between the two editions (besides the cover, obviously) can be summed up in this image—the seventies Knopf is above the nineties Penguin:

img_7682

The Penguin edition is slightly larger with much better binding. I’ve read it twice and I never had to break its spine; I’m pretty sure that the Knopf I picked up has never been read—and also that a serious reading would crack its spine pretty badly.

The most recent edition of J R is from Dalkey, and includes an essay by Rick Moody as its introduction. I don’t have a copy of it, but it has 752 pages—the other editions have 726 pages (which the Gaddis Annotations project match up to). I’ve handled the Dalkey, and I recall it being smaller and stiffer than the Penguin. Basically, I think, as of now, the Penguin edition is probably the best option for anyone wanting to read the book. So I love the cover of the 70’s first edition I’ve got, but I doubt I’ll be reading it soon (or, like in 2020 when I read the book again).

In the Dust Storm — Jacek Malczewski

W Tumanie (In the Dust Storm), 1893-1894 by Jacek Malczewski

Rainsong — Martin Wittfooth

rainsong_wittfooth

Rainsong, 2015 by Martin Wittfooth (b. 1981)

The Great Day of His Wrath — John Martin

The Great Day of His Wrath, c. 1853 by John Martin (1789-1854)

The Slothful — Gustave Dore

the-slothful

The Slothful, 1838 by Gustave Dore (1832-1883)