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:



Book Shelves #30, 7.21.2012




Book shelves series #30, thirtieth Sunday of 2012

See a full length shot of this book shelf (or don’t).

Lots of publication series editions here, including this batch of Melville House Art of the Contemporary Novella:


I reviewed most of these and they’re all very good—especially Sandokan.

Some ratty ratty Penguin Classics that I procured from various institutions I won’t name here. The Mallory was a particular obsession for a few years:


The Rousseau Coloring Book was a gift from a friend to our daughter, but I stole it and put it up here.



I reviewed all of Picador’s BIG IDEAS // small books series; I actually got a new one, Privacy, in the mail the other day. Violence and  Humiliation are particularly good.

Next to those: various World of Art series books, most of them my wife’s. (Bonus points if you guess mine correctly):


I have no idea why these books are grouped here like this; I’m guessing they were all in the same box when we moved. I know we have multiple copies of several of these:


There’s a basket with a Klee book and some mini umbrellas and other stuff, not pictured, and then this lot on the end, including to “Introducing” books that are remainders from my freshman year of college; they are terrible and I should get rid of them. I stole this edition of The Stranger from my high school in the 10th or 11th grade. The Chronicles of Narnia box set was a gift from my aunt when I was like seven or eight:




Book Shelves #29, 7.15.2012


Book shelves series #29, twenty-ninth Sunday of 2012

Lots of hardbacks on this long, long shelf. The Vonneguts above were particularly important to me when I was young. They were my father’s. I read them surreptitiously for years and then outright appropriated them at some point. The matching Dodd, Mead hardbacks were rescued from a school I worked at for years. My wife made the vase that serves as a bookend. The copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell that doesn’t quite fit in the frame remains unread.


The BFG: a classic. I reviewed Wabi Sabi. Next to the Crumb:


I found Holidays in a box of free books in a library lobby. Love it. Here’s this week’s schedule of holidays:


One of my favorite books ever is Mitsou, a book that Balthus did when he was like 10 or 12 or something:


It’s about a young boy who gets a cat and loves the cat and then loses the cat. It’s heartbreaking. Image:


And next to this one:


Shelf’s end:


Book Shelves #26, 6.24.2012


Book shelves series #26, twenty-sixth Sunday of 2012: Some old art books.

This little shelf sits next to a solitary couch in a den/fireplace room that abuts the eat-in kitchen. The shelf is mostly to hold the occasional drink if feet are propped on the coffee table. There are old art books in here, dating back to high school and college, when my wife and I (separately, of course, in those days) still bought lots and lots of art books, before the internet made accessibility to images so ubiquitous. As such, the shelf holds books that reflected our tastes of fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years ago: Lots of Pre-Raphaelite and Romantic stuff (hers) and lots of surrealist/modernist/cubist stuff (mine). Anyway. These rarely get dug out these days. If I want to check out Burne-Jones I usually visit an online gallery.

The portrait of Joan Miro and his daughter in the upper right corner is by the painter who called himself Balthus. I love the painting. It’s deeply creepy but also tender.

Book Shelves #25, 6.17.2012


Book shelves series #25, twenty-fifth Sunday of 2012: Cookbooks and some photo albums.

We’ve moved out of the living room and looped into the kitchen/eat-in dining room. Cookbooks and photo albums occupy a little-built in under the eat-in counter.

There’s a shelf of cookbooks at the bottom of a buffet-thing. In the good old days it held vinyl LPs.

Book Shelves #24, 6.10.2012


Book shelves series #24, twenty-fourth Sunday of 2012: In which we glance at canonical comics.

So we’ve hit the last shelf in a series of triplets; next week: new room.

This shelf holds graphic novels, including stuff by Alan Moore, Marjane Satrapi, David Mazzucchelli, Jeff Smith, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware. There’s also most of Dave Sim’s epic series Cerebus here.


I wrote about Dave Sim and Cerebus back in week 6 of this project, when I looked at the actual comic books I owned in the series. From that post:

 I bought issues of Cerebus intermittently for years at a time, usually getting frustrated and then waiting for the “phone book” graphic novel editions of the series. Sim, along with background artist Gerhard, produced 300 issues of Cerebus over 25 years. The issues from the early ’80s to the early ’90s are brilliant; eventually Sim cracked though and went on an insane, reactionary (and arguably deeply misogynistic) bent. He created his own religion, a mix of hardline Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and the later books in the series suffered greatly, as the book detoured to chronicle projects that seemed far outside its original scope (including strange, long satires of Hemingway and Fitzgerald).

These are the phone books I referenced. Looking over them again, I keep reminding myself to try and reread the last two books to see if I missed anything.

Somewhat at random, I opened Reads, the novel that signaled the beginning of Sim’s estrangement from sanity. It opened to this page, part of a climactic scene between Cerebus and Cirin, leader of the matriarchy that will rule Iest (don’t ask):


Book Shelves #23, 6.03.2012


Book shelves series #23, twenty-third Sunday of 2012

Okay. So, a bit later than usual getting this in. It’s the daughter’s birthday and I’m recovering from a Saturday party and I’ve been out in the garden other day and some other excuses.

Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Harry Crews, Flannery O’Connor—and then some books that seem misshelved. Calvino used to hang out with Umberto Eco but that shelf got too crowded. The John Barth should be with the other John Barth books, but they’re all mass market paperbacks in shabby condition.

I like the cover of the Breece D’J Pancake collection:


Lydia Cabrera’s Afro-Cuban Tales is this secret awesome book that almost no one has read. It was one of the first books I reviewed on this blog and the review is so woefully short that I’ll just cut and paste it below:


In a sublime synthesis of traditional folklore and imagistic surrealism, Lydia Cabrera’s Afro-Cuban Tales questions the normative spaces occupied by bodies. Deriving from animist tradition, her characters exist in an impossible multiplicity of spaces, being at once animals and plants, humans and gods. Cabrera’s characters endure trials of biological identity and social co-existence, and through these problems they internalize authority, evince taboos, and create a social code. Cabrera’s trickster characters provoke, challenge, or otherwise disrupt the symbolic order of this code. In “Bregantino Bregantín,” a story that recalls Freud’s primal horde theory, as well as the work of more contemporary theorists such as Julia Kristeva and Judith Butler,  narcissist Bull kills all the males of his kingdom and takes all the women for himself.  The sadistic titular turtle of “Papa Turtle and Papa Tiger” uses the power of his dead friend’s antlers to shame, torment, and torture the other animals of his community. And in the magical realism of “Los Compadres,” Capinche seeks to put the horns on his best friend Evaristo by sleeping with his wife–a transgression that ends in necrophilia. This union of sex and death, creation and destruction is the norm in Cabrera’s green and fecund world; the trickster’s displacements of order invariably result in reanimation, transformation, and regeneration—the drawing, stepping-over, and re-drawing of boundaries.

Book Shelves #21, 5.20.2012


Book shelves series #21, twenty-first Sunday of 2012: William T. Vollmann and David Foster Wallace

Sorry about the glare in the photo above. As I seem to attest weekly, photography is hard. Photographing books is hard. Lighting issues, glare etc. Anyway, this shelf is half Vollmann, half DFW. I’ve written so extensively about these guys on the site that I won’t bother linking to anything here. A few months ago, Gaddis’s JR and The Recognitions was hanging out here, but then I put Expelled and Imperial on the shelf, bought Everything and More, and also picked up some more Gaddis, and, well, anyway, had to move him up with Joyce, where he seems to belong. The paperback of The Pale King is a review copy; it has additional stuff. Maybe I should part with the hardback. It seems ridiculous to have them both.

The copy of Girl with Curious Hair is extremely important to me, as silly as that sounds. It was one of the first books I ever “reviewed” on this blog, back when I still focused almost entirely on books I’d stolen or books I’d never returned to. From that review:

Scott Martin was kind enough to loan me this book. Did he know that it would forever change the way I read? It was the first semester of my freshman year in college, and I was slowly reaching beyond stuff like Henry Miller, Wm Burroughs and Franz Kafka. David Foster Wallace’s short story collection Girl With Curious Hair introduced me to a whole new world of writing. Reading DFW is like having a very witty friend tell you a moving and funny story over a few beers. He’s hilarious, thought-provoking, and not nearly as hard to read as people seem to think.

I leave the bookmark I’ve been using in almost every book I read. When I pulled Girl from the shelf, I found a Polaroid of my cat:


He’s just a kitten here. His name is Remy. He no longer lives with us, but he’s still around. We moved a year ago from a bungalow set above the ground (i.e. with cat crawl space) to a ranch on a block (i.e. no crawl space). He didn’t want to move because he was having this romance with a stray my daughter named Pearly. I eventually trapped him and moved him to the new place, but I foolishly forgot he’d have no place to run and hide while getting acclimated. He ran away. A few months later I found him down the street. He looked happy and came up and talked to us. He followed us back to the new place and we gave him some people food treats. Then he left again. We seem him every now and then. He’s gotten surprisingly fat and seems to like the new people he’s taken up with. They have two boys, a little older than my kids. Sometimes I miss my cat.

Book Shelves #20, 5.13.2012

1.4.  Things which aren’t books but are often met with in libraries

Photographs in gilded brass frames, small engravings, pen and ink drawings, dried flowers in stemmed glasses, matchbox-holders containing, or not, chemical matches (dangerous), lead soldiers, a photograph of Ernest Renan in his study at the College de France, postcards, dolls’ eyes, tins, packets of salt, pepper and mustard from Lufthansa, letter-scales, picture hooks, marbles, pipe-cleaners, scale models of vintage cars, multicoloured pebbles and gravel, ex-votos, springs.

 —From Georges Perec’s essay “The Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books”


Book shelves series #20, twentieth Sunday of 2012: In Which I Try to Prove I Am Not Just Phoning It In

Last week I was accused of “going through the motions” with this project, which accusation may or may not be true. I was out of town on vacation, and last week’s post was composed a few days ahead of time in a harried rush of end-of-the-semester grading + summer semester planning + packing + bad bad writer’s block.

The shelf featured last week is the top shelf in the shot above.

Here is a detail of the shelf below, which clearly features things which are not books:


My wife and I—not actually married at the time, kids really—bought these kokeshi dolls when we were living in Japan. We lived in Tokyo, but I’m almost positive we bought these on a vacation in Kyoto. (Or maybe it was in Kamakura. Or I suppose it could have been in Tokyo).


The screen in the background was a gift from a student, as was the screen in the shot below, a shelf that twins this one (if anyone cares at all, the shelf would be sequenced between shelves 10 and 11).



Book Shelves #19, 5.06.2012


Book shelves series #19, nineteenth Sunday of 2012.

When I started this project, this shelf was all Tolkien and Joyce; now it’s mostly Gaddis and Joyce.

I have dupes of most of the Joyce books here; there’s also Joyce criticism/guides on the shelf.

Another angle. Glare is horrible. iPhone is not a good camera; lots of glare; shelf is much taller than me, etc.:


Here’s a tight shot of the Brownie Six-16 that serves as bookend:


Something from Finnegans Wake :


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:


Book Shelves #17, 4.22.2012

Book shelves series #17, seventeenth Sunday of 2012.


Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Camus, Nabokov, Celine, Kafka.


Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones with Revere movie camera as bookend. Littell’s lurid, bizarre book is only shelved here temporarily (he’s in too-rarefied company, perhaps).


A friend gave me this in high school.

Book Shelves #16, 4.15.2012


Book shelves series #16, sixteenth Sunday of 2012.

It’s hard to photograph books, and using an iPhone 3gs probably doesn’t help. Lots of glare. Anyway: This shelf houses mostly Melville, with some Hawthorne, Poe, and Whitman, as well as some critical works on the American Renaissance movement. (Henry James and F.O. Matthiessen). I have other versions of a lot of these books, including a fraternal twin in my office, a bit bulkier (Emerson, Dickinson, Thoreau, etc.), although these days I’m apt to go to the Kindle for American Renaissance stuff. Here’s a better angle, perhaps:


The version of Typee is bizarre: no colophon, no publisher info, just text. I love these midcentury Rinehart Editions of Hathorne and Melville stuff: