- Laszlo Krasznahorkai – The Melancholy of Resistance is an amazing and powerful book. Called by Susan Sontag “the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse” this book deserves a read! Long, flowing sentences depicting a village, a visiting circus, and a giant whale in a truck. Turned into the great film Werckmeister Harmonies by Bela Tarr.
- E.M. Forster – An excellent example of the New Directions Alvin Lustig dust jackets from the New Classics series.
- Frank Bidart – This book won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was nominated for the National Book Award. Nice associative inscription to fellow writer.
- Karl Shapiro – Nice collection by Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner.
- Yasunari Kawabata – Nobel Prize winners (1968) collection of over 70 of his short short stories. A form he practiced through much of his career that may give the reader an intimate, distilled look at his art.
- Michael Punke – The first edition of this tale of Hugo Glass, the driven (mad?) mountain man, who, after surviving a bear attack, tracks the men who abandoned him. Turned into the powerful and beautiful film, The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Alejandro Inarritu.
One of my favorite bloggers recently posted this great piece on good considerations for the holidays. A gift guide for small/Indie press. Conversational Reading and related site, Quarterly Conversation are for me long-time go-to sites for excellent coverage of small press, literature in translation, and literature in general.
Each year I tend to do one of those “best reads of the year” lists, but this year I’ve decided to do things a little differently. Those lists tend to feature a lot of the same titles, and if you follow my Internet presence you’ve probably already got a pretty good idea of what books I’ve been really enjoying in 2017.
So instead what I’m going to do this year is do something along the lines of a gift guide to small and indie presses you may want to buy from this holiday season. I think probably everyone knows what the holiday season means to businesses and retailers, and presses are no different—this is make or break time for a lot of the publishers you love, so if you go and buy a few books from them for yourself and others, it’ll make a difference.
So here I’m going to recommend a book from each press that I think you should make an effort to check out this year. Look at them as entry points to presses I hope you get to know and buy a lot of books form in December. These books aren’t limited to things I read in 2017—they’re just great books that I think embody something important about each press. And I’m also going to try hard to get as many female, queer, & writers of color as possible in here. Continue reading here…
Here is one of my favorite albums of the year. It’s actually from 2016, but I just discovered this artist. Initially I read a write-up about Peter Broderick’s work somewhere, and selected this based on the album art alone. It really just stands out in the record racks. The music inside is stunning! Record label Erased Tapes has a free sampler here where you can get a taste. It is a fairly short album, but with your eyes closed in a quiet moment, the music herein will truly stay with you. The repetitive, equally haunting and charming piano playing compels repeat plays: I once listened for 2 hours straight…amazing art. Erased Tapes represents other brilliant musicians/composers such as Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds.
Some authors and titles indicative of the 80s, early 90s. Larry Brown, Amy Hempel, National Book Award winner Denis Johnson, W.P. Kinsella (that would be the book inspiration behind the beloved film, Field of Dreams), and enfant terrible Bret Easton Ellis, known primarily for the shocker American Psycho. Also, a nice copy of the undoubted high-benchmark from the era, Cathedral, by Raymond Carver. And what a beautiful canary-yellow jacket on Eddie and the Cruisers!
I am very excited to being doing my first Pop-Up shop this week! I will be displaying 100-200 books on Friday. Not having an actual retail space naturally makes it difficult to let potential customers see my books, so events such as this, I hope are a way to introduce myself and inventory. This one is at a cool art space, with music and art. I think some of the books will fit right in.
I came to Simon Leys’ (pen name of Pierre Ryckmans; 1935-2014) work by the amazing publisher New York Review of Books (NYRB Classics), a house that strives to reprint “lost” or “forgotten” books along with first appearances. As stated on their site:
The NYRB Classics series is dedicated to publishing an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of. NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.
There’s is a list that I feel I can trust, admire, and look forward to. More about following publishers in a future post.
I first read The Hall of Uselessness, a few years back. I had never heard of Leys before, but because it was NYRB, perhaps read a nice review somewhere, and was struck by the title, I ordered the book. It didn’t disappoint, with his wide-ranging interests in literature and Chinese culture, along with his excellent writing, made for a satisfying and deep, reading experience.
Now, just this weekend, I finished The Death of Napoleon. Originally published in 1986, translated by the author and Patricia Clancy in 1991, NYRB brought out their edition in 2006. At 130 pages, this is not the typical historical-fiction tome; it lacks broad sweeps and swirling casts of characters, there are few plot points, and it is fairly slim in minute descriptions. In fact, as the Penelope Fitzgerald blurb states, on top of being historical fiction, it is a “fable, and Simon Leys is an expert fabulist.”
This tale focuses on Napoleon, the epic war-genius, emperor, conqueror, but the wonderful thing is that Leys eschews all these features that for so long have made Napoleon a captivating figure, and writes an alternative end to the once large persona. It is a book about finding and understanding oneself, about rebirth and second chances. It is about being haunted by the past.
The book begins with Napoleon’s escape from Saint Helena island already concluded. Aboard a ship as an anonymous cabin hand, ushered through the cogs of a machine set in motion by his loyalists, the book’s character is on a path to reclaim his former glory, yet uncertainty pervades his thoughts and adventures hence forward. Leys has captured the tired and exhaustive atmosphere created by a vacuum. There is Napoleon’s physical deterioration, delusional veterans of Waterloo, madness of the few loyal hopefuls, and sadness.
Alternative history is a fun and interesting game, where an author can play out all kinds of imaginings. I found Simon Leys book so compelling because where he could have played the epic card, redrawn on the past’s full canvas, he created a quiet, subtle book. As Gabriel Josipovichi says: “…Simon Leys throws light on our universal need to bring inner and outer reality together, to understand who we really are.”
Just saw that this artist is having an exhibition next month. His work is called contemporary folk, outsider, naive, probably among other things, but I think it’s great work. He has been building this body of images for years, and there lies a consistency that I really appreciate. He’s a master of color and composition. Much of his earlier pieces were simple graphite on paper, but now there’s an equally appealing, and perhaps stronger collage component. I love that the collage elements are mostly his own little pieces attached to the surface, as opposed to primarily cutting out found images, though there is that too.
The work can seem crude, very personal, strange, even off-putting at times, but this is okay. He has a vast world of story telling and references, and it seems often to resemble the strangeness we all are accustomed to.
In addition to the flat work, he has exhibited many sculptures. These are buildings made of found and glued materials such as match boxes, paper, cardboard, etc. They are strange, precarious structures, that often remind me of decaying modernist, Eastern Bloc cities, worn out Brutalist architecture.
I had the opportunity to briefly meet Mr. Nordstrom, and his wife, the great Swedish painter Mamma Andersson, in New York for one of her openings. Well, it wasn’t a meeting so much, as I got in line to get books signed by them both and awkwardly say how much I love their work, but it was an incredible trip, taken last second and spontaneously. Check out his work if you have the chance.
Here is a sample of some recent inclusions to the Black Forest list. These authors and titles represent the direction I am looking to build my inventory. Literature in translation, and perhaps of a somewhat edgier or experimental sort, though I believe, you will find these authors are representatives of the high quality, important global literary tradition most already know. My hope is to widen my customers’ experience and knowledge of those artists that may be less well known. I have long had a fascination of European modern and contemporary arts, as my Artists posts may illustrate.
In this particular batch you will see the First American printing of Juan the Landless, by Juan Goytisolo, the third in his Alvaro Mendiola trilogy. These works were banned from publication in Spain under the Franco government. Goytisolo passed this summer, and an informative send-off was written by William Grimes at NY Times.
Here is also the First American printing of Life and Fate, by Vasily Grossman, a novel that he was told by the Russian authorities, could not be published for 200 or 300 years. Some compare this work to Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The book was smuggled out in microforms, and the author never saw its publication.
I have also included the First printing of Robery Bly’s translation of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, Jaroslav Hasek’s The Good Soldier Hasek, poetry by Zbigniew Herbert, and Celine’s Death on the Installment Plan, translated by Ralph Manheim.
In contrast to this last writer’s poor reputation and sometimes hateful, bitter works, (influential and significant as some may be) I have included Wolfgang Langhoff’s Rubber Truncheon.
Arrested by the Gestapo in 1933, he spent thirteen months in prisons and Börgermoor and Lichtenberg concentration camps. This book, published in 1935, became one of the first published eyewitness accounts of Nazi evil and brutality in the concentration camps.
I hope you find yourself curious and pulled to exploring some of these works, and others that can be found under most recently listed. Some of these writers may be intimidating, for their style or unflinching content, but I also find the view can be compelling, or at least informative, certainly works of art, and perhaps relevant to where things in our own country currently stand. I hope to immerse myself in such work, to get lost, find myself, and ultimately, learn something about this difficult effort of humanity.
The usually small and understated works by Raoul de Keyser have called me back to them for years. Much of his work impresses on me how powerful a quiet and private vision can be.