Black Forest on Instagram

Black Forest Bookshop has made its second plunge into the social sphere. Please have a look at the burgeoning Instagram page here. It’s early on and yet minimal, but be sure to check back and follow along for archives, new releases, and occasional other items.

Recent in the Arts!

  • A catalog from the 60s of nun & Pop Artist Sister Mary Corita; signed by the artist on front cover
  • One of the first extended essays on Modern Art, published by Alfred Stieglitz’s “291” Gallery. Plates show works by Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, and Picabia
  • A full run of infamous Avant Garde Magazine; includes John Lennon, Picasso, Marilyn Monroe, and general coverage of the counter-cultural movement.

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More Literature in Translation

As Black Forest Bookshop continues to grow, I am increasing my focus around literature in translation. It is most often what I read for reasons I find myself never quite sure how to explain. Undoubtedly, my discovery of W.G. Sebald and Thomas Bernhard years ago was a start, coupled with my experience of traveling in Germany several times. The tone of story-telling, the styles I was unaccustomed to reading in many American authors, and the general wider perspective continues to influence and widen this approach. Here are a few items recently acquired. Be sure to check out the many other wonderful books by foreign authors listed at our online shop here.

Recent Arrivals

  1. 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.
  2. E.M. Forster – An excellent example of the New Directions Alvin Lustig dust jackets from the New Classics series.
  3. 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.
  4. Karl Shapiro – Nice collection by Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Some ideas for the holiday

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…

A favorite album of the year

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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.

Modern Americana, 80s & a Movie or Two!

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!

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Pop-Up shop!

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.

Recommends – Simon Leys

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.

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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.”

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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.”

Jockum Nordstrom

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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.

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Images courtesy of Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

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.

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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.