The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books





Books are what I do : Write (very slowly), Read (rapidly or at leisure), Re-read (for pleasure or reference), Buy and Sell (my livelihood), Catalogue and Describe (ditto), Edit, Publish, Review (for The New York Review of Science Fiction and others), Recommend or Give away, Receive, and — unavoidably and repeatedly  — Lift (whether singly or in boxes). I concede a fondness for private eye novels, equalled by my interest in the quirky, erudite, or obscure, and surpassed only by my love of the literature of the fantastic.

— Henry Wessells

Buchnarr, 1494. Ware! Ware! Ware the Book-Fool!


11 July 2017




critical fiction

Best Books
2016 2015
2014 2013
2012 2011
2010 2009



turkey city

making light

A Conversation larger than the Universe

Your correspondent is in the final stages of writing a nonfiction book to accompany ‘ A Conversation larger than the Universe ’, an exhibition scheduled to open on 25 January 2018 at the Grolier Club in New York. A few notes here.
Additional updates to the ’shelf and concerning the exhibition and book beginning in August.

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Readercon schedule

Friday 14 July
7:30 p.m. Reading: Henry Wessells. “ Cleaning Up Elfland ” (a new story).

Saturday 15 July
2:00 p.m. Sidereal Symphonies: Writing Extraterrestrial Art and Performance.
Panel with John Clute, Max Gladstone, Catherynne M. Valente, Henry Wessells, Caroline M. Yoachim.

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recent reading

— Walter Allen. As I Walked Down New Grub Street. Memories of a Writing Life. Heinemann, [1981].

— Brian M. Kane. James Bama. American Realist. Flesk Press, [2006].

— Michael Tisserand. Krazy. George Herriman, a Life in Black & White. Harper, [2016].

— George Herriman. The Kat Who Walked in Beauty. The Panoramic Dailies of 1920. Ed. Derya Ataker. Fantagraphics, 2007.

— H.P. Lovecraft. Fungi from Yuggoth. An Annotated Edition. Ed. D.E. Schultz. Hippocampus Press, 2017.

— Rudy Rucker. Mad Professor. The Uncollected Short Stories of Rudy Rucker. Thunder’s Mouth Press, [2007]. Re-reading ; and loving it.

— Thomas Browne. Pseudodoxia Epidemica: Or, Enquiries into very many Received Tenents and commonly presumed Truths, Sixth edition, 1672.

— William Reese. Narratives of Personal Experience. Overland Press, 2016. Notes on 101 titles : astute, funny, opinionated ! Pure pleasure : concise & witty essays on authors from J.R. Ackerley & Jim Corbett to Herman Melville to Tammy Wynette & Herbert Yardley

— R.H. van Gulik. The Chinese Gold Murders (1959). There is “quite an extensive literature on ghostly phenomena and on weretigers . . .”

— [Alice Sheldon]. Her Smoke Rose up Forever. The Great Years of James Tiptree, Jr.. Introduction by John Clute. Arkham House, 1990.

— Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter. A History of the Doc Savage Adventures in Pulps, Paperbacks, Comics, Fanzines, Radio and Film. McFarland, [2009].

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24 January 2017

Ten Years of the ’shelf

No styrofoam cake, no fanfare, no crowds. Your correspondent continues to read books and think about their contents and form. I am writing ‘ A Conversation larger than the Universe ’, a short nonfiction book on science fiction and the literature of the fantastic, to accompany the exhibition of the same name scheduled at the Grolier Club in January 2018. Details will be forthcoming. In the interim, communications here are brief.
     Your correspondent will be in Oakland for the California International Antiquarian Book Fair 9-12 February, at booth 217 (James Cummins Bookseller). Copies of Donald Trump The Magazine of Poetry will be available. In March, look for me at booth A-1 at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Come say hello.
     The next update, March 2017, will see a redesign of the ’shelf. Send me your news.

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current reading

— Emmanuelle Loyer. Lévi-Strauss. Flammarion, [2015]. Biography of Claude Lévi-Strauss. The first three pages are a brilliant portrait of Lévi-Strauss in miniature, a tour of his bibliothèque circumnavigatrice (circumnavigating library) encompassing the world.

— Nonstop Metropolis. A New York City Atlas &c. Editors Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. University of California Press, [2016].

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commonplace book

Everybody has a sense of humor. Use it.

— Michael Moore, 19 January 2017
at 61st street and Central Park West in New York City

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recent reading

— Viktor Koen. Bestiary. Bizarre Myths & Chimeric Fantasies. Edited by Ellen Datlow, Introduction by Jack Ketchum. [Hellenic Center for Photography / 010 Editions, 2015 (i.e., 2016)]. A pantheon of new myth, a collection of 24 short fantastical stories inspired by the tintypes of Viktor Koen.

— Scheherazade’s Children. Global Encounters with the Arabian Nights. Edited by Philip F. Kennedy and Marina Warner. New York University Press / Abu Dhabi Arabic Institute, [2013]. Excellent collection of essays on the Arabian Nights : “ Scheherazade was a feminist centuries before the word became part of western society, ” as Alia Yunis writes in her afterword.

— Thomas M. Disch. Camp Concentration. Doubleday, 1969.

— Tana French. The Trespasser. Viking, [2016]

— Lord Dunsany. The King of Elfland’s Daughter. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, [May, 1924].

— Michael Swanwick. Midwinter Fables. [Dragonstairs, 2016]. Three short tales in which he re-writes the life and fables of Aesop !

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16-18 December 2016

Best Book of 2016

— Ingrid Burrington. Networks of New York. An Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure. Melville House, 2016.

“I’m just looking down at the ground and looking up at buildings”

Networks of New York is fun and fascinating ; this compact, well written book is also a bold exhortation to observe life in the city. “Learning how to see and pay attention to the fragmented indicators . . .”. Burrington traces the way geography and earlier technologies continue to shape the function of twenty-first century Manhattan. Her book challenges the reader to see the familiar anew and provides tools to do so.

The best book I read in 2016.

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at the sign of the Burning Marshmallow

At the launch of Donald Trump The Magazine of Poetry, 22 November, at 725 Fifth Avenue.

Details here and more photos at the Temporary Culture instagram page.

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Extended Range ; or, The Accession Label

The text of Extended Range ; or, The Accession Label (published as a book with original etchings by Judith Clute in December 2015) has now been reprinted in issue 35 of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, edited by Gavin Grant and Kelly Link and published by Small Beer Press.
details at

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The Private Life of Books

The Private Life of Books, poems by H. Wessells, duotone photographs by Paul Schütze.
Copies still available from Temporary Culture.

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Hope & Wreckage

New editions of Michael Swanwick’s legendary monographs Hope-in-the Mist.  The Extraordinary Career & Mysterious Life of Hope Mirrlees (2009) and What Can Be Saved From the Wreckage  (2007) are now available in all the usual e-booke formats through Weightless Books.

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Wander in the Archives

The Archives of the Endless Bookshelf have been swept and tidied and a guide has been prepared to assist wanderers. Index would be too strong a term : the headwords tend to be suggestive rather than directive. Start here. Have fun.

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This creaking and constantly evolving website of the endless bookshelf : some entries are brief mentions, others take the form of more elaborate essays and reviews. Someday, not soon, comments or interactivity. Right now you’ll have to send links to me, dear readers. [HWW]

electronym : wessells at aol dot com

Copyright © 2007-2017 Henry Wessells and individual contributors.

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