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!


16 February 2015




critical fiction

Best Book 2013

Best Books
2012 2011
2010 2009




turkey city

making light

current reading :

— Thomas Pynchon. Gravity’s Rainbow. The Viking Press, [1973]. Still re-reading. My copy has split in two, now a candidate for rebinding.

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Kinetic Stevenson

— John Singer Sargent. Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, 1895. Collection of Crystal Bridges (link to a larger image).

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recent reading :

— Ben Kinmont. Prospectus 1988-2010. Forty-two works. [Antinomian Press, 2011].

From the contents :

Still I was wondering about the fragile meanings created at home, and how one can create work about, or in reference to, these delicate moments, yet without their destruction. [. . .] The engraving does not document the content of the conversation. It tells only that there was a conversation had by a family on a certain day. However, it does function as an art object, as something which can be exhibited and which can circulate within the art world. For those within the family, the engraving is more : it comes out of a domestic moment and functions as an aide memoire for a conversation once had.

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‘ to confront one’s former unthinking and unfeeling self ’

— Haniel Long. Interlinear to Cabeza de Vaca. His Relation of the Journey from Florida to the Pacific 1528-1536. Writers’ Editions, 1936. At Naropa long ago, Bernadette Mayer or Anne Waldman said, read this ; it is nothing less than astonishing.

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— Gabriel García Márquez. The Last Interview and Other Conversations. Edited and with an introduction by David Streitfeld. Melville House, [2015].

— [Cassandra Hatton]. Alan Turing : The Hidden Wartime Manuscript by the Father of Computing. Bonhams, 2015. Noted, with great interest.

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— [Mary Shelley]. Frankenstein ; or, The Modern Prometheus. London : Printed for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818.
Your correspondent recently visited the Bancroft Library in Berkeley and had the opportunity to read through the copy there ; each re-reading elicits new responses. The Bancroft copy is a mixed set, bearing many signs of having been read in former years. As I often do when reading the original edition, I looked at page 113 in volume II :

Reproduced by permission of the Bancroft Library, Berkeley, Calif.

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where nothing happens

Poster by Stacie Willoughby for the Henry Miller Memorial Library, at a bend in the road in Big Sur. A delightful forest clearing in which to spend an afternoon : where nothing happens.

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next up

— Michel Houellebecq. Soumission. Flammarion, [2015]. “ Dans une France assez proche de la notre . . . ”

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[Thanks to M.F. who suggested the coding software Coda, with which the Endless Bookshelf is now composed. I suspect it is far more sophisticated than your correspondent, to whom all errors may be traced.]

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25 January & 1 February 2015

Eight Years of the Endless Bookshelf

Your correspondent has noted some interesting books during these years — such as the Beehive, the Mammoths, Gothic classics such as this one  or this one; as well as a different type of horror; and your correspondent intends to continue looking, and reading. Thank you for reading and communicating. During the coming months, updates may be irregular as I am in the midst of a difficult book (as well as a few secret projects and the customary reading), but you may always prod or send a note.

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Your correspondent will be in the bay area for the California International Antiquarian Book Fair, held in Oakland this year. Please let me know * if you would like passes : I will be in booth 404, James Cummins Bookseller. In coming weeks there will be occasional updates to the website when circumstances permit (currently looking for a simple HTML editing tool to replace the antiquated but functional software now rendered obsolete). The marginal notes will continue to be current.

* This means you, D.V.S. !

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Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure. . . .

— Marcel Proust. A la recherche du temps perdu. Tome I. Du côté de chez Swann. Detail of the first page of text, from the NRF edition, Paris, 1919.

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current reading :

— Thomas Pynchon. Gravity’s Rainbow. The Viking Press, [1973]. Re-reading.

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The Tale of Brown Jenkin

From the newly unsealed manuscript of Beatrix Potter’s ‘ Tale of Brown Jenkin ’, with her expressionist watercolors prefiguring the set designs of ‘ The Cabinet of Dr Caligari ’ :

Following budgetary retrenchments at National Trust properties, Mrs Tiggy Winkle takes in a lodger, Brown Jenkin, and frets over his laundry. Brown Jenkin comes and goes at odd hours, and tracks nasty stains across Mrs Tiggy Winkle’s floor and carpet. Mrs Tiggy Winkle declines an invitation from her new lodger, Brown Jenkin, to take a stroll through time and space.

The story thus far : National Trust austerities obliging Mrs Tiggy Winkle to take a lodger, Brown Jenkin, whose eccentric habits and hygiene alarm Mrs Tiggy Winkle. She must speak to him today, there is no doubt : Brown Jenkin has eaten one of Sally Henny Penny’s leggings. Emboldened after a tot of Jenny Wren’s elderberry cordial, Mrs Tiggy Winkle knocks on Brown Jenkin's door. Inside, she finds the walls odd.

“ . . . oh dear, oh dear ”, said Mrs Tiggy Winkle, stepping over the threshold into Brown Jenkin’s sharp angled, bone-strewn attic, in Salem, 1692.

“ . . . lilly-white and clean, oh! most terrible particular . . . ” sings Mrs Tiggy Winkle as she tidies Brown Jenkin’s attic room, “ wherever can he be . . . ”.

When Brown Jenkin and Mrs Tiggy Winkle go dancing at the non-Euclidean Country Dance and Interdimensional Wormhole, Keziah Mason, spinster, of Arkham, Mass., follows Brown Jenkin and Mrs Tiggy Winkle, along lines and curves, to Hill Top Farm, near Coniston.

The dovecote and the henhouse, and the trout in the beck suffered most after the arrival of Brown Jenkin at Hill Top Farm ; and Mrs Tiggy Winkle’s floors.

An inserted clipping from the Westmorland Gazette (ca. 1922?) :
Keziah Mason, Tues., aged 107, long a resident at Hill Top, Sawrey, known for her stories . . . . by the kitchen fire at Hill Top Farm, Keziah Mason said she came from away and beyond  . . .  her listerners thought Wales or the Borders, perhaps.

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[Note the innate conservatism and nostalgia of the writings of Beatrix Potter and H.P. Lovecraft.]

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just received :

— Tom La Farge. The Broken House. Book one of The Enchantments. Spuyten Duyvil, [forthcoming, 2015]. Trial cover on a proof copy.

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From the attic :

— Snake‚Äôs-hands a chapbook about the fiction of John Crowley. [Preface by Harold Bloom] Edited by Michael Andre-Driussi and Alice K. Turner. Sirius Fiction, [2001].

In memoriam : Alice Turner (1939-2015), fiction editor of Playboy and a friend of writers. Washington Post obituary here.

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recent reading

— Charles Willeford. The Way We Die Now. A Novel. Random House, [1988].
— — Sideswipe. A Novel. St. Martin’s Press, [1987].
— — Miami Blues. A Novel [1984]. With an introduction by Lemore Leonard. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard paperback.
Re-read these three, and enjoyed the way Willeford dumped Hoke Moseley into appalling circumstances to see what would happen. And knock me down with a feather : Willeford included a recipe at the end of Miami Blues : Mrs. Frank Mansfield’s prize-winning vinegar pie. Willeford’s recipe serves a different purpose than those in knitting and bake shop cozies  (see The Cockfighter ). Don Herron’s bio-bibliography Willeford (1997), published by D-Ray Macmillan, is the key work on this late model American Beckett.

— Arthur Ransome. Winter Holiday [1933]. Jonathan Cape, [twenty-fourth impression, 1964].
      “ Softly, at first, as if it hardly meant it, the snow began to fall. ”

— Michael Connelly. The Burning Room. A Novel. Little, Brown, [2014].

— Jonathan Swift. The Annotated Gulliver’s Travels. Edited, with a biographical introduction and notes, by Isaac Asimov. Clarkson N. Potter, [1980].

— Thomas Pynchon. Inherent Vice [2009]. Penguin paperback.

— Arthur Machen. The Terror [1917]. With an introduction by Vincent Starrett. White Lion, [1973].

— Michael Zinman. What Does Richard Cheney Read ? [Annals of Collecting 6 (2014)].

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The Private Life of Books : poems by Henry Wessells, with duotone photographs by Paul Schütze, published on 15 September, a few copies still available, details here :

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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 © 2007-2015 Henry Wessells and individual contributors.

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