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 2018




critical fiction

Best Books
2016 2015
2014 2013
2012 2011
2010 2009




turkey city

making light

currrent reading

— Tom La Farge. Humans by Lamplight. Book three of The Enchantments. Spuyten Duyvil, [2018].

— Simon Sellars. Applied Ballardianism. Memoir from a Parallel Universe. Urbanomic, [2018].

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just published

Chance Meeting. Avram Davidson & Philip K. Dick. [Upper Montclair, New Jersey:] The Nutmeg Point District Mail, [9 July] 2018. Publications of the Avram Davidson Society, number five.

Chance Meeting prints two uncollected pieces by Avram Davidson on Philip K. Dick : Davidson’s perceptive review of The Man in the High Castle from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for June 1963 and his memoir of PKD from Locus 256, vol. 15, no. 5, for May 1982. The publication also includes a letter from Grania Davis from the same issue of Locus; with a short essay by Henry Wessells. Marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Avram Davidson.

Edition of 150 unnumbered copies, stitched in Hahnemühle wrappers (blue, burgundy, or grey) with a letterpress label printed by Jerry Kelly from the rare foundry metal Centaur type on Ingres paper. Details here.

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recent reading

— [Don G. Mitchell]. Pictures of Edgewood in a series of photographs, by Rockwood, and Illustrative Text, by the Author of “My Farm of Edgewood.” Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1869.

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— Maria Dahvana Headley. The Mere Wife. MCD Farrar, Straus & Giroux, [forthcoming 17 July 2018].
Make it new: this is a re-invention of an old story and an assault on literary tradition.
I was very happy to have had an early look at this transgressive book: the prose sings itself to the reader and Headley’s mastery of the collective voice is nothing less than spectacular.
And then I went and read Heaney, in a parallel text edition (see below), which increased my appreciation for the way The Mere Wife reworks story while remaining rooted in the language.

—  Seamus Heaney. Beowulf. A New Verse Translation [2000]. Norton paperback.
“away into some unpartitioned linguistic country”: to read Beowulf makes plain that Tolkien’s vast endeavor was to create mythology and pre-history that would have been dimly remembered by the Beowulf poet’s ancestral culture; even Bilbo Baggins’ visit to Smaug is contained therein. This statement is not reductionist or dismissive: Tolkien derived entire lost civilization(s) on linguistic principles.

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— Julia Briggs. A Woman of Passion. The Life of E. Nesbit (1858-1924) [1987]. Penguin Books paperback, [after 1989]. With a gift inscription, For Virginia, from Julia, 1993 on inside cover.

— A. S. Byatt. The Children’s Book. A Novel [2009]. Vintage paperback.

— S. T. Joshi. What Is Anything? Memoirs of a Life in Lovecraft. Hippocampus, 2018.

— Michael Swanwick. Report of the American Martini Institute. The Evolution of the Martini. Dragonstairs, [21 May] 2018. Edition of 60 copies.

— Peter Lovesey. The False Inspector Dew. Pantheon Books paperback, [3/83 : March 1983]

— Robert Sheckley. Is THAT What People Do? Short Stories. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, [1984]. This copy inscribed to agent Kirby McCauley. [Gift of DS] [Re-read]

— Peter Lovesey. The House Sitter. Soho paperback, [2003]

— Tom Disch. Endzone. Letzte Gedichte Zweisprachige Ausgabe übersetzt von Christopher Ecker [Vorwort John Crowley]. Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 2018

— A.J.A. Symons. The Quest for Corvo. An Experiment in Biography [1934]. [Introduction by Mark Valentine]. Tartarus Press, 2018.

— Mark Valentine. The Uncertainty of All Earthly Things. Zagava, 2018. Hand bound issue, marbled boards, edges black. Fabulous!

We don’t live a story, any of us, only a sentence. — Mark Valentine, “Vain Shadows Flee”

— Darach Ó Séaghdha. Motherfoclóir. Dispatches from a not so dead language. Head of Zeus, [2017]

— Jacqueline de Romilly. Le Trésor des savoirs oubliés [1998]. Éditions de Fallois, [2017]

— Hunter S. Thompson, The Last Interview and Other Conversations. Edited and with an introduction by David Streitfeld. Melville House, [2018].

—  John Crowley. “Spring Break”, in: New Haven Noir. Edited by Amy Bloom. Akashic Books, [2017]. Crowley’s story won the Edgar award.

— The Scarlet Soul. Stories for Dorian Gray. Edited by Mark Valentine. Swan River Press, 2018

—  Michael Swanwick. Blue Moon. [Dragonstairs, 31 March 2018]. Edition of 69 copies. 5 moon stories

—  Holstein & Marais. Biliografia da ficção científica e fantasia portuguesa. Portuguese Science Fiction and Fantasy Bibliography. Second edition, 1993

—  M. John Harrison. You Should Come with Me Now. Stories of Ghosts. [Comma, 2017.]

—  Mark Valentine & Brian Lavelle. Psammomancy. [Photographs by Jo Valentine]. Seacliff Press, 2018.

—  James Joyce. The Holy Office. [Pola, 1904].

Bringing to tavern & to brothel,
The mind of witty Aristotle

—  Megan Abbott. You Will Know Me. A Novel [2016]. Back Bay pbk., 2017

—  Rachel Ingalls. Mrs. Caliban [1983]. With an introduction by Rivka Galchen. New Directions, [2017].

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Readercon Schedule

Your correspondent will be at Readercon in Qunicy, Massachusetts on Thursday evening and Friday 12-13 July. Come say hello. The following events are all on Friday afternoon and evening, 13 July:

In Memoriam: Gardner Dozois 2:00 p.m. Salon C
Scott Edelman, Gregory Feeley, Shawna McCarthy, Michael Swanwick, Henry Wessells, Sheila Williams

Kaffeeklatsch 6:00 p.m. Seven Masts
Henry Wessells will talk about A Conversation larger than the Universe (Grolier Club, 2018), Tom Disch, Avram Davidson, Robert Sheckley, &c. There will be copies of Chance Meeting, A Conversation, etc.

The Works of E. Nesbit (1858–1924) 7:00 p.m. Salon C
Greer Gilman, Barbara Krasnoff, John Langan, Henry Wessells, Joey Zone

Reading : Henry Wessells 8:00 p.m. Salon A
Reading new material from work in progress (The Windhill Bequest)

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In Memoriam : William Reese

In Memoriam : Bill Reese, a great bookseller and a friend

[At the New York book fair 2004]

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Writing the Futures

On Friday 6 April, I gave a brief keynote address, Writing the Futures: A Short History, for the Near Future Fictions reading at the New School organized by Virtual Futures. Readers included Tim Maughan, Joanne McNeil, Brendan C. Byrne, and Jennifer Marie Brissett. I covered more than two hundred years of science fiction thinking about the future, from Volney to Christopher Brown. The bibliography and reading list is here:

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A Conversation larger than the Universe

A Conversation larger than the Universe. Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic 1762-2017.
By Henry Wessells
Illustrated collection of essays on science fiction and the fantastic, and the catalogue of the 2018 Grolier Club exhibition.
Copies of the hand bound issue, signed by the authors, are still available from Temporary Culture. The issue in paper covers is distributed by Oak Knoll. Single copies are available from the author.

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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 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. Later in 2018, perhaps the updates will come more often ; and 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 © 2007-2018 Henry Wessells and individual contributors.

Produced by Temporary Culture, P.O.B. 43072, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043 USA.