THE ENDLESS BOOKSHELF : simply messing about in books
: Frequently Asked Questions
WHY THE NAME ?
In cyberspace, bookshelves never sag and will stretch to
a Borgesian infinity.
Books are part of my life. A few books stay on my shelves,
most others move
on. From 1988 to 1990 I had a weekly radio literary reading series
on WKCR-FM in New York City and put a stream of authors in front
of the microphone; some of whom are now household names. From 1996
1999 I was staff writer and then managing editor of AB Bookman’s
Weekly and my windowless office had shelves of books to
review or list in
Books Received or to include in recurring round-up articles on certain
fields. While at AB , I began reviewing the occasional
book for The
New York Review of Science Fiction or writing short Read
columns. From 2000 to 2003, I started an irregular reading log on
Davidson website that became the
endless bookshelf in 2004. In January
2007, I decided to make a website instead of simply listing titles.
AND THE SUBTITLE ?
Adapted from The Wind in the Willows :
‘ Is it so nice as all that ? ’
asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he
in his seat and surveyed the cushions,
the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt
the boat sway lightly under him.
‘ Nice ? It’s the only thing, ’ said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant
forward for his stroke. ‘ Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely
nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in
boats. Simply messing, ’ he went on dreamily : ‘ messing — about — in — boats ; messing — — ’
‘ Look ahead, Rat ! ’ cried the Mole suddenly.
It was too late. The boat struck the bank full
tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the
boat, his heels in the air.
‘ — about in boats — or with boats, ’
the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh.
I am susceptible to well-written mystery novels, formally inventive short
fiction, biographies of unusual people, and the literature of the
PRINCIPLES OF THE ENDLESS BOOKSHELF :
— Random Association : How random is random ? (see William Burroughs
and Brion Gysin, The Third Mind )
— Classic Avoidance Behavior : and what should you be doing just now ? (I ask this of myself, too.)
— Lateral Thinking
— Lists (Sequential Thinking) : Make an exhaustive list
of everything you might do and do the last thing on it (Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, The
Oblique Strategies )
COMMONPLACE BOOK :
There are times when the Endless Bookshelf posts full reviews
of recent books or reflections upon reading or re-reading a notable literary
work ; sometimes its function is as a commonplace book where interesting
or provocative passages are recorded (with or without discussion of context),
as immediately below.
THREE QUOTATIONS :
“ I deprecate that hard and fast line between fabulous animals and
you all chance to have seen . . . What does it amount to, practically,
but a line drawn round Regent’s Park ? ” — Lord
Dunsany (The Collected Jorkens. Volume One , p. 222)
“ Stop asking for what is not there and you start to see what is. ” — Salman
Rushdie (in his introduction to the second volume of the Novels of
Samuel Beckett, in the Grove Centenary Edition)
“ I myself . . . would rather be told
too little than too much. ” — Marianne Moore
A song for those who learn forgotten, slow
Sonnets . Copyright © 2009 by Ernest Hilbert. Reproduced
by permission of the author.
Skills, crafts submerged long past by massed commerce,
By hard, dark, oily machines, and the din
Of duplicates shipped by the millions, stowed
In cavernous depots to be dispersed
To each home, used once, and then binned.
This is for those who weave by hand, who brew
Their own suds, and roll their own smokes, hammer
Together shelves, print on presses, plant gardens
In vacant lots, raise beams, fire pots, the few
Who challenge the swift, transient tenor
Of the age, the lonely sincere wardens,
The last, noble pull of old ways restored,
Valued and unwanted, admired and ignored.
The Endless Bookshelf and the hand bindery
of Temporary Culture adopt this Song as anthem.
I read books written in English, German, French, Arabic ; and am always
willing to push at the boundaries of comprehension and read books in languages
quite know, such as Spanish (fun). While I can read in Latin and Russian, what
is not sufficient to repay the effort (not fun).
The Endless Bookshelf
will remain a website with edited content evolving over time, but will not migrate
snappy interactivity any time soon. Correspondence by e-mail, postcard,
letter, or book(s) will be read with interest.
Please address all correspondence (including printed books or advance galleys
for review) to : Henry
Wessells, Temporary Culture,
P.O.B. 43072, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043 USA.
The electronym for the Endless Bookshelf is wessells [at] aol [dot] com.
ENDLESS BUT NOT COMPREHENSIVE :
The Endless Bookshelf aspires to the state of collective
enterprise but until that happens it remains largely the work of your
correspondent [HWW] and the many authors whose books dance across its
screens ; the whims and interests of your correspondent
will dictate contents — this is why, from time to time,
I attempt to define said whim and fancies, and even to identify the
whence they derive.
Some FAVORITES that form part of the Endless Bookshelf (alphabetical) :
— Henry Abbott. The Birch Bark Books of Henry Abbott. Sporting
Adventures and Nature Observations in the early 1900s . Edited
with an introduction by Vincent Engels (Harbor Hill Books, 1980)
— Jorge Luis Borges. Other Inquisitions . Translated
by Ruth Simms (University of Texas, 1964 ; fourth paperback printing, 1993)
— Marshall Brooks. A Brief Illustrated History of the Bookshelf.
With an Essay which Pertains to the Subject . Drawings by the author.
(Birch Brook, 1998)
— Michael Brownstein. The Touch (Autonomedia, )
— John Buchan. The Thirty-Nine Steps (Blackwood, 1915 ;
— G. K. Chesterton. The Flying Inn (Methuen, 1914)
— John Crowley. Little, Big (Bantam, 1981 ; Gollancz,
— Walter D. Edmonds. Tales My Father Never Told (Syracuse
University Press, )
— Marian Engel. Bear (1976 ; David
R. Godine, 2003)
— Emyr Estyn Evans. Ireland and the Atlantic Heritage. Selected
Writings (Lilliput, Dublin, 1996)
— Kenneth Grahame. The Wind in the Willows (Methuen,
1908 ; Scribners, illustrated in color and black and white by Ernest
— Robert H. van Gulik. The Monkey
the Tiger (1965) and other Judge Dee books, and the scholarly writings
— (Gulik, R. H. van) Janwilllem
de Wetering. Robert van Gulik, His Life, His Work (Dennis McMillan,
1987 ; Soho, 1998)
— Henry Hobhouse. Seeds of Change. Five Plants That Transformed
Mankind (1985 ; Harper & Row, 1986)
— If It Had Happened Otherwise. Lapses into Imaginary History .
Edited by J. C. Squire (Longmans, Green, 1932) : the « Sources
of the Nile » in counterfactual history
— Tom La Farge. The Crimson Bears and A Hundred
Doors. Part II of The Crimson Bears (Sun & Moon, 1993-4)
— Ursula K. Le Guin. The Dispossessed (Harper & Row,
— Fred Lerner. The Story of Libraries from the Invention of Writing
to the Computer Age (Continuum, 1998)
— Anne Lindbergh. The Worry Week (1985 ; David
R. Godine, 2003)
— (Marais, Eugène) Leon Rousseau. The Dark Stream. the
— Marshall McLuhan. The Mechanical Bride. Folklore of Industrial Man (Vanguard,
— Measures of Poison (Dennis McMillan, 2002)
— Judith Merril and Emily Pohl-Weary. Better to Have Loved. The
Life of Judith Merril (Between
the Lines, 2002)
— Myles na Gopaleen (Flann O’Brien). The Best of Myles.
Selection from ‘ Cruiskeen Lawn ’ . Edited and
with a preface by Kevin O’Nolan
— Fletcher Pratt. The Blue Star. In : Witches Three (Twayne,
— Arthur Ransome. The Swallows & Amazons books
(all back in print in the U.S. from David R. Godine )
— (Ransome, Arthur) Christina Hardyment. Arthur Ransome and Captain
Flint’s Trunk (Jonathan Cape, 1984)
— William Reese. Dream Books (William Reese, 2000)
— Bob Rosenthal. Cleaning Up New York . (Angel Hair
— Robert Sheckley. In a Land of Clear Colors (multimedia
edition, with illustrations by Leonora Quiles and music by Brian Eno, Galeria
El Mensajera, Santa Eulalia del Rio, Ibiza, 1979)
— Iain Sinclair. London Orbital (Granta, 2002) and
his earlier White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (Goldmark, 1987)
Symons. Portraits of the Missing. Imaginary Biographies (Andre
— Wendy Walker. The Secret Service by (Sun & Moon,
— Don Webb. Uncle Ovid’s Exercise Book (Fiction
— Janwillem van
de Wetering. Hard Rain (1986 ; Soho, 1997)
— (Wetering, Janwillem van de) Alexandra David-Neel
and Lama Yongden. The Power of Nothingness Translated by Janwillem
van de Wetering (Houghton Mifflin,
— (Willeford, Charles) Don Herron. Willeford (Dennis
— William S. Wilson. Why I Don't Write Like Franz Kafka
NO ADS :
No advertisements. No advertisements. No advertisements on the Endless Bookshelf.
A FEW THINGS I DON’T :
I don’t read or review “ e-books ” or “ audio
Printed books or advance galleys may be sent to : Temporary Culture,
P.O.B. 43072, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043 USA.
don’t kiss and tell. There are plenty of interesting book stories and
incidents that may have to wait for my memoirs, Erinnerungen des Buchnarrs (Recollections
of a Book-fool).
don’t answer questions about : private matters (I’ll draw the line where
I choose) ; nor about unfinished fiction projects or essays, or
other works in
don’t watch television and won’t write about it.
don’t tolerate sloppy thinking or books whose authors cheat readers
by withholding information.
don’t appraise books that I haven’t seen.
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