The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books





January to May 2015

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


January to May 2015

31 May 2015

Dragon head wisteria, Montclair, New Jersey. [photo by MJD]

A short list

Dear readers,
The press of other work has interfered with the timely update of the Endless Bookshelf. Many of these projects remain in preliminary stages : think of snowfall high in a mountain range, while in the distant valley below the stream remains a trickle. Until the river flows in spate, here is a short list of recent reading. Annotations, a few more pictures, and a surprise or two, to follow ; and an essay on reading Off List.


— Ken Winkler. Pilgrim of the Clear Light. The Biography of Dr. Walter Y. Evans-Wentz. [1982 ; 2nd edition, Books Mango, 2013]. Life of a fascinating New Jersey native, not nearly so gracefully written as the subject’s books.

— The Bodley Head Book of Irish Stories. Selected and Introduced by David Marcus. The Bodley Head, [1980].

— Jonathan Lethem. Fear of Music. Bloomsbury [2012 ; reprinted by Bloomsbury Academic, 2013]. “ And turn it up, . . . ”

— John Crowley. Little, Big [1981]. Harper Perennial paperback.

— Fredric Brown. “ Imagine ” (F&SF, 1955). [Collected in :] Honeymoon in Hell. Bantam, [August,] 1958

— E. Œ Somerville. “ Little Red Riding Hood ” [in:] The Fairies Return or New Tales for Old by Several Hands. With reverent apologies to the memory of Perrault . . . &c. P. Davies, 1934

— The Yeats Country. A guide to places in the West of Ireland Compiled by Sheelah Kirby. Dolmen Press, [2nd ed., 1963].

— Violet Powell. The Irish Cousins. The Books and Background of Somerville and Ross. Heinemann, [1970]

— Avram Davidson. “ Sleep Well of Nights ” [F&SF, Aug. 1978, collected in :] Limekiller. Old Earth Books, 2003.

— Helen MacDonald. H is for Hawk. Grove Press, [2015].

— George Koppelman & Dan Wechsler. Shakespeare’s Beehive. Second edition, revised & expanded. Axletree Press, [forthcoming, 2015]. I read this new edition with great interest ; my review of the first edition, April 2014, here.

— Lord Dunsany. The King of Elfland’s Daughter. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, [April, 1924]. First edition, one of 250 copies, signed by the author and artist.

“ that had dreaded this day but danced now it had come ”

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4 March 2015

A note from your correspondent :

Dear Readers,

     To quote Claude Lévi-Strauss, “ I am at work on a difficult book . . . ” The book is The Windhill Bequest, a small glimpse of which was published here ; accordingly, other literary projects (including the Endless Bookshelf twitter account appearing here as marginal glosses) will be put on hold for the next few months. The Endless Bookshelf will now be updated on a quarterly basis (next update in mid-May) ; the next issue of The Nutmeg Point District Mail will be distributed on 8 May.
     Extended Range, or, The Accession Label, a short story with an original frontispiece etching by Judith Clute, will be published by Temporary Culture in an edition of 26 copies, printed by David Wolfe on Himalayan paper from Jim Canary’s Paper Road.
     A new edition of Arabian Wine by Gregory Feeley will be available on 31 March, distributed by Weightless Books. This short novel of coffee, ideas, and ambition was originally published by Temporary Culture in March 2005. As John Crowley writes, “ Read it with a double espresso ! ” Next up (late spring) will be new editions of Michael Swanwick’s monographs on James Branch Cabell and Hope Mirrlees.
     Copies of The Private Life of Books are still available, buy one here. This is a book that exists only to be held in the hands and read. There will be no electronic edition.
     In other news, “ Down to His Last Sleep : ‘ Zuleika Dobson ’ in the Twenty-first Century ” will appear in the next issue of Wormwood. And “ Not in Skeat ; or, The Beast Unknown to Heraldry ”, will appear in a forthcoming issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.
     I thank you for reading ; in the interim, look through the archives ; or, read a book and send me a note about it for the spring edition of the Endless Bookshelf. You know where to find me.


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current reading :

— Michel Houellebecq. Soumission. Flammarion, [2015]. This is a curious book, beautiful passages celebrating literature (and marking its doom), and with as its narrator a prime creep, François, a university professor and specialist in Huysmans. His passivity is so powerful a negative force (like something out of Willeford’s New Forms of Ugly) that it is invariably the other characters who do the doing and talking as France lurches into a political catastrophe. The appalling venality and opportunism of the politicians is nothing to the inertia of François, who, it is clear, never heard Gil Scot-Heron sing The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. I am about two-thirds of the way in, and the recurring allusions to the life of Huysmans suggest where this might be going.

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recent reading :

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

— Charles Willeford. The Burnt Orange Heresy (1971). Black Lizard pbk. Brilliant, hilarious, required reading.

— —. New Hope for the Dead (1985). Black Lizard pbk.

— Chester Anderson. The Butterfly Kid [1967]. With a new introduction by Paul Williams. Gregg Press, 1977. From the introduction by Paul Williams : “ science fiction is not so much a literary form as it is a warm room on a cold night. . . . [Anderson] did something that was very rare, at least in the 1960s : he publicly acknowledged the obvious inseparability of those phenomena variously know as rock music, drugs, bohemianism, and science fiction. ”

— Max Beerbohm. The Illustrated Zuleika Dobson or An Oxford Love Story. With 80 illustrations by the author and an introduction by N. John Hall. Yale University Press, 1985.

— —. Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956. Edited by Rupert Hart-Davis. W.W. Norton, [1989].

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— Henri Wintz and David Hyde. Precious Artifacts. A Philip K. Dick Bibliography. [and:] Precious Artifacts 2. A Philip K. Dick Bibliography. The Short Stories. [El Cerrito, California :] Wide Books, 2012, 2014. Illustrated bibliography of U.S. and U.K. publications, with identifying points for first editions ; the ordering system is curious, a crude alphabetical sort by title, including initial articles. The short story volume includes a rating system, for those like that sort of thing. *

— Dorothea E. von Mücke. The Seduction of the Occult and the Rise of the Fantastic Tale. Stanford University Press, 2003, pbk.

— Robert Sheckley. Soma Blues (1997). Forge, [1998] pbk.

— James P. Blaylock. The Digging Leviathan. Ace Science Fiction Books, [1984] pbk.

— Jaqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs (2003). Soho, [2013] pbk. More than a bit twee.

* See Clio’s review of Gibbon in Zuleika Dobson. Oh, dear.

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Extended Range

Forthcoming from Temporary Culture, June 2015 :

Extended Range, or, The Accession Label, an original short story by Henry Wessells, with an original frontispiece etching by Judith Clute.
Oblong, 5-1/2 x 15 inches, [16] pp. Edition of 26 copies, lettered A to Z, printed by David Wolfe on Himalayan paper from Jim Canary’s Paper Road (5 numbered copies are reserved for the artist, author, and printer). Stitched in paper covered boards.
Inquire for subscription details.

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16 February 2015

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 listeners 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’s-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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This creaking and constantly evolving website of the endless bookshelf : I expect that some entries will be brief, others will take the form of more elaborate essays, and eventually I will become adept at incorporating 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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