The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books





January - March 2018

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


4 March 2018




critical fiction

Best Books
2016 2015
2014 2013
2012 2011
2010 2009



turkey city

making light

signs of spring

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recent reading

— Siobhan Carroll. An Empire of Air and Water. Uncolonizable Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850. University of Pennsylvania Press, [2015].

— Nick Harkaway. Gnomon. A Novel. Knopf, 2018.

— Gene Wolfe. Storeys from the Old Hotel. [Issued with:] For Rosemary. Poems. Kerosina Press, 1988.

— Jon A. Jackson. Hit on the House. Atlantic Monthly Press, [1993].
——. Badger Games. Atlantic Monthly Press, [2002].
——. No Man’s Dog. A Detective Sergeant Mulheisen Mystery. Atlantic Monthly Press, [2004].

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Last Call

This week marks the final days of A Conversation larger than the Universe, on view at the Grolier Club through Saturday 10 March.
The Grolier Club has posted a visual tour of the exhibition here:

On Tuesday 6 March, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., Henry Wessells will moderate a science fiction symposium with stellar panelists:
Christopher Brown (Austin, Texas): author of Tropic of Kansas (2017)
Siobhan Carroll (University of Delaware): author of An Empire of Air and Water: Uncolonizable Space in the British Imagination, 1750-1850 (2015)
John Crowley (Yale University): author of Little, Big (1981) and Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr (2017)
Ellen Datlow (New York City): fiction editor of Omni magazine and many award-winning anthologies
Samuel R. Delany (Philadelphia): author of Babel-17 (1966), Dhalgren (1975), and countless other works
Maria Headley (Brooklyn): author of Magonia (2015) and The Mere Wife (forthcoming from Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2018)

The event is free but please note that seating is limited and advance registration is required, details here :

Symposium panelists (top): John Crowley, Ellen Datlow (editing Howard Waldrop), Samuel R. Delany
(bottom): Siobhan Carroll, Maria Dahvana Headley, Christopher Brown

Your correspondent will also be giving a walk through (show & tell) tour on Wednesday 7 March (1:00 to 2:00 p.m.).

Michael Dirda reviewed the book in the Washington Post on publication day (25 January) and created a unique combination of words (see above). Mark Valentine conducted a two-part interview in the week prior to publication for Wormwoodiana, part one on 17 January and part two on 18 January. Gil Roth interviewed Henry Wessells for the Virtual Memories podcast (show 255, 5 February 2018). The Library of America published a short illustrated interview on Friday 2 March.

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commonplace book

a tension between the need to remain rooted in the real experience of living in the north of England and the impulse to escape the parochial. To move too far would risk losing connection. The answer for Smith was to filter mundane concerns through fantastical mechanisms. To be always in motion, but without travelling anywhere. [. . .] Stay in the place where you are comfortable, but travel far and wide in your mind. One of Smith’s techniques was to repeatedly use ideas drawn from science fiction and the supernatural, the library of paperbacks of a clever kid who shunned education for self-education. Smith’s lyrics often include ideas of time travel, of transportation to other places, and of supernatural incursions in everyday circumstances.
from ‘ The man whose head expanded ’, Mark Brown’s obituary of Mark E. Smith, founder of The Fall, in The Lancet Psychiatry, archived at

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New York Antiquarian Book Fair

The New York Antiquarian Book Fair will be held at the Park Avenue Armory next Thursday through Sunday 8 to 11 March. Your correspondent will be there in booth A3 (James Cummins Bookseller, celebrating the firm’s fortieth anniversary), so come say hello. I will be signing copies of A Conversation larger than the Universe, and copies of The Private Life of Books and Donald Trump The Magazine of Poetry will also be on hand. If you would like a pass, please let me know.

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24 January 2018

‘ Pardon this intrusion ’

Mary Shelley. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Today is the eleventh anniversary of the launch of the Endless Bookshelf website, and it is publication day for A Conversation larger than the Universe. The exhibition at the Grolier Club opens tomorrow, 25 January, and your correspondent will be giving a public tour (or show & tell) from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., as well as public exhibition tours on 30 January, 1 February, 22 February, 1 March, and 7 March (from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. on each date). The exhibition is on view through Saturday 10 March 2018. Come look at the books and say hello.

Jimi Hendrix reading Penguin Science Fiction, ed. Brian W. Aldiss.
Photo by Petra Niemeier, 1967. Penguin poster, ca. 1995.

January also marks the bicentennial of publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. A copy of the first American edition (Philadelphia, 1833) is on view in the exhibition, with volume two open to the first words of the monster (see above).

— Henry Wessells. A Conversation larger than the Universe. Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic 1762-2017. Foreword by John Crowley. The Grolier Club, 2018. Trade paperback, pictorial wrappers with french flaps. 288 pp. With more than 100 illustrations; index.
ISBN 978-1-60583-074-2. Price: $35.00. Distributed by Oak Knoll Press.

Chapters appeared in Wormwood, Foundation, and The New York Review of Science Fiction in advance of publication. Mark Valentine, editor of Wormwood, has published a two-part interview on the Wormwoodiana blog.

Publishers Weekly called the book “erudite and altogether fascinating . . . essential reading.”

Details of the subscriber issue of A Conversation larger than the Universe, to be published by Temporary Culture, and related news of the book and exhibition are found here.

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What you remember is the smile

As I write this, word has just reached me of the death of Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018), a great writer and a giant in science fiction. I interviewed her once on the radio (she read from Searoad); and I met her once in person at a reading in New York City a decade later. Last year, I drove past her childhood home in Berkeley, thinking about how writers find their way to their readers.
And of course, Le Guin has already written the most apt note for the present moment, on the occasion of the death of Philip K. Dick (in March 1982) :

He knew where he was going, I guess, and he went like a man who smiles back over his shoulder as he goes. What you remember is the smile.
She knew where she was going. . . . What you remember is the smile.

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current reading

— Nick Harkaway. Gnomon. A Novel. Knopf, 2018.

— John Crowley. Little, Big [1981]. Harper Modern Classics paperback, [19th printing, 2016]. Re-reading.

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recent reading

— Ghosts and Scholars. Ghost Stories in the Tradition of M. R. James. Selected, with an Introduction and Notes, by Richard Dalby & Rosemary Pardoe. Foreword by Michael Cox. Crucible, 1987.
Amazing anthology, rich in suggestion, and with a great reading list. Mark Valentine wrote a brief and moving note to mark his death in 2017. I will be reading books suggested by Ghosts and Scholars for the next year, I think

— Tom Carson. Twisted Kicks [1981]. Entwhistle Books & And/Or Press paperback, [1982]. Re-reading.
From CBGB’s to the end of the line in suburban Virginia. Maybe there are six top rock ’n’ roll novels, now.

—  Edmund Crispin. The Case of the Gilded Fly [1944]. London House & Maxwell, [1970].

— L. Timmel Duchamp. Alanya to Alanya. Book One of the Marq’ssan Cycle. Aqueduct Press, 2005.

— Adam Rothstein. Orthogonal Procedures. Arche Press, 2017.
Intense and well-crafted infrastructure and bureaucracy science fiction : your view of the office of Postmaster will never be the same. And what a surprising villain, too!

— The Sound of a Distant Machine. Autobiographical Notes of the Late A.J. Mierney. Edited by Gregory Gibson. Ten Pound Island, 2017.

— Sarah Schulman. People in Trouble [1990]. Plume paperback, [1991].
“It was the beginning of the end of the world but not everyone noticed right away.”

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California International Antiquarian Book Fair

Your correspondent will be exhibiting at the 51st annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair, Pasadena Convention Center, 300 East Green Street, in Pasadena. The show runs from Friday to Sunday, 9 to 11 February 2018. Come say hello: booth 425 (James Cummins Bookseller). If you would like a pass, please let me know in advance.

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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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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 © 2007-2018 Henry Wessells and individual contributors.

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