The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books





January - February 2019

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


4 February 2019

the end of the internet ; or, optimism

— Tim Maughan. Infinite Detail. MCD x FSG Originals, [forthcoming, 5 March 2019].

— Douglas Rushkoff. Team Human. W. W. Norton, [2019].

Infinite Detail is about the end of the internet and after, a well-written near-future story rooted in finance/tech/art/bo-bo circles in New York City (mostly before the end), and in a hard neighborhood in Bristol after the collapse of the U.K. and the net. The narratives alternate and entangle into clarity, with rigorous, nimble revelations of the tech and economics and social science implications of supply chain disruption, and a brilliant ear for language : the slang and dialogue and the running internal chatter of the point of view characters all sound as though someone is using these words out in the street. Maughan brings some of the devastation of remote missile and drone attacks right home to first world settings. And for a near future dystopia, it proves to be rather optimistic. A truly remarkable book.

I was reading Infinite Detail the same day I went to the launch of Doug Rushkoff’s Team Human, where he suggests that the end of the internet — perhaps not as cataclysmically as in Maughan’s book — and its late-capitalist hierarchies will allow us to shape technology to suit human needs and aims rather than corporate targets. “The digital revolution was no more than a superficial changing of the guard. Yet if we dispense with the need to believe our innovations are wholly original, we free ourselves to recognize the tidal patterns of which they are part.” Rushkoff is ready for the digital renaissance. It will come as no surprise that the energy of Team Human is optimistic : “The beauty of living at a renaissance moment is that we can retrieve what we lost the last time around.”

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Twelve Years of the ’shelf

It was a cold day in January, too cold to do much of anything but read, trying to get a little warm. I’m writing another book, and publishing a couple of books in the next few months (announcements to follow), but even so, how can I do other than to keep reading and thinking about books, and some of that will show up here on the ’shelf. Look at the links to the best books of the past few years : where else will you experience such variety ?

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recent reading

— Thomas Pynchon. Bleeding Edge. Penguin, [2013]. Re-reading, with a sense profound nostalgia (and delight at the word play).

— S. T. Joshi. 21st -Century Horror. Weird Fiction at the Turn of the Millennium. Sarnath Press, [2018]. A look at the work of nineteen contemporary authors of horror and supernatural fiction. I am reading this with interest, as I am familiar with the work of only a few of the persons and books discussed.

— Victor LaValle. The Ballad of Black Tom. Tom Doherty Associates, [2016, i.e., POD reprint, December 2018]. What an intense grappling with the nameless unspoken horror implicit in the work of H. P. Lovecraft (whose name appears only on the dedication page). LaValle’s Ballad is rich in allusions to be recognized by the reader, and really makes it happen. [This was one of those books that appeared while I was writing ‘A Conversation’ and I am just now catching up.]

— Agatha Christie. I read about a dozen titles from the box before deciding that was enough for now. I found that I often remembered from earlier readings key elements of the plot enough to recognize the first allusions; and that Poirot without Hastings is preferable. In Murder at the Vicarage, Miss Marple is described in pointedly hostile terms by most of the other characters.

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I am pleased to report that A Conversation larger than the Universe appears in the Locus magazine recommended Reading List, You can read the Introduction and see sample pages —  and buy the book direct from the distributor, Oak Knoll Books; or buy the book from the author.

Your correspondent will be exhibiting at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Oakland, 8-10 February in the Oakland Convention Center, (James Cummins Bookseller, booth 608). Come say hello.

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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.

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.