The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books





last three

March - April 2013

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


Oct.-Dec. 12

Aug.-Sep. 12

Apr.-July 12

Jan.-Mar. 12

Nov.-Dec. 11

Sept.-Oct. 11

June-July 11

Apr.-May 11

Jan.-Mar. 11


23 April 2013

In Memoriam : Avram Davidson

Today is 23 April 2013, the ninetieth anniversay of the birth of Avram Davidson (you may learn more about his life and writings, here, dear visitor). William Shakespeare, James Buchanan, and Stanford P. Dole, President of the Republic of Hawaii, had the same birthdate. It is also the UNESCO World Book & Copyright Day.

— — — —

“ what could be hellish about a mere 400 acre islet whose climate is bland enough to breed wallabies ? ”

In early May will be published The Wailing of the Gaulish Dead by Avram Davidson, a previously unpublished Adventure in Unhistory, with a preface by Eileen Gunn (details here ).

— — — —

Recent reading :

— Mark L. Valentine. Herald of the Hidden and Other Stories. Tartarus Press, [2013].

— R.B. Marriott-Watson. Some Japanese Poems [1917]. With a Note by Mark L. Valentine. [Kildwick : Valentine & Valentine, 2013]. Text printed on rectos only. Edition of 25 copies. Stitched Japanese style in decorated paper covers.


Of all the noble dreams, the lofty thought,
For which the samurai once lived and fought,
How much remains ? Alas,
Only the summer grass !

The editor cites a letter by the poet, writing from the front to a friend, “ the moonlight on the frosted barb-wire entanglements makes them look most ethereal a twisted tangle of white strands, deathly still in the cold light . . . ”
The poems were originally printed in The New Age for 17 March 1918. Marriott-Watson was listed as missing in action the following week.

— Peter Dickinson. Death of a Unicorn. Small Beer Press, [2013]. By way of a brief mention, a favorite among his books (the 1984 Pantheon edition sits on my shelf), quickly sent to my brother before it snared me. Dickinson’s excellent new story “ Troll Blood ” appeared in the issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for September-October 2012.

— Catherine Bailey. The Secret Rooms. A True Gothic Mystery. [London :] Viking, [2012]. Sad tale of privilege and guilt, deftly elicited by Bailey’s discovery of gaps in the Belvoir archives and her successful quest for the meaning of excisions and suppressions. A fascinating book.

— John Spiers. Serious about Series : American Cheap ‘ Libraries ’, British ‘ Railway ’ Libraries, and Some Literary Series of The 1890’s. An Exhibition of Some Selected Books . . . The Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, with The Senate House Library, University of London, 2007. Illustrated biblographical catalogue of an exhibition accompanying a conference on The Culture of the Publisher’s Series, October 2007, with an excellent overview of the way reading and publishing changed in the 1870s and 1880s. “ Their physical format often ensured that they would not be kept. They survive often quite accidentally, and many copies may now exist in only token numbers. If at all. ”

— Charles Willeford. I Was Looking for a Street [1988]. [Introduction by Luc Sante]. Picture Box / Family paperback, [2010]. A portion of Willeford’s autobiography (Herron notes this section was called Road Kid) ; with a few asides : “ I did a fifty-minute [class] on Beckett’ hats, and what they mean to him. Beckett truly understands hats, as well as he does pencil stubs, canes, crutches, bikes, and other neat objects that a man can use in self-defense. ”

— — — —

“ . . .  but is this not to blame the victim ? Where are the innovative customers ? ”

— Ian Jackson, as reported by James Fergusson in the TLS .

— — — —

The Two Bills

Your correspondent was present in the audience during Paul Holdengräber’s recent conversation with William Gibson at the New York Public Library, which opened with a recording of William Burroughs (“ Old Bill ”) reading the Thanksgiving Prayer. Gibson (“ Young Bill ”) described the importance to him as a teenager —  and as a writer —  of experiencing the writings of Burroughs. He described : like locating “ the only person on Earth who could play slide guitar. ” When Holdengräber read a passage by Prout describing the telephone as a “ supernatural instrument ”, Gibson offered the “ invisible banality ” of cyberspace. The event was unprecedented for another reason : Gibson read from his work in progress, the first time he has ever done so. The audio recording can be found here


— — — —

“ For wisdom is a butterfly and not a gloomy
bird of prey ”

— W.B. Yeats

— — — —

Mailbag Roulette : mid-April 2013

N.B. : Cats 6, Dogs 1 ; Gluten for Punishment ]

— — — —

Having told Robin Sloan to write the very story he wishes to read, I shall follow my own advice ; I might be some time . . . [for clues, see The Windhill Bequest ]. The Endless Bookshelf will continue on an irregular monthly schedule.

— — — —

31 March - 1 April 2013

current reading :

— The Wild Irish Girl. A National Tale. By Miss Owenson. In three volumes. The third edition. London, 1807. Epistolary novel, letters from an exiled scapegrace younger son of the Ascendancy who is stuffed with prejudices that seem likely to be exploded ; very distant in time and tone from Castle Rackrent (1800). Thinking about the use of distancing devices, techniques of narrative delay, footnotes, suggestions ; and then things start happening . . . . [It is useful to remember that Frankenstein (1818) is an epistolary novel from this period.]

— — — —

The Wailing of the Gaulish Dead

“ He lived in a cloud of arcane associations, a knowledge not of the past, but of the imagination of the past. ”
                                           — Eileen Gunn

“ what could be hellish about a mere 400 acre islet whose climate is bland enough to breed wallabies ? ”

Forthcoming from The Nutmeg Point District Mail, 8 May 2013 : details here.

— — — —

recent reading :

— (O’Nolan, Brian) Flann O’Brien. At Swim-Two-Birds [1939]. Pantheon Books, [1951]. A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN. The layers of narrative estrangement are dizzying, delightful.

— (O’Nolan, Brian) Myles. Portraits of Brian O’Nolan. Edited by Timothy O’Keeffe. Martin Brian & O’Keeffe, [1973]. Including an incident to characterize the maternal side of the family : the Gormley’s “ command of the crushing retort and their control of laconic utterance which one had to experience to believe ”.

—  Peter Straub. A Dark Matter. A Novel. Doubleday, [2010]. Re-read this (again) after picking it up in a café and finding myself unable to put it down (again). The play of time and personalities engages, and the narrator’s careful scrutiny of deception is irresistible.

— Angélica Gorodischer. Trafalgar. A Novel [1979]. Translated by Amalia Gladhart. Small Beer Press, [2013.

—  Ernest Hilbert. All of You on the Good Earth. Poems. Red Hen Press, [2013]. The title poem was first published by Temporary Culture as a broadside in December 2008.

— — — —

— Jeremy Norman. Scientist, Scholar & Scoundrel. A Bibliographical Investigation of the Life and Exploits of Count Guglielmo Libri . . . . The Grolier Club, 2013. Note subtitle. A gripping and well-documented mid-nineteenth-century crime story, rich in contradictions : an innovator in bibliographical description — a pioneer in documenting the history of science —  and an utter crook.

— — — —

—  William S. Burroughs. The Adding Machine. Selected Essays [1986]. Arcade Publishing, [1992].
“ From my point of view there is no such thing as a coincidence ”
“ . . . I have come to doubt whether writing can be taught. It is like trying to teach someone to dream. So now I teach creative reading. ”

— — — —

—  [Dorothy Gambrell]. This is what is meant by at the fountain [Cover title]. Illustrated. [40] pp. [Brooklyn, 2013]. Deft visual verbal essay.

— — — —

—  Rick Moody. Garden State. A Novel. Pushcart Press, [1992]. Re-reading and noting the list poems, including this one of place names real and imaginary : Dint, Malagree, Fleece, Tyre, Bolt, Stadt, Trivium. Haledon, Paterson, Oakland, Boonton, Nutley, Ho Ho Kus.

— Susannah Clapp. A Card from Angela Carter. Bloomsbury, [2012]. “ She snarled and she frolicked ” : brief, rich memoir of a great author.

— Tim Powers. Salvage and Demolition . Illustrated by J.K. Potter. Subterranean Press, 2013. So, who borrowed my copy of this Ace Double ? Daniel Gropeshaw. Seconds of Arc. [And:] What Vast Image. Ace Books, [1957]. [Not in Stephens].

— James Crumley. The Last Good Kiss. A Novel. Random House, [1978]. What an ear for ordinary speech, what a narrative voice !

—  Julia Jones. Fifty Years in the Fiction Factory. The Working Life of Herbert Allingham. Golden Duck, [2012]

— — — —

“ Was he game, Frank ? It was too much for me. I couldn’t stick around to see. ”

— Charles Willeford. Cockfighter. A Novel. Crown Publishers, [1972]. A recent visit from Dennis McMillan got me thinking about reading and re-reading Willeford.

This month’s recent reading will be further annotated and illustrated over the next couple of days. [HWW]

— — — —

The Windhill Bequest

The Windhill Bequest by Henry Wessells, a commissioned work of fiction, was published by Contents Magazine as part of issue no. 5 :

— — — —

Curious American Alchemical Fantastical Bookplate, ca. 1920s

— — — —


Poems by Ernest Hilbert and Henry Wessells

with etchings by Judith Clute

Final report from the bindery

Published on Friday 15 February. A few copies remain available. Details here.

— — — —

To say that we actually believed in vampires or werewolves would be a carelessly inclusive statement

H. P. Lovecraft. The Shunned House. [Printed, not] Published by Paul Cook, The Recluse Press, 1928.

— — — —

In Memoriam : Paul Williams

“ the greatest human mind in the universe ” : Philip K. Dick to Paul Williams in a copy of A Scanner Darkly , 1977, on view at the pop-up Boo-Hooray tribute on Sunday 24 March.

— — — —

The New York Antiquarian Book Fair opens in ten days, from 11 to 14 April at the Park Avenue Armory. I will be in booth D17, James Cummins Bookseller. Come say hello ; and let me know if you would like a pass.

— — — —

The Headless Horseman : A Strange Tale of Texas by Capt. Mayne Reid (announcement, March 1865, noted in part 11 of Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens)

— — — —

Mailbag Roulette : late February

— — — —

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 © 2007-2013 Henry Wessells and individual contributors.

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