The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books





October 2019

6 October 2019


— John Crowley. And Go Like This. Stories. Small Beer Press [forthcoming in November, 2019].
The hand bound issue, twenty-six copies signed by the author, now in the bindery.

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



Best Books
2018 2017
2016 2015
2014 2013
2012 2011
2010 2009


critical fiction



turkey city

making light


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The Booksellers


The Booksellers, a documentary about the New York rare book world directed by D. W. Young, will premiere at the New York Film Festival on 7 October, at Francesca Beale Theater, Lincoln Center.
Your correspondent has a small speaking role, and the title poem of The Private Life of Books makes an appearance.

from an advance review of The Booksellers documentary on Lithub by Joseph Pomp :

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation - I

Route du Chaos, Longues sur mer ; and at the end of the road :

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation - II : Writings

— The Barmaid from Elfland
by Henry Wessells
read at Readercon, July 2019; a companion piece to Cleaning up Elfland, read at Readercon, July 2017

— Strange Enough to Be Remembered Forever: John Crowley’s Little, Big
by Henry Wessells
forthcoming in the autumn issue of Wormwood

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation - III

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen

Click on the image or link to see a short recording.

The Emperor’s New Clothes, a very public reading on 4 August at 725 Fifth Avenue (aka Trump Tower) in observance of the anniversary of the death of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), father of the modern fairy tale.
The Jean Hersholt translation, from the Hans Christian Andersen Center:
That evergreen headline courtesy of my friend [TY].

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When bookshelves are not endless
How I Spent My Summer Vacation - IV

In darkness, in the middle of the night on 9 July, sixty linear feet of shelves pulled off the wall and collapsed. Your correspondent was at the other end of the room and wishes never again to hear the sound of a thousand books falling. No books were damaged (if you esteem a book, put it in a protective box, cloth or otherwise). Had I been still at my desk I would have been clocked by volumes of the Scottish National Dictionary which flew a dozen feet.

The wall has been repaired and reinforced and the books are mostly out of boxes and onto the shelves. To reshelve is to see the books anew, to re-read, and to think of new connections. And to cull.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation - V

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recent reading :

— Mark Valentine. A Wild Tumultory Library. Tartarus Press, [2019].
Collection of essays on books, reading, and authors (and walks along curious byways), a glimpse of a welcoming lighted window.
MLV is a great reader and finds books in odd places.

— Jean L. Silver-Isenstadt. Shameless. The Visionary Life of Mary Gove Nichols. Johns Hopkins University Press, [2002]. Fascinating biography of the target of Yieger’s Cabinet. Spiritual Vampirism: The History of Etherial Softdown, and Her Friends of the “New Light” (1853).

— Charles Brockden Brown. Wieland; or the Transformation. An American Tale (1798). Introduction by Fred Lewis Patten. Harcourt Harbinger paperback.

— Don Marquis. The lives and times of archy & mehitabel with pictures by George Herriman and an introduction by E.B. White. Doubleday, [1950].

i see things from the under side now

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— Michael Swanwick. Is There Something about You Irish? Dragonstairs, 2019.
[To read this is to hear Michael in full raconteur mode : pure delight.]

— Michael Brownstein. The Touch. Autonomedia, [1993].

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— Michael Swanwick. The Iron Dragon’s Mother. [Edited by Jen Gunnels]. Tor, [June 2019].
A remarkable, beautiful book (and so rich in allusion to lore and literature, all inseparable from the tale being told).

‘Michael Swanwick : The Finest World Builder since Tolkien’ — Tom Shippey (!!!) in the Wall Street Journal

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— John D. MacDonald. A Tan and Sandy Silence. Fawcett Gold Medal, [1971 ; 21st ptg, 1980].
[Re-reading (no surprise about that). This copy with a stylish owner signature.]

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— Henry Abbott. The Anxious Seat. New York, 1914.
Reprinted with the eighteen others, produced through 1932, in : The Birch Bark Books of Henry Abbott. Sporting Adventures and Nature Observations in the Adirondacks in the early 1900s. Introduction by Vincent Engels. Harbor Hill, 1980.
[summer reading, winter reading — I love these little books : a walk in the woods]

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— P. G. Wodehouse. Carry on, Jeeves ! Herbert Jenkins, 1925.

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— Hédi Tillette de Clermont-Tonnerre. Les Deux Frères et les Lions. Collection des quatre-vents contemporain, [2017].
Blistering satire of the rise of the Barclay twins, capitalists and owners of the isle of Brecqhou in the Channel Islands dependency of Sarq. First presented in Cherbourg in 2012, and then in Paris during the autumn of 2017, the the two brothers, unnamed in the text and identified only as L’Aîné (Elder) and Le Cadet (Younger), engage in a dialogue that leaps between present and flash-back, sometimes addressing the audience in tones suitable to a tea party.

nous sommes devenus invisibles

pour les affaires
L’ombre est bien meilleure que la lumière

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— R. A. Lafferty. The Best of R. A. Lafferty. Edited by Jonathan Strahan. Gollancz, 2019.

— Richard Sugg. Fairies. A Dangerous History. Reaktion Books, [2018, rpt. 2019]

— Bob Rosenthal. Straight around Allen. On the Business of Being Allen Ginsberg. [Beatdom Books, 2019].
Love, Poetry, and the Theory of Idiots : what a book !
Clear voice of a friend one can trust in every sentence; by the author of Cleaning Up New York (1976). And unflinching in its willingness to address the toxic aspects of Allen’s personality as well as the noble, global, and generous characteristics.

Allen has special skill in deciphering the most confused and anguished letters. To Allen mental pain is a means of expressing love. The pain in these convoluted letters excites him by bringing him back to a primal love.

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— Edmund Crispin. Frequent Hearses [1950]. Penguin Books, 1960.

— Lee Child. Killing Floor (1997). [With a new introduction by the author]. Berkley pbk., [2012]. — —. Persuader (2003).
— —. Past Tense (2018).
Not a word out of place, understated, American (notable for the glimpses of ordinary lives : as they intersect with the extraordinary); and deftly plotted.

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commonplace book :

listening to the American language : the pure product
— Michael Hofmann, “The Resident”, in the New York Review of Books, issue for 10 October 2019

A ployboy and a much-married man and father to the fair Larissa-without-portfolio who he’d love to give one to. Or even several. A stately plump buck who takes the time to vent before the chopper with his luxury hair and tie blowing bravely in all erections.

‘work is the ultimate play, and play the ultimate work’ —J. G. Ballard, from the introduction to Vermilion Sands (1973)

But then I prefer “Ancient Mariner” to “The Prelude”. My larger point is: the phrase “willing suspension of disbelief” is an aesthetic rationale for fantastical literature, Gothic and SF and magic and so on, not a blanket description of all literary affect. — Adam Roberts

“all laws must be interrogated to validate them as just and rational rather than exercises of raw power, dystopian expediencies, or plain madness” — Christopher Brown, Will There Be Justice? Science Fiction and the Law

‘The arts do not always restore and rejuvenate : they can devastate’ — Richard Bleiler, on the writings of Dora Sigerson Shorter (1866-1918), in The Green Book 13 (published by Swan River Press).

‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.

— John Berryman (Dream Song 14)

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— Brendan C. Byrne. The Three Stigmata of Peter Thiel. Big Echo 13
[a section of this appeared in the Magazine of Poetry].

— “All Elfland’s mortgaged!” Sidney Lanier. The Hard Times in Elfland;view=fulltext

— Ingrid Burrington and Brendan C. Byrne. The Training Commission., 2019
An epistolary novella from the future in e-mails, featuring an AI president and an automated truth and reconciliations commission.

— Rudy Rucker. Juicy Ghost
[a savage, amazing American political tale (also classic transreality from past master Rucker)]

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Snapping turtle, seen on a morning walk in the Colorado River edgelands, Austin

The reason for the visit : Publication day for Rule of Capture by Christopher Brown, 13 August at Book People, with Fernando A. Flores (author of Tears of the Trufflepig) at left.

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Herman Melville at the Rosenbach Museum

American Voyager is a spectacular exhibition to mark the bicentennial of the author’s birth, with many rarities on view, including two family copies of the London ‘Whale’ and Hawthorne’s copies of several of Melville’s books.

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A Summary Readercon Report

Highlights of the July Readercon convention included

— the first public reading of Greer Gilman’s new play Little Kingdom, performed by Greer herself and Marianne Porter. It was fantastic in both meanings of the word.

— The panel on satire and criticism (citing Max Beerbohm & Joanna Russ, &c.) moderated by Graham Sleight

Works commended by satire & criticism panel
— Fettered for Life by Lillie Devereux Blake
— The Green Gene by Peter Dickinson
— They Don’t Make Plus Size Spacesuits by Ali Thompson
— I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas
— Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
— everything by Joanna Russ

— A deeply interrogative panel on the fantastic and the American South with Brett Cox, J. D. Horn, Howard Waldrop.

— readings by Chris Brown, John Crowley, Michael DeLuca, Liz Hand, James Patrick Kelly, Cat Valente, Howard Waldrop

—  The delightful energy and joy in the room when Max Gladstone and Amal el-Mohtar interviewed each other on their new book, This is How You Win the Time War.

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It’s time to initiate a new Nansen passport for all
(letter to the editor, in the Financial Times, 5 September)

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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.