The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books





December 2014

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


9 & 31 December 2014

The Best Book of the Year 2014

— George Koppelman & Daniel Wechsler. Shakespeare’s Beehive. An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light. Axletree Books, 2014.

Your correspondent has read many good books this year (see immediately below) but Shakespeare’s Beehive remains unequalled, the most engaging and astonishing of them all, the Best Book of the Year 2014.

Reviewed here :

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alphabetical list of a few good books read in 2014

— John Clute. Stay. Beccon Publications, 2014.

— [Nicholas Currie]. Momus. UnAmerica. Penny-Ante Editions, 2014. Reviewed here

— Disobedient Objects. Edited by Catherine Flood and Gavin Grindon. V&A Publishing, [2014].

— C. M. Doughty. The Cliffs. Duckworth, 1909.

— William Gibson. The Peripheral. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, [2014]. Notice here

— Greer Gilman. Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Small Beer Press, [2014].

— Craig Graham. Phantom Pain. Poems. Vagabond Books, [2014].

— Eileen Gunn. Questionable Practices. Small Beer Press, [2014]. Light fuse and get away

— Nick Harkaway. Tigerman. William Heinemann, [2014].

— J.S. Le Fanu. In a Glass Darkly (1872).

— W. Somerset Maugham. Ashenden or The British Agent. William Heinemann, 1928.

— William Plomer. Turbott Wolfe. Edited by Stephen Gray. Johannesburg : A.D. Donker, [1980]. Originally published in 1926 by the Hogarth Press.

— John Shire. Bookends. A Partial History of the Book Trade in Brighton. Invocations Press, [2011]. Notice here

— Marcel Theroux. Strange Bodies. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2014]. Reviewed here

— Anthony Trollope. The Way We Live Now (1875).

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in your mailbox

To the first dozen readers who write in, the Endless Bookshelf will send an interesting book from the shelves (U.S. only) : with a promise that it will not be from the Mailbag Roulette books unless you request one. Please indicate fiction or nonfiction (if you set store by such distinctions).

[As of 31 December, this is now complete, but will be repeated in future. Your correspondent received pleasant notes from a refreshing diversity of readers. Thank you.]

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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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Happy New Year from the Endless Bookshelf !

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Wolves and Hills

No voice but in the tongues
Of others
No weight but in the pull
Of mountains

— A. Richardson & R. Skelton. Wolf Notes [Corbel Stone Press, second edition 2011]. An astonishing pamphlet, a series of poems, place and plant names, utterly specific to Ulpha in Cumbria, in the north of England ; and yet the processes described —  like sky that covers the stony meadows —  are vast, universal. A printed slip at the back of the pamphlet contains a link to an album of the same name, containing some fine experimental music for cello and voice.

Detail of Ulpha Fell, just west of Coniston water, from the Road Atlas of Great Britain, 3 Miles to 1 Inch (1955).

The parcel from Corbel Stone Press also held the first two volumes of Reliquæ (1, 2013 ; and 2, 2014) an annual journal of poetry, folklore, and erudition. I enjoyed Richard Skelton on the fell foxes, “ With His Coat So Grey ”, “ The Last Wolf in England in Folklore and Fiction ” by Mark Valentine, and Autumn Richardson’s translation of En Lille Sang, “ A Little Song ” (detail from cover of volume 1) :

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— Ernst Stadler. Dark Voyage. Seven Poems. Versions in English by Mark Valentine and Claus Laufenburg. Hand bound by Jo Valentine in black buckram covers, stitched with red coton à broder. Edition of 25 copies. [Valentine & Valentine, 2014].

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— Mark Tewfik. The Sleepwalker. Lanterne Rouge Press, 2015. Intense novel, a hurtling downward spiral in the new Europe, from a Spanish beach town to the Ukraine to a London brothel ; the narrative keeps circling back across two decades to the siege of Vukovar and the slow-ripening fruit of choices made there.

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recent reading :

— Michael Swanwick. Season’s Greetings. [Dragonstairs Press, 2014]. Comprising “ Santas of All Nations ”, “ Straws ”, and “ Ministering Angels ”. The press is a rare triple blossom that flowers only briefly in the dead of winter.

— John Buchan. The Gap in the Curtain (1932).

— J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937). Re-read, chiefly for the pleasure of the opening paragraph and the walk through Mirkwood.

— Anthony Trollope. The Warden (1855).

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From the attic :

— S. Hamill Horne. The EFG Book. [28] pp. [Gladwyne, Penna., 1967]

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And from the electronic attic :

Nature has now put up the full text of many of the short short stories published in the journal, including Another green world by your correspondent, from the issue for 15 June 2000.

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— Alex. McCleneghan. Six Years in Heaven. A True Story of Human Credulity and Unexampled Devotion, Embracing a Complete Expose of the Abominable Practices and Monstrous Professions of George Jacob Schweinfurth. The False Christ. Whose Main Heaven is near Rockford, Illinois, with a Biographical Sketch of this Most Remarkable Religious Pretender of the Century. Illustrated. Laird & Lee, [1894]. No. 71 in the Library of Choice Fiction (cover dated June 1894]. Dan Visel, in “ Illinois Jesus. A forgotten Midwestern religious sect and the strange novel it inspired ” has looked into local Illinois history (including the origins of the tall poppy syndrome in Herodotus) and come up with a gem of a story, and an ephemeral, even rare book (only 4 institutions reporting holdings).

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[9 December]

recent reading

— John Delaney. Nova Cæsarea. A Cartographic Record of the Garden State 1666-1888. Princeton University Library, 2014. Detail above showing The Cedars, residence of H.W. Herbert (“ Frank Forester ”), from Map of Essex County New Jersey. With the Names of Property Holders &c. Hiram A. Belding, 1850. Your correspondent dwells not far from Crane’s Gap, south of Goffle and west of Weasel (place names on the 1828 map of New Jersey).

— Charles Dantzig. Dictionnaire égoïste de la littérature française (2005). Grasset, [2nd printing, 2006]. I am re-reading in this big, opinionated volume, with pleasure.

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— One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature. Curated by Chris Loker. Edited by Jill Shefrin. The Grolier Club, 2014. Catalogue of the exhibition (on view 10 December 2014 to 7 February 2015). A fine show with some astonishing books — rare and often in spectacular condition —  but any prescriptive list such as this is an Argument cloaked in camouflage of respectability. What thinking reader can look at the books and not think (once or twice), why is that book there ? or, why is this one missing ?

— Paul Williams. Only Apparently Real. [Entwhistle Books, 1986 ; 2nd printing, 1999]. “ The World of Philip K. Dick ” (cover).

— Philip K. Dick. Confessions of a Crap Artist — Jack Isidore (of Seville, Calif.). A Chronicle of Verified Scientific Fact, 1945-1959. Entwhistle Books, [1975; 1978 pbk.]

— Avram Davidson. “ The Slovo Stove ” (1985). [re-reading, with great pleasure]

— Wendy Walker. The Secret Service. Sun & Moon Classics, [1992]. [ditto]

— Penelope Fitzgerald. The Blue Flower. [1995]. Mariner Books Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, [2014]. Novalis and his times (poet-novel).

— William Gass. In the Heart of the Heart of the Country. NYRB Classics, with introduction by Joanna Scott.

— E. Phillips Oppenheim. The Illustrious Prince. Little, Brown, 1910. An eventful opening sequence. Diplomatic intrigue, murder, dull rose silk, etc. A late offering in the Future War / Invasion tradition, and a portent of U.S.-Japan conflict.

— E. Phillips Oppenheim. The Long Arm of Mannister. Illustrated by Frank Snapp. Little, Brown, 1908. Revenge drama.

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— Waltercio Caldas. Manual of Popular Science. Text by Paulo Venancio Filho. Foreword and commentary by the artist. [Translated from the Portuguese by Julie Atwater]. New extended edition. Cosaicnaify, [2007]. Originally published in 1982. Detail of no. 8, For Rilke (reduced).

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— Lord Dunsany. Lost Tales. Volume III. Pegana Press, 2014.

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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

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