recent reading : january to june 2021

— A. J. Liebling. The Honest Rainmaker. The Life and Times of Colonel John R. Stingo. Doubleday, 1953.

— A. J. Liebling. Chicago: The Second City. Drawings by Steinberg. Knopf, 1952.

Liebling sparkles, and writes so engagingly that my utter lack of interest in horse racing becomes an irrelevancy; and every page contains an aphorism, a charming turn of phrase, or something memorable. The temptation to quote . . . .

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— Mark Valentine. Sphinxes & Obelisks. Tartarus, [2021].
Essays and discoveries in books.

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— Elizabeth Hand. The Best of Elizabeth Hand. Edited by Bill Sheehan. Subterranean Press, 2021.

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— Nevil Shute. Lonely Road [1932]. Heinemann, [1953].
Smuggling and political intrigue, and the prison of class.

— Eric Partridge. A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English [etc.]. Edited by Paul Beale. [Eighth edition]. Routledge & Kegan Paul, [1984].

— A Bibliophilic Tribute to Joel Silver. Compiled and edited by Richard Ring.  Providence, Rhode Island, 2021.

— Letters from Rupert Brooke to his publisher, 1911-1914. [Introduction by Geoffrey Keynes. Edited by Edith Scott Lynch]. Octagon Books, 1975.

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— Robert Sheckley. Is That What People Do? Short Stories. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, [1984].
A perennial favorite.

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— Arthur Machen. The Hill of Dreams. Tartarus Press, [1998]. With plates by Sidney H. Sime, introduction by Mark Valentine, plus introductions by Machen and Dunsany.

— Rex Stout. The Second Confession. A Nero Wolfe Novel [1949]. Bantam Books, [May 1961].

— Arkady Martine [AnnaLinden Weller]. A Memory Called Empire [2019]. Tor pbk, 4th ptg.

— The Sorceress in Stained Glass and other Ghost Stories. Edited by Richard Dalby. Tom Stacey, [1971].
An excellent anthology of uncommon supernatural tales, from Le Fanu to ‘A Vignette’ by M. R. James. Dalby’s first book.

— L. T. C. Rolt. Sleep No More. Twelve Stories of the Supernatural. Ash-Tree Press, 1996. With an introduction by Christopher Roden, afterword by Hugh Lamb.

— Richard William Pfaff. Montague Rhodes James. Scolar Press,  1980.

— The Legacy of M.R. James. Papers from the 1995 Cambridge Symposium. Edited by Lynda Dennison. Shaun Tyas, 2001.

— Thomas Pynchon. Gravity’s Rainbow. Viking, [1973].

— Ramachandra Guha. The Commonwealth of Cricket. A Lifelong Love Affair with the Most Sophisticated Game Known to Humankind. William Collins, [2020].

— Robert Shearman. We All Hear Stories in the Dark. [Illustrated by Reggie Oliver]. [Volume I]. [Introduction by Angela Slatter]. DIP, [2020].

— A. N. L. Munby. The Alabaster Hand and Other Ghost Stories [1949]. Ash-Tree Press, 1995.

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— Michael Swanwick. The Book of Blarney. [Dragonstairs, 2021]. Edition of 50.
—— ——. The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus. Subterranean, 2020.

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— Jon A. Jackson. Go by Go. A Novel. Dennis McMillan, 1998.
Labor unrest and murder in Butte: “just a way of talking about something that maybe can’t be talked about otherwise”.

— Gene Wolfe. Interlibrary Loan. Tor, [2020].

— Lou Dischler. My Only Sunshine. A Novel. Hub City Press, 2010.
Red Church, La., 1962, sugar and salt, bank robberies, Tijuana Bibles, and an alligator : and the gonzo narrative voice of nine-year-old Charlie Boone [signed copy, gift of DD].

— Thomas Pynchon. Bleeding Edge. Penguin Press, 2013

— Walter Klinefelter. The Fortsas Bibliohoax. Revised and Newly Annotated by the Author with Bibliographical Notes and Comments including a Reprint of the Fortsas Catalogue. Press of Ward Schori, 1986.

— Sinclair Lewis. It Can’t Happen Here. A Novel. Doubleday, Doran, 1935.

— David Rapp. Tinker to Evers to Chance. The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America. University of Chicago Press, [2018].

— Jon A. Jackson. Grootka. A Detective Sgt. “Fang” Mulheisen Novel. Foul Play Press | Countryman Press, [1990].

— Samuel L. Clemens. The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy Those Extraordinary Twins by Mark Twain [1894]. Introduction by Sherley Anne Williams. Afterword by David Lionel Smith. Oxford University Press, 1996.
Clemens is brilliant about fraud and race, which is, fundamentally, the Matter of America.

 

commonplace book : june 2021

 

“reaching many temporally, sequentially, many over time, into the future, but in some profound way these readers always come singly, one by one”
—Louise Glück, The Poet and the Reader: Nobel Lecture 2020

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‘exactly the same things I myself have piled up in countless boxes’

an interview with the charming & cosmopolitan Adrian Dannatt :
https://shopbookshop.com/blogs/the-book-shop-journal/one-great-reader-series-3-no-15-adrian-dannatt

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whispering messages of transience
— Thomas Pynchon. Bleeding Edge

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The Esoteric in Britain, 1921
a centennial reading list from Mark Valentine
https://wormwoodiana.blogspot.com/2020/12/the-esoteric-in-britain-1921.html

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Sir Gregor MacGregor, Cazique of Poyais, and an imaginary country in central America
https://www.crouchrarebooks.com/discover/featured-items/sir-gregor-macgregor-the-cazique-of-poyais

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Rhododendron Day 2021

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in their true light

Diane Di Prima, Dream Poem Avt Reagan & Co.

the best book of the year – 2020

 

‘slipping in between’

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

— Susanna Clarke. Piranesi. Bloomsbury, [2020]. The best book of the year (though I came late to the party). A compelling and richly visual labyrinth, a world entire created within this beautiful story, and then there is a plot : the apparent madness of the central character (dubbed Piranesi with the knowing, exquisite cruelty of his enchanter) is resolved partly through the persistence of an investigating officer but chiefly though the prodigious remembering of Piranesi.
Piranesi made this reader think, ah, here is the tale of the subjective experience of one of those characters who are nothing but roadkill in The Secret History or The Magicians. And in charting this terrain, Clarke challenges the assumptions of the heedless, privileged seekers who in other novels inflict suffering upon others without consequence.
This book is like no other, and yet the succession of detailed tableaux, and the trajectory of healing in Piranesi both made me think of The Secret Service by Wendy Walker, in particular Chapter Nine, the account of Polly’s travels while she is a broken goblet, which almost forms a novel within the novel. Piranesi’s engravings of ruins and prisons are nowhere explicitly cited in this novel, but in the early pages I did have a feeling of now I know, the residents of The Library of Babel are all mad, and Piranesi’s landscapes of the imagination are plates to Borges’ story (file under : Borges and his predecessors). Three other tales of madness and movement through strange landscapes sprang to mind, the ascent in Lovecraft’s “The Outsider”, Gene Wolfe’s variations on Doctor Island, and Doris Lessing’s Briefing for a Descent into Hell. Piranesi is almost entirely unlike any of them.
The unconditional goodness of the central character shines everywhere in this book (John Clute called my attention to this in conversation, and he has written of the “radiantly good ‘Piranesi’” here ). The book has been widely praised and reviewed, as I said, I came late to the book, but it was the best book of 2020.
[I am deeply grateful to GS who alerted me to this book.]