WHY THE NAME ?
Short version :
In cyberspace, bookshelves never sag and will stretch to a Borgesian infinity.
Long version :
Books are part of my life. A few books stay on my shelves, most others move on. From 1988 to 1990 I had a weekly radio literary reading series on WKCR-FM in New York City and put a stream of authors in front of the microphone; some of whom are now household names. From 1996 to 1999 I was staff writer and then managing editor of AB Bookman’s Weekly and my windowless office had shelves of books to review or list in Books Received or to include in recurring round-up articles on certain fields. While at AB , I began reviewing the occasional book for The New York Review of Science Fiction or writing short Read This ! columns. From 2000 to 2003, I started an irregular reading log on the Avram Davidson website that became the endless bookshelf in 2004. In January 2007, I decided to make a website instead of simply listing titles.
AND THE SUBTITLE ?
Adapted from The Wind in the Willows :
‘ Is it so nice as all that ? ’ asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.
‘ Nice ? It’s the only thing, ’ said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. ‘ Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing, ’ he went on dreamily : ‘ messing — about — in — boats ; messing — — ’
‘ Look ahead, Rat ! ’ cried the Mole suddenly.
It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.
‘ — about in boats — or with boats, ’ the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh.
I am susceptible to well-written mystery novels, formally inventive short fiction, biographies of unusual people, and the literature of the fantastic.
SOME ORGANIZING PRINCIPLES OF THE ENDLESS BOOKSHELF :
— Random Association : How random is random ? (see William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, The Third Mind )
— Classic Avoidance Behavior : and what should you be doing just now ? (I ask this of myself, too.)
— Lateral Thinking
— Lists (Sequential Thinking) : Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do and do the last thing on it (Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, The Oblique Strategies )
COMMONPLACE BOOK :
There are times when the Endless Bookshelf posts full reviews of recent books or reflections upon reading or re-reading a notable literary work ; sometimes its function is as a commonplace book where interesting or provocative passages are recorded (with or without discussion of context), as immediately below.
THREE QUOTATIONS :
“ I deprecate that hard and fast line between fabulous animals and those that you all chance to have seen . . . What does it amount to, practically, but a line drawn round Regent’s Park ? ” — Lord Dunsany (The Collected Jorkens. Volume One , p. 222)
“ Stop asking for what is not there and you start to see what is. ” — Salman Rushdie (in his introduction to the second volume of the Novels of Samuel Beckett, in the Grove Centenary Edition)
“ I myself . . . would rather be told too little than too much. ” — Marianne Moore
A song for those who learn forgotten, slow
Skills, crafts submerged long past by massed commerce,
By hard, dark, oily machines, and the din
Of duplicates shipped by the millions, stowed
In cavernous depots to be dispersed
To each home, used once, and then binned.
This is for those who weave by hand, who brew
Their own suds, and roll their own smokes, hammer
Together shelves, print on presses, plant gardens
In vacant lots, raise beams, fire pots, the few
Who challenge the swift, transient tenor
Of the age, the lonely sincere wardens,
The last, noble pull of old ways restored,
Valued and unwanted, admired and ignored.
from Sixty Sonnets . Copyright © 2009 by Ernest Hilbert. Reproduced by permission of the author.
The Endless Bookshelf and the hand bindery of Temporary Culture adopt this Song as anthem.
I read books written in English, German, French, Arabic ; and am always willing to push at the boundaries of comprehension and read books in languages I don’t quite know, such as Spanish (fun). While I can read in Latin and Russian, what I understand is not sufficient to repay the effort (not fun).
SLOW INTERACTIVE :
The Endless Bookshelf will remain a website with edited content evolving over time, and has even migrated to a platform which allows mediated comments and a simulation of interactivity. Correspondence by e-mail, postcard, letter, or book(s) will always be read with interest.
Please address all correspondence (including printed books or advance galleys for review) to : Henry Wessells, Temporary Culture, P.O.B. 43072, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043 USA.
The electronym for the Endless Bookshelf is wessells [at] aol [dot] com.
ENDLESS BUT NOT COMPREHENSIVE :
The Endless Bookshelf aspires to the state of collective enterprise but until that happens it remains largely the work of your correspondent [HWW] and the many authors whose books dance across its screens ; the whims and interests of your correspondent will dictate contents — this is why, from time to time, I attempt to define said whim and fancies, and even to identify the assumptions whence they derive.
— Henry Abbott. The Birch Bark Books of Henry Abbott. Sporting Adventures and Nature Observations in the early 1900s . Edited with an introduction by Vincent Engels (Harbor Hill Books, 1980)
— James Blish. Doctor Mirabilis (Dodd, Mead, 1971)
— Jorge Luis Borges. Other Inquisitions . Translated by Ruth Simms (University of Texas, 1964 ; fourth paperback printing, 1993)
— Marshall Brooks. A Brief Illustrated History of the Bookshelf. With an Essay which Pertains to the Subject . Drawings by the author. (Birch Brook, 1998)
— Michael Brownstein. The Touch (Autonomedia, )
— John Buchan. The Thirty-Nine Steps (Blackwood, 1915 ; frequently reprinted)
— John Crowley. Little, Big (Bantam, 1981)
— Walter D. Edmonds. Tales My Father Never Told (Syracuse University Press, )
— Marian Engel. Bear (1976 ; David R. Godine, 2003)
— Emyr Estyn Evans. Ireland and the Atlantic Heritage. Selected Writings (Lilliput, Dublin, 1996)
— Kenneth Grahame. The Wind in the Willows (Methuen, 1908 ; Scribners, illustrated in color and black and white by Ernest Shepard, )
— Hannah Green. The Dead of the House (Doubleday, 1972 ; Books & Co., Turtle Point, 1996)
— Robert H. van Gulik. The Monkey and the Tiger (1965) and other Judge Dee books, and the scholarly writings
— (Gulik, R. H. van) Janwilllem van de Wetering. Robert van Gulik, His Life, His Work (Dennis McMillan, 1987 ; Soho, 1998)
— Henry Hobhouse. Seeds of Change. Five Plants That Transformed Mankind (1985 ; Harper & Row, 1986)
— If It Had Happened Otherwise. Lapses into Imaginary History . Edited by J. C. Squire (Longmans, Green, 1932) : the « Sources of the Nile » in counterfactual history
— Tom La Farge. The Crimson Bears and A Hundred Doors. Part II of The Crimson Bears (Sun & Moon, 1993-4)
— Ursula K. Le Guin. The Dispossessed (Harper & Row, 1974)
— Fred Lerner. The Story of Libraries from the Invention of Writing to the Computer Age (Continuum, 1998)
— Anne Lindbergh. The Worry Week (1985 ; David R. Godine, 2003)
— (Marais, Eugène) Leon Rousseau. The Dark Stream. the Story of Eugène Marais (Jonathan Ball, 1982)
— Marshall McLuhan. The Mechanical Bride. Folklore of Industrial Man (Vanguard, 1951)
— Measures of Poison (Dennis McMillan, 2002)
— Judith Merril and Emily Pohl-Weary. Better to Have Loved. The Life of Judith Merril (Between the Lines, 2002)
— Myles na Gopaleen (Flann O’Brien). The Best of Myles. A Selection from ‘ Cruiskeen Lawn ’ . Edited and with a preface by Kevin O’Nolan (Walker, 1968)
— Fletcher Pratt. The Blue Star. (In : Witches Three [Twayne, 1953] ; Ballantine Books, 1968)
— Arthur Ransome. The Swallows & Amazons books (all back in print in the U.S. from David R. Godine )
— (Ransome, Arthur) Christina Hardyment. Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint’s Trunk (Jonathan Cape, 1984)
— William Reese. Dream Books (William Reese, 2000)
— Bob Rosenthal. Cleaning Up New York (Angel Hair Books,  ; The Little Bookroom, )
— Robert Sheckley. In a Land of Clear Colors (multimedia edition, with illustrations by Leonora Quiles and music by Brian Eno, Galeria El Mensajera, Santa Eulalia del Rio, Ibiza, 1979)
— Iain Sinclair. London Orbital (Granta, 2002) and his earlier White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (Goldmark, 1987)
— Julian Symons. Portraits of the Missing. Imaginary Biographies (Andre Deutsch, 1991)
— Wendy Walker. The Secret Service (Sun & Moon, 1992 ; Tough Poets Press, 2021)
— Don Webb. Uncle Ovid’s Exercise Book (Fiction Collective, 1989)
— Janwillem van de Wetering. Hard Rain (1986 ; Soho, 1997) and other books
— (Wetering, Janwillem van de) Alexandra David-Neel and Lama Yongden. The Power of Nothingness Translated by Janwillem van de Wetering (Houghton Mifflin, 1982)
— (Willeford, Charles) Don Herron. Willeford (Dennis McMillan, 1997)
— William S. Wilson. Why I Don’t Write Like Franz Kafka (Ecco, 1977)
NO ADS :
No advertisements. No advertisements. No advertisements on the Endless Bookshelf.
A FEW THINGS I DON’T :
I don’t read or review “ e-books ” or “ audio books ”. Printed books or advance galleys may be sent to : Temporary Culture, P.O.B. 43072, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043 USA.
I don’t kiss and tell. There are plenty of interesting book stories and incidents that may have to wait for my memoirs, Erinnerungen des Buchnarrs (Recollections of a Book-fool).
I don’t answer questions about : private matters (I’ll draw the line where I choose) ; nor about unfinished fiction projects or essays, or other works in progress.
I don’t watch television and won’t write about it.
I don’t tolerate sloppy thinking or books whose authors cheat readers by withholding information.
I don’t appraise books that I haven’t seen.
— Henry Wessells