The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books






The Last Three

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


1 ) Readers are invited by the Endless Bookshelf to send lists of The Last Three books read : author, title, and date of the edition (if possible), please. Please indicate if a re-read.

2 ) With the Last Three project, the Endless Bookshelf has provoked a suitable level of interactivity — solicited or cajoled, but interactivity all the same — and what a diverse range of titles ! And how consistently three is read as four ! Your correspondent will continue to post such reports as they are received. This IS an invitation.

3 ) Defining terms
The Last Three continues to evolve : one correspondent asked, “ do we have to have finished the books ? ” ; while another diagnosed “ a mild bout of despair at the number of started but unfinished books (mostly academic) surrounding my desk. Thank goodness for the spiritually elevating properties of cake. ” It was also heartening to see that others recognized the arbitrary nature of the Last Three and added a fourth title.

4 ) The sub-categories of Books Abandoned or Books Consulted for Reference are interesting but for purposes of the Last Three it is Books Read that should be recorded : the books that compel and retain a reader’s attention. Along the same lines, when The Nutmeg Point District Mail  and the Avram Davidson Society announced the Golden Nutmeg Award in 1997, the editor of the District Mail, for want of time, declined to entertain nominations for a Wooden Nutmeg Award.

5 ) electronym for submissions : wessells [at] aol [dot] com

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December 2010

From [WW] :

— Jim Steinmeyer. Charles Fort, the Man Who Invented the Supernatural  (a fascinating byway of American literary history, about our first cross-genre writer ?)
— P.D.James. Original Sin  (murder set in a publishing house as fallen Eden ; contains a passionate and articulate denunciation of mainstream publishing treatment of mid-list authors !)
— Bruce Duffy. The World as I Found It  (wonderful historical novel about Wittgenstein, Russell, Moore, Ottoline Morrell, Vienna.)

[MSL] (a partial submission, two titles, but sufficiently interesting to demand inclusion) :

— Edna Ferber. Buttered Side Down  (1912)
— Edna Ferber. Fanny Herself  (1917)
“ These must be among the most clothes-focused works of fiction ever penned ; a pity that the writing itself is mundane at best, and often awful. ” [In conversation, this reader told your correspondent, I am probably the only person in the last 50 years to have read these books.]

[MV] :
— Two Friends: John Gray & Andre Raffalovich : essays biographical and critical. Edited by Father Brocard Sewell (Aylesford, : St. Albert’s Press, 1963). The poet and dandy, later priest, who was “ not the original of Dorian Gray ”, and his aesthetical friend and patron.
— Arthur Machen. Things Near and Far  (New York : Knopf, 1923). The second volume of his autobiography, recounting the time when he seemed to live in a celestial Zion or in Baghdad-on-Thames, London as an Arabian Nights city.
— Patrick Leigh Fermor. A Time of Gifts. On foot to Constantinople, from the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube  (Folio Society, 1999). A journey that started, in its way, in my native Northamptonshire where the author was sent as a war evacuee and led a wild childhood in the country around unknown Dodford.

[DS] :
— Robert A. Heinlein. Starship Troopers . (Poorly plotted, incredibly didactic, and still compelling.)
— Ursula K. Le Guin. A Wizard of Earthsea .
— Jacques Bonnet. Phantoms on the Bookshelves . (Memoirs of a French book nut.)

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May 2010

[CNB] :
— Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Pages from the Goncourt Journals (2006, New York Review Books). Remainder found at Half-Price Books, Austin, read on trip to Paris
— Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature 1150-1750 (1998, Zone Books MIT Press). Cloth edition discovered at 12th Street Books, Austin, TX ; research for a book
— Andy Clark, Natural-Born Cyborgs : Minds, Technologies and the Future of Human Intelligence (2003, Oxford University Press). Research for a book, found at Austin Public Library

[BC] :
— Wilkie Collins, Armadale . London : Smith Elder, 1866. The least-known of Collins’ “ big four ” novels of mystery and adventure.
— Henry Pullen, The Fight at Dame Europa’s School . Illustrated by Thomas Nast. New York : Francis Felt, [1871]. European countries are portrayed humorously as small boys, misbehaving
— Sigfried Sassoon, Meredith . New York : Viking Press, 1948. Slightly turgid, but very informative
— Natalie Merchant, Leave Your Sleep . New York : Nonesuch Records, Inc., 2010. Short illustrated biographies to accompany twenty-six nineteenth and twentieth century poems set to music. Delightful and provocative

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April 2010

— Isaac Asimov, The Foundation Trilogy  (1951, 1952, 1953 ; Bantam paperbacks, 2008). Re-read, for an introduction to a new edition
— Anne Carson, Nox . New Directions, 2010. An elegy for her brother. Read, for a review
— Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping . Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1980. One of the dozen best American novels of the last 30 years. Re-read, for a talk

— William Shakespeare, The Tempest , ed. by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. The RSC Shakespeare, The Modern Library, 2008
— R. Crumb. The Book of Genesis Illustrated . W. W. Norton & Company, 2009
— Kim Stanley Robinson, Galileo's Dream . Ballantine Books, 2009
— Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare . Norton, 2004

— Christopher De Hamel, The Book : A History of the Bible . 2001. Re-read
— David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed in Flames . 2008
— Phyllis Walter Goodhart Gordan, ed., Two Renaissance Book Hunters : The Letters of Poggius Bracciolini to Nicolaus de Niccolis . 1974

[JW] :
— Elif Batuman, The Possessed : Adventures with Russian Books & the People Who Read Them . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010
— Philip Core, Camp : The Lie That Tells the Truth . 1981. Re-read.
— O.E. Shoeffler and WIlliam Gale, Esquire’s Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men’s Fashions . McGraw-Hill, 1973. Re-read.

[SF] :
— Catherine Drinker Bowen, Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September, 1787 . (New York, 1986.). Re-read
— Richard B. Morris, The Forging of the Union, 1781-1789 . (New York, 1987)
— Dard. Hunter, Papermaking  ; The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft . (New York, 1943)

[FL] :
— Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife . (2003  ; Harcourt, 2004)
— Josep M Carandell, The Palau de la Musica Catalana . Barcelona : Triangle Postals, 2006
— Charles Stross, The Revolution Business . (2009 ; Tor paperback, 2010)

[GG] :
— Holly Black, The Red Glove . Simon & Schuster, forthcoming, 2011
— Lydia Millet, The Fires Beneath the Sea . Big Mouth House, forthcoming, 2011. Re-read
— Mark Rich, Edge of Our Lives . Redjack, 2008

[DW] :
— Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory . (most recently read book ; aloud with my son ; a re-read)
— Neil Wechsler, Grenadine . Yale University Press, 2009. (read several times)
— Jed Perl, Antoine’s Alphabet: Watteau and His World . Knopf, 2008

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[DM] :
— Taylor Branch, The Clinton Tapes : Wrestling History with the President . Simon & Schuster, 2009
— Hugo Claus, Wonder , translated by Michael Heim. Archipelago Books, 2009
— Michael Palmer, Promises of Glass . New Directions, 2000
— Karl O. Knausgaard, A Time for Everything , trans. by James Anderson. Archipelago Books, 2008

[MLV] :
— Edmund Crispin, The Glimpses of the Moon . Gollancz, 1977. The final adventure of Gervase Fen, Oxford don and detective
— George Charles Williamson, Lodowick Muggleton, A Paper Read before ye Sette of Odd Volumes, At ye 337th Meeting, January 27, 1915 by Bro. George Charles Williamson, Horologer to ye Sette . Imprynted for ye Author at ye Chiswick Press and to be had of no bokesellers, 1919. An account of a seventeenth-century millenarian prophet, his followers, and his books
— Robert Byron, Letters Home . John Murray, 1991. Correspondence of the Thirties travel writer, author of The Road to Oxiana

[EFH] sends four, “ The last two are reference works for my novel-in-progress. ”
— Kem Nunn, Tapping the Source . Delacorte Press, 1984. The definitive surf-punk noir, re-read for the sixth or seventh time
— Monica Furlong, Wise Child. Gollancz, 1987. Novel set in sixth-century Scotland
— Source Book of Seid , edited and translated by James Chisolm and Stephen E. Flowers. Runa-Raven Press, 2007. Source material relating to seid  (Icelandic sorcery) in the Icelandic sagas
— The Galdrabok , translated by Stephen E. Flowers. Revised second edition, Runa-Raven Press, 2010. Translation of a Medieval Icelandic grimoire

[MJS] :
— Hendrik de Leeuw, Sinful Cities of the Western World . Citadel Press, 1947, tenth printing.Nonfiction. Visits to exotic brothels in the 1930s.
— Margaret Drabble, The Pattern in the Carpet : A Personal History With Jigsaws . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, first American edition
— Alexander Dumas’ Adventures in Caucasia , trans. & ed. by A. E. Murch. Chilton Books, 1962, first American edition. Nonfiction, in which Dumas père fights Chechen bandits !

[DVS] :
— Michael Bloch, James Lees-Milne : The Life . John Murray, 2009, Second printing. Who knew the Brits were as oversexed as Tiger Woods? Surely not I
— Vladimir Nabokoff, Laughter in the Dark , Bobbs-Merrill, 1938. A jacket-less copy in worn pea-green boards. “ Once upon a time . . . ”
— Sue Bradley, ed., The British Book Trade : An Oral History . British Library, 2008. Tales of bookselling over the last 60 years, expertly arranged. A way of life — martinis with lunch; editing and selling as not only a trade but a profession — rapidly being lost

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“ Mostly read while en route between my home in Chigasaki and work in Tokyo, Japan. ” [DC] :
— Alan Tansman, The Aesthetics of Japanese Fascism
— Elizabeth Jane Howard, The Light Years
— M. Thomas Gammarino, Big in Japan. A Ghost Story

[EK] :
— Gerald Bullett, Mr. Godly Beside Himself . John Lane The Bodley Head Ltd., [1924]
— Hope Mirrlees, The Counterplot . Alfred A. Knopf, [1925]
— John Bellairs, The House with a Clock in Its Walls , in The Best of John Bellairs . Dial Books, [2005], with the Gorey illustrations (re-read)
Bonus with colorful pictures :
— Mike Mignola and Ben Stenbeck, Witchfinder. In the Service of Angels . Dark Horse Books, [2010]

A “ classics fest ” from [SS] :
— Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now
— Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies
— Robert Graves, I Claudius

[DR] :
— Jonathan Lethem, Chronic City
— Jaron Lanier, You Are Not A Gadget
— Alfred Korbzybski, Science and Sanity. An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. Fifth edition, Institute of General Semantics, 1933/2005

[IRR] :
— Evelyn Waugh, A Handful of Dust. Penguin, [2000]. Suddenly realised that I had never actually read it . . .
—  Sue Grafton, U is for Undertow . Macmillan, [2010]. Because I've read all of them (& this one was a particularly good one)
— Rael Isacowitz, Pilates. Human Kinetics, [2006]. Constant companion at the moment to remind me of the exercises

[JW] :
— Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo . Kindle edition
— Michael Murphy, Golf in the Kingdom . 1972
— Daniel Defoe, The Life and Most Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe . 1801 printing

[DW] :
— Freud & Jung, Barnes and Noble reprint, originally published by Oxford University Press in their Past Masters Series
— The Way of Lao Tzu (Tao-te ching) , Translated with introductory essays, comments and notes by Wing-Tsit Chan, Macmillan, Library of the Liberal Arts, 1963
— Richard Bachman, The Regulators, Signet 10th printing

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Roving correspondent [GM] reports the following, from a train somewhere between Paris and London :
— Clarice Lispector, The Apple in the Dark
— Maurice Rowdon, The Ape of Sorrows
— Jacques Cauvin, The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture  ( “ a re-read, I’ll understand it eventually ” )

Your correspondent [HWW] submits the following :
— Mark Valentine and John Howard, The Collected Connoisseur . Tartarus, [2010]. Collection of short stories on fantastical/aesthetic topics, for a review.
— Abraham Lansing, The Log Book of Camp Albany [1883-1898], in Recollections . Privately printed, 1909.
— Wilkie Collins. The Moonstone. A Novel . With illustrations. Harper & Brothers, Publisher, [c. 1875, but 1882].
Plus :
— Dan Wechsler’s new picture book, Strange and Wonderful. An Informal Visual History of Manuscript Books and Albums  . Sanctuary Books, [2010].

Wendy Walker [WW] reports reading in Antigua, Guatemala :
— Anthony Trollope, Mr. Scarborough’s Family  (the first book by him I really enjoyed, and apparently his last, posthumously published)
— Penelope Chetwode, Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalusia (one of the ladies is herself, the other is her horse)
— P.G. Wodehouse, The Girl in Blue (good, late Wodehouse)

From [EH] :
— Paul Muldoon, New and Selected Poems
— Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
— Anton Joachimsthaler (Helmut Bogler, trans.), The Last Days of Hitler : Legend, Evidence and Truth

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electronym : wessells at aol dot com

Copyright © 2010-2011 Henry Wessells and individual contributors.

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