Sunday, March 22, 2015

Yoshihiro Tatsumi's The Push Man, signed with drawing (Drawn and Quarterly, 2005)

I was really sad to learn of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's death earlier this month. I was scrolling through instagram and saw that there was a new Tatsumi window display at the Drawn and Quarterly bookstore in Canada... it took me a second to realize that the display was to commemorate his life and not a new book.

Tatsumi was one of the founders of the 'gekiga' manga movement, which opened that medium up to darker, more mature stories. Discovering these, in turn, opened my eyes to a world of manga and comics that I hadn't known about before. Tatsumi made comics the way 'serious' writers wrote short stories; these were comics as literature in a way that even some of the most progressive cartoonists of today haven't been able to meet. In a strange way, I'd put Tatsumi's short works on par with some of the best 70s-era short America fiction; he cut through to the gnarled core of domestic life with as much finesse as Raymond Carver or the Rabbit Angstrom novels.

The stories in The Push Man were first published in 1969 and were translated and compiled by Adrian Tomine for Drawn and Quarterly in 2005. This copy is a second edition, but it's signed by Tatsumi with a drawing on the flyleaf. I wish I could say Tatsumi signed this for me in person, but I recently picked this up from a seller online. It's also signed by Tomine before the introduction.

Currently reading:
The Paris Review 212

Currently listening to:
Bing & Ruth, "Tomorrow Was the Golden Age"

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kazuo Ishiguro, "The Buried Giant" (2015, signed first edition)

Following last week's post on Satin Island, here's another beautifully designed edition from Peter Mendelsund. Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant came out two weeks ago and looks absolutely splendid. I'm only about fifty pages in, but the story reads as if lost in time; Ishiguro's narrator speaks as if he or she is some sort of wise sage and frequently addresses the reader as if we're from generations into the future, post-dystopia, or generations the other way, in some medieval realm.

The book very keenly achieves a similar sentiment: it feels old, well-worn and archaic, and it's incredible to think that a book like this probably has a print run of over 100,000 copies. The jacket's got a nice texture to it, with decorative gold faux-tooling. The endpapers look straight out of Tolkien, and the black stain on the pages' edges add to the overall illusion that this is some kind of rare library find. But it's only $26, less depending on where you look. Here's a link to a 50 GBP limited edition from Faber... I'd say the US version is better.

The boards look like the book's been bound in green leather with a marbled gold spine. 

It's really a gorgeous book, one of the nicest wide-release titles I've seen in a long time. My copy is a signed first edition, signed by Ishiguro on a tipped-in page before the book's front matter. I picked this up at Powell's via their webstore for the retail price -- I imagine there are quite a few signed firsts out there, and I highly recommend you track one down. 

(Also, a quick housekeeping note: you can now find me at No need to include blogspot in the URL anymore!)

Currently reading:
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Currently listening to:
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tom McCarthy, "Satin Island" (2015, signed first edition)

A quick post this week showcasing a newly signed first edition of Tom McCarthy's Satin Island. McCarthy is one of my favorite writers to watch; he approaches each book with remarkable aplomb and takes on wildly challenging stories. Remainder featured falling space debris and a man trying to recreate with a cast of actors a recurring dream. C, a four-part novel that as a whole is about communication, radio waves, and World War I, is exceptionally good, ambitious, and original, and absolutely should have beat The Finkler Question for the 2010 Booker Prize. 

Satin Island, just published last week in the US, is about a cultural anthropologist working for a massive corporation and is almost Kafkaesque in its surreality. I'm only about forty pages in (about a quarter of the way through) but the book is riveting in all its strangeness. Each paragraph is headed like a boring business contract (5.1, 5.2, etc) but features some of the tightest, meditative prose about today's culture of technology and how that world may be informed by bygone cultural philosophers like Claude Levi-Strauss. McCarthy is a brilliant writer and I'm looking forward to digging in more. A review will likely be online at later this month.

This book was signed for me at a reading/discussion that took place last week at the inimitable 192 Books in Chelsea. And, how about that amazing cover by Peter Mendelsund?

Currently reading:
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Currently listening to:
Joy Division, "Preston, 28 February 1980 (live)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Kobo Abe, "The Woman in the Dunes" (1964 first American edition, with original Knopf press letter)

I was recently in Washington D.C. and saw some very tempting rare books by Kenzaburo Oe at The Second Story Bookshop and thought I'd share one of my modern Japanese classics. While I have a few of Oe's early books I might share later on, I'd like to focus here on Kobo Abe. I fell hard into the world of Kobo Abe by way of his collaborations with the filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara; I saw the film of The Woman in the Dunes and was floored by its surreal, sensual madness. I think The Woman in the Dunes, along with Abe's The Box Man can form a pretty direct line to the contemporary Japanese magical realism of Haruki Murakami; if you like Murakami, look to Abe to see where it all originated.

The Woman in the Dunes is about an entomologist who gets trapped in a widow's hut while doing field research. Her hut is slowly being consumed by the surrounding dunes, and the entomologist must try to stave off the flow of sand in order for the villagers to agree to aid him. Things blur between Sisyphean and psychosexual as the entomologist finds himself drawn physically to the widow.

This is a first American Edition, originally published by Knopf in 1964. I picked it up at the Strand in Manhattan about three years ago for around $40 -- some copies are currently out there for a little more, around $65, while others are as high as $400. The condition of the book is great but the jacket's not so good, as there are a few closed tears along the spine. The coloring still looks remarkably bright, too (although the page details I photographed look brown in my low-light...).

The book has some illustrations throughout by Machi Abe, and features this terrifying page right at its beginning:

I also was thrilled to find this wedged into the book: a press letter from Knopf to a "Mrs. Crist", sent at the request of the the production company that put out Teshigahara's film that same year. How exciting!

Currently reading:
Bonita Avenue, by Peter Buwalda

Currently listening to:
Bing and Ruth, "Tomorrow Was the Golden Age"

Monday, February 23, 2015

Olafur Eliasson, Contact (glow-in-the-dark limited edition of 291 copies)

This is the limited edition of Olafur Eliasson's exhibition catalogue Contact, published in a run of only 291 copies in conjunction with Eliasson's show at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. (The show actually ended today!) This book is absolutely glorious in both the regular and limited editions, featuring an exceptional balance of metallic inks and black paper stock. The first half of the book is printed on black sheets that feel like construction paper, and each spread features a breathtaking ombre from black to metallic colors that echo photo-negative tones.

When it was still available, the limited edition was only 30 EUR more than the regular edition and it was absolutely worth it. 32 pages of Contact are silkscreened in fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark ink. These pages depict line-renderings of various rooms and hallways of the Contact exhibition and glow under a hot light. Take a look:

The second half of the book consists of a more traditional exhibition catalogue, but still has some exciting parts to it: in between essays, spreads of sketches appear, showing an interesting side of Eliasson's creative process. It's remarkable to see works as polished as Eliasson's in this format, reminding viewers and readers that even his most ambitious pieces started as a scribbled idea.

Currently reading:
Fire and Knowledge by Peter Nadas

Currently Listening to:
Bing and Ruth, "Tomorrow Was the Golden Age"

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Don DeLillo and Richard Prince, "The Word for Snow" (Karma/Glenn Horowitz, 2014)

The Word for Snow is a maddening one-act play by Don DeLillo recently published by Glenn Horowitz and Karma, a New York publisher/gallery/boutique. Karma produces artist's books and unconventional exhibition catalogues, ranging from small staple-bound zines ($5) to hardcover volumes with unique, illustrated covers by the likes of Julian Schnabel and Chris Martin ($300 and up). The great thing about Karma is they are constantly producing work, launching exhibitions in New York or Easthampton, and co-publishing with other galleries in a way that broadens their roster. They also track down rare exhibition catalogues, which all seem to sell out promptly.

The Word for Snow is a very strange book, a remarkable literary piece snuck out amidst a slew of books on contemporary artists. Illustrated sparingly with bleak photographs by Richard Prince, the majority of The Word for Snow is emptiness. DeLillo's play only appears on the right side of the gutter, with the left pages blank except for a few Prince photographs every five-or-so-pages. The text is in a slightly deteriorated, large typewriter font, almost as if a lost manuscript was scanned and bound together. The play runs less that 30 pages, but packs a world of apocalyptic terror in its sparsity.

The conceit of the play is that a Pilgrim has finally achieved an audience with a Scholar, secreted away in some "mud hut" on an "unnamed mountain somewhere in a lost corner of west-central Asia." His discussion with the scholar is filtered through a third person, The Interpreter, which quickly mutates their Q-and-A into a play for three distinct voices. The Pilgrim, to his dismay, discovers that the Scholar's past teaching are considered obsolete, and that focus must be shifted instead onto the "death wish of technology," when "all languages are one language" and "the word becomes the thing." Confounding, classic DeLillo, futurism wrapped in fearfulness.

Richard Prince's photographs of old run-down homes and basketball hoops look relatively innocuous at first glance, but they transform into an appropriate doomsday motif once DeLillo gets momentum. Seen alone at a gallery show, I would hardly be moved by these visuals, but in tandem with The Word for Snow they drift towards meaning.

The Word for Snow was available in an edition of 1000 copies, 125 of which where bound in hardcover and signed by Prince and DeLillo. Signed copies are available at $350 from Karma's website, but the rest of 875 are completely sold out. They occasionally come up on eBay for around $45 (think there's one there right now). Highly recommended.

Currently reading:
Ander Monson, Letter to a Future Lover

Currently listening to:
"Returnal" by Oneohtrix Point Never

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Haruki Murakami, Tony Takitani (Cloverfield Press, 2006)

Back in 2006, a small Los Angeles publisher named Cloverfield Press came out with a line of small chapbooks with letterpressed covers. There were eight in total, including The Boy from Lam Kien by Miranda July and Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami. "Tony Takitani" is a beloved Murakami story, originally written in 1990 and published in the New Yorker in 2002 (and was even made into a film in 2005). The story went on to be included in the author's English-language Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman collection in 2006, but was first published that year in a standalone volume by Cloverfield Press. 

Cloverfield Press's thing was that they numbered every copy and stamped them with a notary-like seal. It was a great way of making their books collectible without having signatures in every copy. Due to Murakami's rabid fanbase, Tony Takitani sold exceptionally fast, and was fetching some surprisingly high prices on eBay at one point. I personally sold a few copies myself, surprised that people didn't figure out that you could buy them directly from the press. I accidentally left myself with a first edition / second printing, though!

Activity at Cloverfield Press vanished after this first line of books. Their site is still live (here), but it's a ghost town. Nothing's been updated in about nine years...!

This is copy 1135 (of perhaps 2000).

Lovely endpapers, inverting the cover illustrations:

Currently reading:
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Currently listening to:
Gaussian Curve, "Clouds"