Monday, April 20, 2015

Monsters Holding Bitches Shock Zine No. 1: Kong & His Pals

Sure, the Pulitzer may have been announced this afternoon, and while Anthony Doerr may deserve a lavish post at The Oxen of the Sun, I'm more excited to share this with you. From highbrow to lowbrow, behold: Monsters Holding Bitches No. 1: Kong & His Pals.

I found MHB on instagram (here) and have been enjoying his posts mixing old monster movie stills and new illustrations submitted by monster-lovers all over the country. When I heard a zine was in the works, I promptly headed over to Black Cloud Company's Etsy shop and placed an order.

The zine is great and exactly what you'd imagine. Love the EC-style "SHOCK" on the cover, and the hint of a MHB "Fiend Club" on the back.

No one's asking, but some thoughts for issue No. 2: how about a letters page? A message from the editor? Subscription details? The possibilities are endless.

Currently reading:
The Familiar, Vol. 1, by Mark Z. Danielewski
My Documents, by Alejandro Zambra

Currently listening to:
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, "Tender Prey"

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Trash Tankas for Lady Stardust a Bowie Discography in Verse, by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore (signed and numbered, Glass Eye Books, 2002)

This week I'll showcase another early find from my collection: a chapbook called Trash Tankas for Lady Stardust by music critic Byron Coley and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. This was created for a Brooklyn McSweeney's party in 2002 in an edition of 100 copies, signed by both Coley and Moore.

The book is hand assembled and staplebound with a lilac cover on heavier card stock paper. Inside, Coley and Moore have composed a tanka (a Japanese poetic form) for each of David Bowie's albums. Take a look:

The book is numbered out of 100 copies, but my copy features two edition numbers: on the pink sheet on the back cover as well as on the colophon inside. This is copy 63/100 (inside) and 38/100 (outside).

I picked this up shortly after it's publication from a seller online for something like $20 -- I was a big McSweeney's fan at the time and still couldn't get enough of Sonic Youth's A Thousands Leaves, which I had won three years prior on a radio giveaway from my hometown station, Northampton, MA's 99.3. Very cool to see Glass Eye Books operated in the next town over, too!

Currently reading:
Last Stories and Other Stories by William T. Vollmann

Currently listening to:
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, "Tender Prey"

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Joseph Heller, Something Happened (signed with mysterious inscription, 1979)

A quick post late this Sunday to show you all one of the first rare books I picked up when I started collecting. I was a teenager, and found myself in a short-lived Joseph Heller phase after having been delighted by Catch-22 and having an early taste of contemporary American literature. This was around 2000, the same year that I learned about eBay and its collectible offerings.

When this signed mass-market paperback of Something Happened showed up online for something like $8.00, I jumped at the opportunity. The R-Rated subtext here made teenage-me think I bought in on some illicit literary secret. Adult me smirks, shrugs, and is happy to share. I mean, who knows this really means, right?

"To Jenny Litt,

Hello again - - the
morning after.

Joe Heller

Currently reading:
Vladimir Nabokov, Transparent Things

Currently listening to:
"Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" by Wilco

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Masahiko Matsumoto, "The Man Next Door" (1959, published by Breakdown Press in 2014)

Breakdown Press, a new publisher based in the UK, recently released two great new manga books edited by Ryan Holmberg (creator of the short-lived "10-Cent Manga" series from Picturebox). Although the 40-page Flowering Harbor by Seiichi Hayashi is an exceptional volume, I'm going to focus this post of Masahiko Matsumoto's The Man Next Door.

 Following my post last week on the passing of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, I feel it's important to shine the spotlight over to Masahiko Matsumoto, who was a behind-the-scenes (but integral) player in the formation of the gekiga movement of more mature, darker, literary and cinematic comics (he actually makes a few appearances in Tatsumi's A Drifting Life). Before Tatsumi ever coined the term gekiga, Matsumoto was experimenting with a new style he called komaga, or panel comics.

These "panel" comics are an interesting link to cinematic storyboards and allowed the creator a film director's range of nuance and pacing. Breakdown Press has reprinted four Matsumoto stories (originally published in "Shadow" magazine from 1956) that exemplify this new kind of storytelling and it's a marvel to see how Matsumoto works with his newfound abilities.

It's a gorgeous little book, to boot, with each story reprinted in a different hue of faded, colored ink in purple, green, blue and red.

I could write for pages on The Man Next Door, and in fact I did already: the Spring issue of Rain Taxi Review of Books features a lengthy review I wrote on it. Pick up a copy if you see one! I highly recommend The Man Next Door for anyone interested in vintage comics, manga, or simply a well-produced book. Looking at Breakdown Press's webstore, it appears that their titles are already selling out, so I also recommend acting fast.

Currently reading:
Will Self, Shark

Currently listening to:
"Avalon Sutra" by Harold Budd

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)