Sunday, May 15, 2016

Daisuke Yokata, Color Photographs (Harper's Books, 2015, signed and dated)

Last year at the New York Art Book Fair I picked up this absolutely gorgeous book by Japanese photographer Daisuke Yokota. Color Photographs was published in an edition of 750 copies with five different font-color variants (each limited to 150). I'm on the Harper's Books email list and when they mentioned the book (and that Yokota would be at the fair signing copies) I rushed out the door as if to siren-song.

I hadn't seen his work before but these photos possess an incredible cosmic heft; they're otherworldly in their beauty and the kind of thing I could endlessly look at (NB: Harper's did do a series of prints, too). They remind me of Sigmar Polke, and were created with a similar kind of darkroom-chemical manipulation that became one of Polke's many signature styles. These experimental photos were printed, distorted, layered, and scanned, and they look like the surface of an acid-drenched planet we've not yet discovered. Absolutely spellbinding.

Here's a detail, too. I'm not going to post any more photos because you should all buy the book while it's still available. 

Currently reading:
Miroslav Penkov, Stork Mountain

Currently listening to:
Joanna Brouk, "Hearing Music"

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Don DeLillo, Zero K (signed first edition)

Last week I had the privilege of seeing Don DeLillo read from his new novel Zero K at the 92nd Street Y. His reading was an incredible amalgamation of sections from the entire book - it was a joy to hear him read something I'd so recently read myself and hear it re-sequenced, as if anew. The New York Times did a great write-up of the event, which can be found here.

After the event, DeLillo was gracious enough to sign books: he said he's sign Zero K and one additional book from his backlist. Of course, there wouldn't be a book event in New York without a slew of book-flipping vultures, who crammed the front of the line with *stacks* of inexplicably perfect copies of Americana... it was a shame to watch these guys take advantage of DeLillo, and by the time I got to meet him I could tell he was already spent. Lucky for me, he kindly signed my Zero K and my first edition of The Names, both of which are proudly shelved in the still-growing section of DeLillo books in my library. The line was remarkably long (to the door and then some) and I'm afraid some folks were turned away. Glad I made the cut!

I recently reviewed Zero K for Run Spot Run, which can be read here. Please take a look - this is one of the big books of 2016.

And, for fun: here's a photo of the great spine of the book. My review copy was tape-bound so I hadn't seen this until I bought the hardcover. Very nice!

Currently reading:
Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways

Currently listening to:
Joanna Brouk, "Hearing Music"

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (signed first edition, dated on Pulitzer day)

Here's a serious catch: a signed, first edition / first printng of Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer, dated April 18, 2016, the day he won the Pulitzer for fiction.

I can't imagine anyone saw this coming -- I for one hadn't even heard of The Sympathizer until the award was announced. Whenever this sort of thing happens, whether it's the Pulitzer or the Booker longlist or shortlist or winner, there's this strange moment online where traces of suddenly-collectible books appear to be available only to suddenly be out-of-stock upon adding a book one's abebooks cart. It's a weird kind of race, and then this sort of thing happens:

While seeing that Symapthizers were disappearing off the internet by the minute, I went to Viet Thanh Nguyen's website and saw that he was doing a signing that night at the Harvard Bookstore. They recently sold me a signed Marilynne Robinson book from a previous event, and while there's not a good way to check editions on a phone order I took a gamble and bought the last hardcover they had in stock. They were gracious enough to get it signed for me and ship it to New York, and lucky for me, a first printing with a complete number line:

Currently reading:
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

Currently listening to:
Cold Cave, "Love Comes Close"

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Daniel Clowes, Wilson (signed)

I recently picked up Daniel Clowes's new book Patience but have yet to crack it: after reading through the recently-released Eightball #1-#18 box set, I decided I would go through the complete Clowes on my way to Patience. Plowing through Ice Haven (Eightball #22) and The Death-Ray (Eightball #23) kind of left me a little nonplussed (I don't think those two are particularly stellar stories) but revisiting 2011's Wilson has been a real treat. I've been cracking up over how dark and sad and hilarious the book is!

I got a chance to meet Clowes five years ago at The Strand and he signed this copy for me. Yo Wilson!

Currently reading:
Lian Hearn, Emperor of the Eight Islands

Currently listening to:
"Lost Themes II" by John Carpenter

Sunday, April 17, 2016

David Foster Wallace, Girl With Curious Hair (1st edition)

As I mentioned a few months ago, I've been participating this winter in the David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest book club, Infinite Winter. This weekend I rounded the 900-page corner and have the end in sight - I think I'll finish the novel some time this week. To commemorate this, I thought I'd feature one of my David Foster Wallace rarities, this first edition of Girl With Curious Hair.

My David Foster Wallace collection has a bit of an awkward history: I was on the fence with him and his books for quite some time, having only really read his essays (which were perfectly fine, I figured at the time, but certainly not masterpieces). Coming off the heels of reading the sorta-fine-sorta-useless Both Flesh and Not I decided I wasn't into him. Overrated. I'd picked up a substantial set of Wallace books in library sales and old bookshops over the years, and with Infinite Jest still unread on my shelf I committed to selling the collection to a local bookseller in an effort to fund an art purchase (I had thrown my signed Consider the Lobster up on eBay for a hefty sum already). Fast forward six months, artwork framed on the wall, I find myself nose-deep into the absolutely exquisite Infinite Jest and realize, perhaps too late, that David Foster Wallace was indeed one of the greats and any good library deserves the collection of books that I so coldly treated like a pawn shop cartridge-player.

It's actually kind of fun to "keep an eye out" again and drift through bookstores, which is something I stopped doing once my tastes and library got a little too specific. Now I can pop in and see if someone might have a hardcover 1st of Brief Interviews... or Oblivion, which I still need to pick back up.

This copy was recently picked up, like last week's Arion Press edition, from Powell's ridiculously generous 30% online sale a few weeks ago. Here's the colophon and front-flap of Girl With Curious Hair:

Eyes are peeled for a 1st/1st Infinite Jest. My old copy was a later printing, and not particularly valuable, so no great loss there, but reading through Infinite Jest is a massive important read and one that I think might, looking back, define this point in my life. Really special stuff.

Currently reading:
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

Currently listening to:
Underworld, "Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future"

Sunday, April 10, 2016

How I Came to Be the Governor of the Island of Cacona, by The Hon. Francis Thistleton (1852, reprinted by the Arion Press in 1989)

I recently picked up this little oddity from the wildly generous 30% everything sale that Powell's did a few weeks ago: this is How I Came to Be the Governor of the Island of Cacona by William Henry Fleet, writing pseudonymously as the Hon. Francis Thistleton. Originally published in Montreal in 1852, the Arion Press reprinted the book in 1989 after Andrew Hoyem (the founder of Arion Press) discovered a copy of the original volume.

It's a small volume bound in dark green cloth and ochre paper boards, beautifully typeset and letterpress-printed in black and green ink. There's an introduction by Robertson Davies, and each chapter features a delightful illustration in black and yellow ink by Andrew Hoyem himself. Here's a few of those illustrations:

Here's the original title page:

and Arion Press's updated title:

Cacona is a fictional Canadian island (how great is that map on the cover!), and the story here is in the realm of 19th Century British amusements like Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King and Anthony Hope's Prisoner of Zenda: in Thistleton's novel, a man is surprisingly granted governorship of Cacona by Her Majesty the Queen. Antics ensue as Cacona is further colonized and their government set up.

This is from an edition of only 325 unsigned/unnumbered copies. Here's a photo of the colophon:

Cacona is my second book from Arion Press (after Robert Louis Stevenson's The Silverado Squatters) and I'm looking forward to picking up more as I see them!

Currently reading:
Don DeLillo, Zero K
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

Currently listening to:
Max Richter, "Sleep"

Monday, April 4, 2016

William T. Vollmann, The Ice-Shirt (first edition, signed with drawing)

With 400 pages to go in my Infinite Jest book club and about 1000 pages of books to review currently on my books-to-read stack, I'm finding my eyes are wandering more and more to those volumes that have been lurking on my shelf for years, waiting for my schedule to clear up. I've been itching to get back into a William T. Vollmann novel, and while The Dying Grass beckons, I'm not sure I'll be ready for another 1100 page book so soon after Infinite Jest. So, I think it'll be The Ice-Shirt, and I happen to have a really nice copy.

Vollmann is an outstanding author but also a mesmerizing visual artist. His books are riddled with doodles and sketches and I recently learned that Vollmann will occasionally include a drawing with his signature at book events. When I bought Last Stories and Other Stories from City Lights, I kind of swore that I'd wait to fill in my collection until I was able to find copies of the books I didn't have that were signed with drawings. Someday I hope for a book exclusively composed of his illustrations, but until then, I'll have to settle with these.

The Ice-Shirt, a volume in Vollmann's Seven Dreams series is about Greenland; this copy, fittingly, is illustrated with a viking axe.

Currently reading:
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
Ricky Jay, Matthias Buchinger: The Greatest German Living

Currently listening to:
Underworld, "Barbara Barbara We Face A Shining Future"