Monday, July 27, 2009

Order and Chaos Chez Hans Reichel by Henry Miller and the Loujon Press

As if I need another reason to love New Orleans! I recently discovered a rare Henry Miller book from the Loujon Press. Founded in the early 1960s by Louise "Gypsy Lou" Webb and her husband Jon, the Loujon Press was responsible for publishing some of the first works of Charles Bukowski. The couple printed a literary magazine called "The Outsider" from their apartment in the French Quarter, hand-pressing the magazine themselves. The Outsider ran for only five issues in four books (four and five were bound together). From what I gather, these were meticulously bound in a way that ensured they would be treasured. A listing I've found on says that the last issue included one of 500 "sealed-in-by-hand still life of flora, picked inside a mile of Geronimo's grave, and bound reverently by Gypsy Lou".

Reverently is right. Let's take a look.

This is a book by Henry Miller called Order and Chaos Chez Hans Reichel. This is the numbered "Cork" edition, originally priced at $14.00 in an edition of 1399 copies. There were a number of different editions done, including lettered copies, leather-bound copies, orange-stained cork slipcased editions, and so on. Flipping through the cork edition, I'm shocked that this was essentially the cheap, trade edition. The amount of detail and precision that went into this book surpasses any other book I've seen. The introduction is in a rainbow of heavy handmade colored paper. Each colored page is printed in different colored ink. There's a laid-in photograph over the front end-papers. The limitation page is printed on thinly sliced cork! After about ten of these vibrant pages, we reach the meat of the book--quintessential Miller presented in diary format, full of poems, songs, and other Miller-esque passions. I'll reprint the forward that Karl Shapiro wrote:

The magnum opus of Miller is a single anti-novel, not yet finished, which will run seven or ten or twelve novels. The rest of his books, uncountable, are footnotes, ornaments, offshoots, cartouches, belonging to the main book. His work will never be able to enter a canon; it will always defy the traditional; it is sabotage to all that still stands of the museum of culture. Yet it is the farthest thing from negation. What really shocks people about Miller is that he is happy. Happiness is obscene.



I moved apartments about two months ago and decided it was time to get rid of some old books. Over the course of a few years I'd managed to pick up a lot of titles that I discovered I wasn't especially into. So, instead of hauling them to the Strand to be cherry-picked, I found that has a new way to buy used books on the web. I HIGHLY recommend this. It's amazing how easy and lucrative the whole process is. You type in a book's ISBN and they'll offer a decent amount to your paypal account or a better amount in virtual credit. They send you a pre-paid shipping label, and when they receive your books the process the money due. I went the route for virtual credit and was able to get my hands on some really special pieces. I noticed they've got another copy of this gem up there right now.


  1. Nice one, good coverage of unique books on your blog.

    Have you seen the limited edition of the new translation of The Arabian Nights? I have a copy of these, and they're beautiful books, available only in Canada and England I think, and limited to a run of 3,000 in this edition.

    Good review here:

  2. Hi fan, thanks for the link--I've been eyeing these Arabian Nights for a long time, but I seem to remember the price being a little steep. Maybe I should pick up the set now that the pound isn't it the best shape. I've got the 16-volume Burton Club edition of the Arabian Nights, so a little hesitant to get another. However, the designed of the one you linked is really outstanding! I had no idea it was a limited edition, either.

    Thanks so much for the comment, hope you stick around here!

  3. Thanks for the blog. Nice coverage of the Booker, and I got the 1st of the paperback Black Hole on your advice.

    The Arabian Nights is pricey, but man, those are the prettiest books I've seen made these days. Nice in an older way. I got mine from Canada's Amazon, and had to send it back once due to poor and damaging international packaging.

    What's your verdict on the new Vollmann? Is it worth the effort? So long, these tomes of his, but the subject is worthy definitely.

    Some other books I recommend considering:
    * The New Valley - Josh Weil
    * The big Peter Doig art book
    * American Rust - Meyer - bit overrated.
    * Hans Fallada - Every Man Dies Alone - this is good writing, retrieved in English, don't know its scarcity though.

  4. Thanks so much for the recommendations, I'll definitely check them out. That Peter Doig book is pretty incredible, I've seen it in a few shops.

    As for the Vollmann, I'm really enjoying it. It's divided into very distinct sections in terms of content... part 1 is about border crossing, part 2 about the history of Imperial, etc. I've found that it's a great book to read 200 pages (or one of these "parts") at a time. So, I'm alternating pretty steadily between section of Imperial and other smaller books on my list. I'm finding with Vollmann's nonfiction you just have to go with him and take whatever he gives you without question. He doesn't have the tightest arguments most of the time but that's not really the point. I feel he's more of an explorer than a historian (if that makes any sense)... if you want solid nonfiction read something else, but if you want to journey into the "world of nonfiction", he's your man.