Thursday, August 26, 2010

Skippy Dies (3-volume slipcased edition)

Paul Murray's Skippy Dies was released in the UK last February to some great reviews. It caught my eye because of the unconventional packaging-- similar to FSG's edition of Roberto Bolano's 2666, Skippy Dies was offered both as a large hardcover and as a 3-volume, slipcased paperback edition:

I'm happy to report that I'll be writing book reviews periodically for about.com. My first review was for Skippy Dies and can be read here.

Skippy Dies was longlisted for the Booker Prize earlier this month and very much deserves it. Not sure if it'll win, but I imagine it will certainly make it to the shortlist. The book will be released in the US in the same dual-format at the end of August.


Currently listening to:
Wilco, Summerteeth

Currently reading:
C. by Tom McCarthy

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Crucifix in a Deathhand, Charles Bukowski limited edition from the Loujon Press

I recently was able to find a copy of Charles Bukowski's fifth book, Crucifix in a Deathhand, published in 1965 by the Loujon Press of New Orleans. Earlier this year, I featured another Loujon Press title, Henry Miller's Order and Chaos Chez Hans Reichel, which at the time floored me like no other book in my collection. And somehow, the Loujon Press has managed to wow me even more with Crucifix.
I think every book collector must encounter in their journey some acquisitions that force a certain degree of pause and reflection. This is that book for me; it's shown me that my "collecting"--which was once really nothing more than a hobby--has turned into something so much bigger and so much more special than I ever thought possible. It's a wonderful feeling to find the book that becomes the "nicest" book in one's collection. It's not the most valuable, sure, but just hold Crucifix in your hands and you can feel the unbridled passion for craft that the Loujon Press had.

These pictures will surely not do enough justice, but they'll have to do.

If you flip over the book, the wrappers open up to reveal a bound book inside--the black cover at the top of this post is actually the book's back cover. Similar to Order and Chaos, the preliminary pages feature the book's introductory notes printed on about ten pages of colored pages with roughly torn edges. The book begins with a facsimile of Bukowski's title poem--click above and you can read some.

The book also was originally packaged with a little paper wrapper, depicted it's original price tag of $7.50 and a great blurb (above).

As you can see, the book's typography is stunning as well.

Crucifix also includes a handful of etchings done by an artist named Noel Rockmore. They're pretty strange, but they fit the overall feel of the book perfectly.


Lastly, the book is signed and dated (3-19-65) by Bukowski on one of the final pages.

Hope you enjoyed taking a look at this! It's a real treat to be able to share it with you, hope you like it as much as I do.

WHERE TO FIND CRUCIFIX IN A DEATHHAND:

While there were 3100 copies of this book printed, the book is still pretty rare. I found this copy on eBay, and made a random there's-no-way-they'll-accept-it best offer. Keep an eye out and make an offer when you see one... you might be surprised by some sellers.

Currently reading:
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen

Currently listening to:
Henry's Dream, by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Albert Oehlen artist book from TASCHEN

"Abb", seen above, is a strange little artist book by the German painter Albert Oehlen. Oehlen's one of my favorite painters--I find his work to be practically euphoric, but it takes a bit of unlocking to get beneath the seemingly stand-offish surface of his art. He's a manipulator who challenges his viewer's conception of what painting is all about--his pallet is consistently jarring, but somehow he manages to make his colors work together in unimaginable ways. His style is ever-changing, too: some pieces incorporate mirrors, some are done entirely in gray, and some look as if he created the work solely on MS Paint.

"Abb" was published in the mid-nineties by Taschen in a signed, limited edition format. There are only 170 copies of this edition of "Abb", all of which feature gilt-edges and a black clamshell case (this is number 162).
The book does not feature a limitation page; Oehlen simply signed the book inside the front cover. Inside the back cover is a stamp in German and English detailing the limitation and the numbering of the edition.
What I like so much about "Abb" is that it challenges the form of the art book similarly to the way Oehlen challenges the form of painting. The book features no text (aside from the limitation stamp) and includes what seem to be numerous images from the Taschen archives: iconic shots by Helmut Newton and various fetish photographers are reproduced with paintings super-imposed on top of them. The book doesn't tell you anything about who Oehlen is, but it manages to show you so much more than any essay or introduction could convey.

WHERE TO FIND ABB.:

I believe the book is still available from Taschen but the price has gone up quite a bit since it first came out. It's something that might need to be special-ordered, but certainly worth it if you're a fan of the artist.

Currently reading:
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Currently listening to:
Mark Kozelek, "The Finally"

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hawk Moon by Sam Shepard


I'm very excited to share with you another rare edition from Black Sparrow Press: a signed and numbered copy of playwright Sam Shepard's first book of short stories from 1973, Hawk Moon. I first discovered Sam Shepard in the eleventh grade; I was heavily into the Velvet Underground and Shepard single-handedly sold me on all things theater-related when I read his play The Tooth of Crime for class. As I've grown older, I've become more and more fascinated with Shepard and his interplay between literature, theater, and film. Shepard is still quite prolific on the publishing front, but also finds time to act in major films and write screenplays. Two beautiful films by Wim Wenders were penned by Shepard: Paris, Texas and Don't Come Knocking (I recommend them both).

As you can see on the title page, Hawk Moon is "a book of short stories, poems and monologues." The book runs just under 100 pages, and includes around 50 individual pieces. Many of these are quick, one-page vignettes that manage to capture an entire scene or lifestyle without stepping into any character development. They all feel very cathartic, as if Shepard finally found an outlet to write without any constraints of form.

This edition of Hawk Moon is limited to only 200 signed and numbered copies. It's bound in blue boards with a thick, canvas-like spine (which sadly has worn into a rust color on the edges of my copy). This is copy #70.


Currently Reading:
Roberto Bolano, The Return
Black Jack Volume 12

Currently Listening to:
Robyn Hitchcock, Element of Light

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"For You" - a libretto by Ian McEwan

In 2008, Ian McEwan collaborated with a composer named Michael Berkeley for the opera "For You", which debuted with Music Theatre Wales in October of that year. (Twenty years earlier, Berekely and McEwan did an opera called "Or Shall We Die?" which I don't know much about--I'd seen it on many rare book sites, but I've yet to pick it up.) A few years ago I heard some buzz that McEwan's libretto was going to be released in a small, limited edition paperback and picked up a copy for around $15.00. As a McEwan fan, it's fascinating to see how he works in a different medium. Of course, the libretto is written in verse, which was a completely new side of McEwan that I hadn't encountered before. Plot-wise, it's much of the same--a sexual tangle between a composer, his wife, and his housekeeper. It's a story you've read before if you've read McEwan, but if you're a fan of that story "For You" is certainly worth a read.

Every copy of the paperback is numbered in an edition of 1000, and flatsigned by both McEwan and Berkeley.