Monday, June 27, 2011

Haruki Murakami, "Aeroplane, or, how he talked to himself as if reciting poetry" (Oundle Festival of Literature Press)

On the heels of some frustrating book collecting news that I'll get to later, I thought I'd feature a beautiful little Murakami chapbook printed a few years ago by the people at the Oundle Festival of Literature in 2007. Reprinting Murakami's story "Aeroplane, or, how he talked to himself as if reciting poetry", the Oundle Press has crafted an exquisite product that not only will appeal to contemporary collectors but remind all sorts of people of the artistry behind bookbinding. I'm not 100% certain as to how these book's were distributed during the festival, but only 120 copies were made and they seem to have sold through in pre-publication. Although these initially retailed for 100GBP, they've gone up dramatically in price.

How did I, a young book collector in Brooklyn, get my hands on a copy? I simply had to ask. The people behind the scenes at the Oundle Festival of Literature were so exceptionally helpful and considerate--my email to them came a few months late (after all the books were reserved) but two months later I heard from them saying a reservation fell through and the book was mine if I wanted it.

Possibly because my experience with the Oundle Festival of Literature was such a memorable one, it frustrates me to see what's going on with the limited edition of Murakami's 1Q84. Plans had been laid out to produce a two-volume, leather bound set of the novel (possibly similar to my edition of After Dark) for something like 250GBP. It's expensive, but not insanely so--considering the Murakami market, a book like this would surely double in price (especially if the novel is as good as we all expect it to be). Aside from an edition of a story called Sleep (published by the Kat Ran Press and really only in private libraries now) Murakami's high-water mark is at just about $600 USD (around what a book like Aeroplane is selling for at the moment). For a living author, that's pretty exceptional. Considering how accessible a lot of these editions are (especially if you know that they're coming and how to get on waiting lists), I'm surprised more people aren't trying to snatch up these books as investments.

So, if it weren't for some recent changes, I would tip all you collectors towards the leather-bound 1Q84, despite its hefty price tag. As of about a week ago, those plans were all canceled.

Instead, Random House is offering a three-volume edition in a Perspex slipcase. The books will have an exposed, sewn binding with colored thread, and supposedly all the covers will flow together as one image. The last page of the last volume will be signed. All of this will be for the "modest" sum of 750GBP.

What! Has anyone ever paid over $1000 for a Murakami book!? Personally, I think this all sounds crazy. As beautiful as this piece may be, Murakami has no place in the realm of Taschen limited editions. And Perspex? You better make about 100 extra cases because those things are going to crack.

There will always be other titles, though. Let's hope that whoever produces those takes a cue from a book like Aeroplane and steers things away from the "book-as-art-piece" realm and makes something a little more traditional.

Currently reading:
The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman

Currently listening to:
The Hospital Ships, "Lonely Twin"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Bloomsday!

Happy Bloomsday from The Oxen of the Sun! For those of you who don't know, June 16th marks the day that Leopold Bloom plodded around Dublin in Joyce's Ulysses (the novel spans the entire day, sunrise to sunset). If you've even fallen into the pages of Ulysses, chances are today strikes a chord--although I'm not about to rush out to my nearest pub and stage a reading of "The Sirens", I'll revel quietly in how steadfast one of my favorite novels is.

[side note: the chapters in Ulysses are all modeled after episodes in Odysseus's journey. The "Oxen of the Sun" section is notoriously intimidating, as the narrative meanders stylistically through the genesis and evolution of the written English language and somewhat catalogues the history of books and literature.]

In a moment of immodesty, I'll admit my Joyce collection is one of the most impressive corners of my library--while I don't own a copy of the famous Matisse/Joyce double-signed illustrated edition, I have a number of rarities like the elusive "Haveth Childers Everywhere" and other similar below-the-radar publications.

Embarrassingly enough, I don't have any of my Joyce here in Brooklyn, and therefore can't share any with you! So, to back into Bloomsday with a tangentially related selection, I present to you the Grove Press Centenary Edition of the complete works of Samuel Beckett:

The box set includes all Beckett's novels and dramatic works, but it's the fourth volume where the rarities are compiled. There you'll find Beckett's essay on Proust and his writings on Joyce (previously collected in a rare volume called An Exagmination of James Joyce). A handsome set, and one I've been meaning to crack into again--the Brooklyn Academy of Music is putting on a performance of "Krapp's Last Tape" this fall; it's always been one of my favorites and deserves a re-read.

Currently reading:

The Book of Happenstance, Ingrid Winterbach

Currently listening to:
The Twilight Singers, "Live in Europe"