Monday, July 30, 2012

Swimming Home, by Deborah Levy (first edition, numbered)

Although I intend to be less involved with the Booker Prize this year, I am still interested in following the "markets"--seeing which titles are selling out and difficult to find in their first impressions. This year, the Booker judges have introduced me to And Other Stories press, who published Deborah Levy's Swimming Home in 2011. The book has an introduction by Tom McCarthy, too! The press has a great design aesthetic and offers an exciting subscription service for interested readers. If you subscribe for a full year, your name will be printed in the book as a thank-you for your support.

Today I learned that first editions of Swimming Home were specifically those numbered copies distributed to subscribers. And Other Stories has a few extra copies which they are selling on the Amazon marketplace for the appropriate sum of 45GBP. Coincidentally, this is how much it costs for a US reader to subscribe for a year (and get four books). After much deliberation, I decided against the copy of Swimming Home, thinking I might enjoy subscribing more. But, this means there are still copies available for you! Take a look, and buy a copy if it's still available. Even if it doesn't take the prize, it'll be good to support these guys:

Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (numbered first edition)

Currently reading:
Purvis by Denis Johnson

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King (signed 1st edition)

In case you haven't already been stopped in your tracks by this at your local bookstore, I thought I'd share with you A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. This book is simply gorgeous--the detailing is all indented into a brown vinyl-like material, which is then further printed in gold to accentuate the design. It's the closest anyone will come to the tooled leather look with a mass-produced volume... I think it's astonishing how great this turned out.

A while ago, I found my interest in McSweeney's was waning, but they've pulled me back in with some really outstanding novels (and lots of great book design, too). I recently saw that Hologram found itself a spot on the bestseller list and couldn't be more happy for the publishing house.

Now, as for the novel...I wasn't a fan. Eggers tries to work this big Samuel Beckett thing into what could have been a very tight meditation on international economic relations, resulting in what I thought was a really empty read. The book is about an American businessman trying to pitch a holographic communication system to a Saudi king who seems to never honor his appointments. While he waits, Eggers brings us lightly through Alan's past and glosses over the state of independent business. Now, Hologram is getting a lot of great reviews by many people, so I'm sort of an outlier here. If you like Eggers and are intrigued by this one, please don't let me steer you away.

My copy is a signed first edition that I picked up at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene. As a collector, though, this is where things get a little weird. Sometimes "collector's" copies are available for purchase before the collector has time to decide if he or she actually likes the book. It's very difficult to let go of something like this, but I think it's important to remind oneself that it's okay to get rid of a book you don't like, no matter how beautiful it is. My copy of Hologram is on eBay right now--not to turn a profit, but to simply move on.

Currently reading:
Soul of a Whore and Purvis by Denis Johnson

Currently listening to:
Radiohead, "In Rainbows"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012 Man Booker Prize longlist announced

As you may have already heard, the 2012 Man Booker Prize longlist was announced earlier today. An interesting list, and one missing a number of the usual suspects: no sign of Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, and John Banville, despite all of them having new novels out this year. Here's what the list is looking like:

Nicola Barker, "The Yips"
Ned Beauman, "The Teleportation Accident"
Andre Brink, "Philida"
Tan Twan Eng, "The Garden of Evening Mists"
Michael Frayn, "Skios"
Rachel Joyce, "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry"
Deborah Levy, "Swimming Home"
Hilary Mantel, "Bring up the Bodies"
Alison Moore, "The Lighthouse"
Will Self, "Umbrella"
Jeet Thayil, "Narcopolis"
Sam Thompson, "Communion Town"

After last year, I've decided to scale back my rush to read the list and attempt at collecting the winning title. Of these, I'd heard about the new books by Nicola Barker and Tan Twan Eng. I absolutely loved Darkmans and The Gift Of Rain has received rave reviews from many people I know, so I took the longlist announcement as a cue to pick these two up. As for the rest, I think I'll wait until the shortlist before I look into them.

Have you read any of these? Leave your thoughts in the comments if you feel like a chat.

Currently reading:
A Million Heavens by John Brandon

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sigmar Polke: Musik ungeklärter Herkunft (Music of unknown origin)

Today I'd like to share with you a beautiful book of gouaches by the late Sigmar Polke. It's difficult to describe what makes Polke such a captivating artist to me, but one of my favorite things to marvel at was his versatility with materials and his scientific slant of finding new ways to create art. Polke often approached his artwork as a chemist would an experiment, and doing so allowed him to to create some of the most otherworldly compositions I've ever seen.

For some reason, there are very few visually striking Polke books out there. There are a lot of books on the used market, but none have yet to capture the awe and excitement I feel when viewing his work in person. Many are text-heavy, and some are just printed poorly. Musik ungeklärter Herkunft, however, is one of my favorites. It's a collection of 40 relatively small works on paper (70 x 100 cm) and includes a handful of stunning details. Let's take a look:

And, for good measure, an aerial photograph of some mass from outer space--I didn't label it when I saved the file, but I guess that just adds to the mystique. So Polke-esque!

Currently reading:
John Banville, The Book of Evidence

Currently listening to:
The Cure, "The Top"

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Satantango and Animalinside by Laszlo Krasznahorkai

On Monday, I was lucky enough to attend a rare US reading by the Hungarian author Laszlo Krasznahorkai at The Housing Works Bookstore in Manhattan. Housing Works is an great non-profit organization that addresses issues surrounding both AIDS/HIV and homelessness, and advocates funding for legislation that would provide all AIDS/HIV-positive individuals with housing, health care, and point them towards a general healthy lifestyle. Housing Works operates a number of thrift stores all around New York and Brooklyn, and has an incredible bookstore and cafe in Manhattan full of great things (all of which were donated).

The Housing Works Bookstore somehow booked Laszlo Krasznahorkai, author of War & War, The Melancholy of Resistance, Satantango, and Animalinside (as well as some other books yet to be translated into English). Krasznahorkai writes like no other--he's a brilliant, inimitable mind, and to put it bluntly I feel like I met a contemporary Dostoevsky. My favorite way to describe Krasznahorkai's writing is borrowed from his translator, George Szirtes, who calls Satantango a "slow lava flow of narrative." He writes maddening sentence chains which create block after block of text--all while brewing a stormy cloud of anti-religious themes and a captivating plot.

Many thanks to New Directions from bringing Krasznahorkai here. Here's their great hardcover edition of Satantango:

Also by Krasznahorkai is an equally crazy chapbook called Animalinside. With similar themes as Satantango, Animalinside is a collaboration with the artist Max Neumann. Published by Sylph Editions and distributed in the US by New Directions, this too is a gorgeous volume (and includes a great introduction by Colm Toibin!):

I've got my eye on Sylph Editions, and will save a more thorough post on them once I get my hands on more to share.

If you're interested in reading more about Krasznahorkai, my reviews of Satantango and Animalinside are embedded here.

Currently Reading:
New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Essays by Colm Toibin

Currently listening to:
Hot 97