Sunday, September 30, 2012

New fall books

Another "stack of books" post, this time on the amazing fall list of new literature. As a reviewer, I got early copies of a lot of these titles. And, lucky enough, the books I didn't get set up to review (Junot Diaz, Michael Chabon) had a major push with signed copies appearing in a lot of my local bookstores.

The image above features the following books:

Chris Ware, Building Stories
Mark Z. Danielewski, The Fifty-Year Sword (ARC)
Salman Rushdie, Joseph Anton (signed)
Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue (signed, limited edition)
Zadie Smith, NW
Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds
Junot Diaz, This Is How You Lose Her (signed)

As you can imagine, this stack is keeping me very busy this month. I'll be getting back to some rare titles once all the contemporary fiction slows down...

Currently reading:
Salman Rushdie, Joseph Anton

Currently listening to:
John Maus, "A Collection of Rarities..."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2012 Man Booker Prize shortlist announced

This morning, the Man Booker Prize shortlist was announced. Despite my earlier attempts at holding back from this season's prize, I did cave on three books which I'm excited to report made it to the shortlist. The Mantel and Levy books are both exceptional, and I'm reading The Garden of Evening Mists currently and enjoying it very much. The full list:

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
Umbrella by Will Self

Of these, I think I'll skip Narcopolis and The Lighthouse, but Umbrella sure sounds intriguing.

The winner will be announced on October 16th.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

William T. Vollmann, Rising Up and Rising Down, 7-volume set

Rising Up and Rising Down is William T. Vollmann's exceptionally good and unbelievably overwhelming seven-volume meditation on violence in the world. As usual with Vollmann's writing, Rising Up and Rising Down isn't so much verbose as it is impressively ambitious. You'd think seven volumes is too much, but when you begin to read Rising Up and Rising Down it becomes quickly apparent how well-thought and paced the book actually is. The set opens with a volume he calls the "Moral Calculus" and is followed by an introductory meditation. The subsequent five tomes methodically delve into "Justifications" of violence (Honor, Class, Race, Religion, War, etc.) and proceed into case studies of consequences of the previously discussed motives.

It's fascinating and difficult stuff, but Vollmann's more-gonzo-than-gonzo style of writing provides Rising Up and Rising Down with a surprising amount of readability. Rising Up and Rising Down was published by McSweeney's in 2003 in what I believe was a limited run of only 1500 copies. It's a really special book and if you ever have a chance to get your hands on a copy I'd highly recommend it.

What prompted me to showcase Rising Up and Rising Down is the newly minted "Limited Edition Goods" section of the McSweeney's store. If you like the publisher, you should begin lurking here and adding it to the cycle of website you check daily. Signed Chris Ware posters and signed new releases by authors like David Byrne and Beck have appeared there for a few hours in drastically limited copies, only to be snatched up by discerning collectors. A series of original portraits by Tony Millionaire is currently in the store, but who knows how long they'll be there. When the shop opened, they had five copies of Rising Up and Rising Down listed for $500.00 each, and I'm happy to report that they've all been sold. In 2003, when I first bought the set for a discounted $95, it was the most expensive new book I had ever bought. And how things have changed since then...

Currently listening to:
Sun Kil Moon, "Admiral Fell Promises"

Currently reading:
Psalm 44 by Danilo Kis