Sunday, October 27, 2013

Penguin Horror series selected by Guillermo del Toro

These three books are from a newly minted series of horror novels from Penguin. Guillermo del Toro is the "series editor" and provides an introduction to each book which discusses the six selections, which are as follows:

The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
Haunted Castles by Ray Russell
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
American Supernatural Tales edited by S.T. Joshi
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe (with other poems and tales)

I'm a little suspicious of how much of a role del Toro had in the selection process (how many new editions of Shirley Jackson can Penguin crank out?) but that's no means a complaint: these are all excellent books and it's great to see Penguin succeed with another well-made series.

What these do so well is solve an issue that unfortunately is part and parcel with horror/speculative fiction. For some reason, book designers think a certain "something" in their cover art appeals to horror fans. This:

Has been upgraded to this!

This is great. Each of the titles have a glossy smattering of spooky sheen and feel great to hold. The books have black edges on all the pages, which creep inwards towards the text:

Unfortunately, the old-style horror book does sneak into this new series by way of its typography -- the title pages are a drastic shift from the illustrative and gothic cover art and seem a little careless, especially considering the successfully detailed other elements of these volumes. Still, very pleased with these and I highly recommend them. Finally, horror books worth owning.

Happy Halloween! Phnglui mglw nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah nagl fhtagn!

Currently reading:
The Kraus Project by Jonathan Franzen

Currently listening to:
Chris Kiehne, "The Holy Court of Baltimore"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Eleanor Catton wins the 2013 Man Booker Prize with The Luminaries

28-year old Eleanor Catton just won the 2013 Man Booker Prize with her novel The Luminaries, making her the youngest writer to ever win. I've been meaning to check out the book -- it looks like an absolutely wonderful historical saga.

Of the rest of the shortlist, the only novels of particular interest to me were Colm Toibin's The Testament of Mary and Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland. I enjoyed both very much, but thought Toibin's short novella was a far superior book. I'll certainly be adding The Luminaries to my reading list!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jake and Dinos Chapman, THE END OF FUN

Two months off, but hope to get back into more regularly-occurring posts. With work picking up and my rare-book purchases slowing down (saving for an apartment!) it didn't seem right to seek out exceptional books with the same drive that I had earlier in this blog's history. To catch up:

The Booker Prize limped in and will be awarded on October 15th -- I've been trying to scale back my interest in this as the prize's importance/integrity/etc has changed drastically over the past handful of years. I did end up buying a very rare signed and numbered copy of Donal Ryan's The Spinning Heart, which I finished before the shortlist was announced and had enough time to drum up some unreasonably high bids on eBay (the book had no chance of even making the shortlist, people!).

In other news, I've discovered the world of rare book auction houses (as in physical, real-life auctions) and have been tracking some items with a few absentee bids this past moth. These houses often have shockingly low estimates, and even with a 20% buyer's premium one could walk away with some steals. (I kept quiet on this development so as not to spread the word and be outbid). I nearly had three signed Samuel Beckett books for around $300, but the lot was withdrawn about an hour before the sale. Bummer.

Finally, I was lost in Thomas Pynchon's Bleeding Edge for the second-half of September and think it's one of the most personally-poignant books I've ever read. One's enjoyment of Bleeding Edge will entirely depend on who you were in 2001 in relation to technology. If you, like me, grew up as the internet grew up and passionately followed its developments, if you remember hotbot and geocities and putting quarters on the ledge of an arcade's Time Crisis 2 machine (with that foot pedal!) to signify that you wanted next game, this book's for you. And especially so if you're up on the fascinating world of the Dark Web... Bleeding Edge flows like literary TOR-encryption, and if you can fathom what I'm talking about, you should drop everything and read it.

So: back to rare books. To herald this return and signify the conclusion of my time off, I'd like to share with you my copy of Jake and Dinos Chapman's The End of Fun.

 This evil little book was designed by FUEL (of the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia fame) and showcases the Chapman Brothers's psychotically detailed visions of Hell. Nine large vitrines contain diorama-style  landscapes of madness and carnage in miniature (1:32 scale). Skeletons, mutant Nazis, dead bodies and heads on spikes fill these scenes like a twisted Where's Waldo book: there is endless amounts of detail to take in an marvel at. It's gross, sure, but there's so much to like about the work if you're into that sort of thing. 

Originally, these scenes were depicted in a different set of work from 1999 called "Hell". The nine vitrines were lost in the 2004 Momart fire, but were recreated by the artists (and retitled "Fucking Hell") in 2008. "The End of Fun" is a third incarnation (imagine re-making this thing three times!) and is currently in the Duerckheim Collection. The catalogue, published in conjunction with White Cube in the UK, features an essay by Will Self is in a limited edition of 1,200 copies. 100 copies were 'hand-burnt' and signed by both artists (a similar limitation was offered for 2008's Fucking Hell).

Currently reading:
Momo by Michael Ende

Currently listening to:
 CHVRCHES, "The Bones Of What You Believe In"