Sunday, November 30, 2014

Henry Miller, "Notes on Aaron's Rod" (Black Sparrow Press, signed and limited)

Unless I'm terribly mistaken, Notes on "Aaron's Rod" is Henry Miller's only book with Black Sparrow Press. Notes on "Aaron's Rod" is a strange little volume that consists of Miller's annotations to the D.H. Lawrence novel Aaron's Rod, and runs at about 60 pages with Miller's actual notes filling only about a third of the book. Initially planned as a short critical pamphlet to be published by Obelisk Press, Notes on "Aaron's Rod" has been compiled and analyzed with an illuminating introduction and appendix by Seamus Cooney.

Cooney links Miller's notes into the author's timeline through some letters exchanged with Anais Nin and considers the importance of the text not just among Lawrence criticism but, more significantly, in Miller's personal oeuvre. "Most engagingly," he writes in his introduction, "it is a Henry Miller on the alert for points of agreement and resemblance between Lawrence and himself ("Lawrence is writing my story here"); finding in Lawrence many of his own preoccupations and interests; enthusiastically -- and with disarming lack of irony -- greeting shared opinions ("Exactly what I have felt and expressed"); and everywhere finding his semblance and frere."
As for Miller's notes, they read as a list of paginated citations, like the below:

p. 77. Aaron's speech to Josephine:

"I'm damned if I want to be a lover any more. To her or to anybody.... I don't want to care, when care isn't in me."

(Superb as speech of the artist who can not give himself completely -- who with[h]olds his love for creation. The theme of the book is not love or friendship between man and man. It's written to explain to himself the necessity for obeying his own creative impulse, the Holy Ghost within himself....

Fascinating, and makes me want to go track down a first edition of the Lawrence.

This is a signed and numbered copy, number 194 of 276 signed copies (which surely includes the 26 lettered copies). Miller signed the book not on the colophon like usual with Black Sparrow, but instead on a tipped in signature page before the book's table of contents.

 Currently reading:
Norman Mailer, Superman Comes to the Supermarket

Currently listening to:
Mountains, "Centralia"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti, Hansel and Gretel (deluxe die-cut hardcover, signed by both)

Fans of comics surely know of the Pulitzer-winning Art Spiegelman, but may not be fully aware of Spiegelman's activity past Maus. I've seen Spiegelman at many events in New York and he's always busy promoting some new books he's edited, published, or contributed to, but wonderfully these appearances are for a different sort of audience than me. While I was in line to get a book signed by Charles Burns during the Brooklyn Book Festival, Spiegelman was over at the children's area, meeting kids who love comics and signing copies of his book for first graders, Jack and the Box. He and his wife, Francoise Mouly (art editor of The New Yorker), have made a successful (and arguably very important) side project with their publishing house Toon Books, a company that prints comics for kids.

Toon Graphics, an imprint aimed at older readers (older, in this case, being grades three and higher), was recently launched and is already boasting an impressive list of large-format comics. I remember the excitement I felt when I first discovered Herge and the adventures of Tintin as a kid; while these are substantially less complicated books, I imagine reading Toon Graphics at that age might bring a similar sort of feeling. I also like the wide scope of subject matter: it's exciting to think that a kid who picks up a new spin on Hansel and Gretel might also find themselves wrapped up in a story about Theseus battling the Minotaur.

Last month saw the release of Neil Gaiman's Hansel and Gretel, beautifully illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. I knew of Mattotti from a few years back when I reviewed his graphic novel Stigmata; he's an excellent illustrator and it's wonderful to see his work paired with someone like Gaiman.

This copy is one of the "deluxe hardcover" editions which features a die-cut cover, and was signed by Gaiman and Mattotti at an event at McNally Jackson books in Soho. 

Collectors, take note: a boxed edition is also available which includes a silkscreen print by Mattotti. Looks very nice to me!

Currently reading:
Superman Comes to the Supermarket by Norman Mailer

Currently listening to:
Lust for Youth, "International"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Marilynne Robinson, Lila (signed first edition)

On November 19th, the winner of the 2014 National Book Award will be announced, and I suspect Marilynne Robinson's Lila will take the prize. She's an exceptional writer and in my opinion should be far more decorated. I've not read Lila yet but have heard rave reviews (just got my copy this week). The book completes a loose trilogy of novels set in the fictional town of Gilead, Ohio, and if 2005's Pulitzer-winning Gilead and Home are any indication, Lila's sure to be an outstanding novel.

Signed first editions are still circulating of Lila at their list price and there'll be a modest spike in cost if she wins. Get one while they're still under $30! While the print run for Lila is probably quite large, it's hard to think of Housekeeping, Robinson's 1980 novel, which is now about $500-$1000 for a signed first.

Currently reading:
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

Currently listening to:
Lust for Youth, "International"

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hunter S. Thompson, The Curse of Lono (Artist's Proof from TASCHEN's signed and limited edition)

One of my favorite parts about writing this blog are the comments that crop up from posts I've made a while ago. In 2012 I featured my copy of Hunter S. Thompson's ultra-rare book Screwjack and people continue to find the page and chime in with some news about the Cyclops Owl on the book's cover (I learned this week that it was created by Thomas Benton, who did some other work for HST).

In the spirit of that Screwjack post I thought I'd feature another rare Thompson edition: this is German art-book publisher TASCHEN's 2005 edition of The Curse of Lono. This copy is an AP, limited to 150 copies worldwide, and signed by Thompson (full signature) and Ralph Steadman (with a little face).

Firstly, the book is enormous, about 17 1/2 inches tall and 13 inches wide. The book is housed in an orange slipcase, with a internal ribbon for sliding the book free.
The book is bound in beautifully printed linen, which gives Steadman's cover art a magisterial feel -- remember, this book was originally printed as a cheap little paperback original in the early 80s.


Here's a look at the signature page. Again, this is an AP (Artist's Proof), which means in addition to the print run of 1000, 150 were made for a more private distribution between publisher, author and artist.

 As expected, the book is lavishly illustrated with a bunch of double-page, full-bleed spreads. Here are a few for you:

In my opinion, one of the coolest things about this edition is how TASCHEN dealt with the sections of correspondence between Running Magazine and Thompson and between Thompson and Steadman. Instead of 'transcribing' these letters to the page (as they were in the Bantam 1983 edition), the letters are actually printed facsimile and tipped-in to the giant book. Take a look:

I remember trying to find one of my favorite passages and realizing its hidden away at the bottom of a letter here:

It's a queer life, for sure, but right now it's all I have. Last night, around midnight, I heard somebody scratching on the thatch and then a female voice whispered, "You knew it would be like this."

"That's right!" I shouted. "I love you!"

There was no reply. Only the sound of this vast and bottomless sea, which talks to me every night, and makes me smile in my sleep.


I think this is one of the most gorgeous literary collector's editions in my library, and it's one that means a lot to me as I consider Thompson's books as my gateway drug into book collecting. This is also one of the last editions that Thompson formally signed before his suicide. He died in February 2005, just a few months before this hit shelves. Fire in the Nuts also came out in 2004, but if my timeline is correct this was officially released after. The Curse of Lono originally listed for $300 and is now marked as "SOLD OUT" on TASCHEN's website with a price of $2000. Copies on eBay should be around $900-1200, though.
Before I close, a question for collectors and dealers that may have one of these. There are APs out there numbered out of 200: do you think this mean that there were actually 350 APs produced? Or perhaps an additional 50 were made after the 150? TASCHEN can be a little slippery with their editions...

Currently reading:
The Dog by Joseph O'Neill

Currently listening to:
  The National, "Trouble Will Find Me"

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fall 2014 reading list, recent reviews

I just received a new batch of books from my editor at and thought I'd share what's on deck and link to some of my recent reviews.

I just finished my review of Michel Faber's The Book of Strange New Things and think it might be one of my favorites of the year. I've got a signed UK first coming my way soon and will do a post devoted to the book once the review goes live. I'm currently finishing up a review of Donal Antrim's The Emerald Light in the Air as well, which is also very good.

Coming up:

J by Howard Jacobson
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

The Dog by Joseph O'Neill
Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

I've also got my eye out for Shark by Will Self, How to be Both by Ali Smith and The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson.

Recently, I've reviewed some great novels (and some not-so-great ones). Here are few links if you're interested... click around and let me know what you think. More rare books next week.

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Currently reading:
The Dog by Joseph O'Neill

Currently listening to:
Moon Duo, "Live in Ravenna"