Sunday, October 26, 2014

Update: Newly framed! Karen Green, Bough Down (from Siglio Press)



Way back in May 2013 I featured a book called Bough Down by Karen Green, published by Siglio Press. In addition to a wide print-run, this was offered in a wonderful limited edition of only 25 copies where each book came with a small, unique collage by Green. I was lucky enough to get a copy. Those of you who are interested in seeing what another piece from this edition looked like, take a look at this eBay listing.

This collage has been on our "to-frame" list for about a year and half, and as of Thursday this week we finally finished the job. It looks fantastic - I realize now that my pictures from my earlier post hardly do the collage any justice. Here it is, in its complete glory, framed and puzzle-pieced into our new salon-style wall.



Currently reading:
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
The Emerald Light in the Air by Donald Antrim
Last Stories and Other Stories by William T. Vollmann

Currently listening to:
Mountains, "Choral"

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ernest Hemingway, "The Old Man and the Sea" (First edition with facsimile jacket)


I finally got around to getting a facsimile jacket for my first edition of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. When I was in my early teens and discovered how to tell if a book is a first edition, I naturally went through every book in my parents's house to check if any of them might be worth something. My parents read a lot and I was lucky to grow up in such a book-centric household, and although they were not "collectors" I did find a worn out old copy of The Old Man and the Sea in the basement.


This belonged to my mother. She was surprised we still had it around, and even more surprised to find out it was a first edition. (She was also happy to let it live among my growing library.)

I learned from various websites online that a true first of The Old Man an the Sea needed a capital A in the colophon and the presence of the Scribner seal. This seal sets the book apart from the otherwise nearly-identical book club edition.


The lack of a dust jacket is problematic and ultimately the difference between a value of around $500 and $5000. For a while I thought there was some off-chance I'd find a first-state dust jacket in great shape with a book in terrible condition -- torn pages or something -- but then realized how completely unreasonable that kind of dream is and resigned to have a pretty ugly, very rare book in my collection.

 

But then, years later, I started looking into facsimile jackets. This is a tricky world of book collecting because it's kind of shady territory: it's essentially making your book look like it's worth a lot more and potentially misleading clients. For instance, there's a bookstore on the Upper East Side in NY that has an impressive collection of rare books and I was eyeing a first edition copy of The Crying of Lot 49 that was priced at remarkably low $300. I saw it in the window, asked the price, and walked off thinking maybe I'd start saving up. It was when I came back to discuss the book with the seller that I read the piece's full information: it was in great shape but had a facsimile jacket. The bookstore was completely open and professional about it, but I can't help but think there was something wrong with putting facsimile jackets in a display window. And what about those dishonest booksellers? Can you really trust a rare book on eBay, when anyone with a high-level Epson could've made the jacket you're buying?

Still, who wants a jacketless book? A faded, grey and silver-spined copy of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize winner? Considering the family history of my Old Man and the Sea and the fact that I'd no intentions of selling the book, why not get a facsimile jacket and at least make it look nice on the shelf? This was $20 from The Phantom Bookshop in Ventura, CA, and looks very handsome (it also explicitly says it's a facsimile on the back-flap, which is reassuring). It completes the book and makes it pop on the shelf; it feels odd to say, but only now do I really see that I've had a special book in my library all this time.



Currently reading:
The Emerald Light in the Air by Donald Antrim
Last Stories and Other Stories by William T. Vollmann

Currently listening to:
Max Richter, "Infra"



Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Rage of Poseidon" by Anders Nilsen, signed and personalized with a drawing


Seems I've found myself on a "signed with drawing" spree at The Oxen of the Sun. This week we'll take a look at last year's Rage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen. I picked this up at the Brooklyn Book Festival in 2013 and had surprisingly good enough timing to coincide that purchase with Nilsen's signing window at the Drawn and Quarterly booth. It's a lovely book and features a rarely-seen accordion binding glued in from the back endpapers. Rage of Poseidon collects a handful of short stories, each with a philosophical, modern twist on Greek and Christian folklore. The tone of the book is reminiscent of Nilsen's Monologues volumes and The End but demonstrates a far more refined text and artistic direction. Each page consists of a single panel of artwork that plays with silhouettes and gives a nod to the ethereal interpretability of myth; we all know of Poseidon and Noah, but hardly anything more than their outlines.




Nilsen signed this book for my wife and me at the Book Fair, sprouting a head, arm, leg, and hunchback from his table of contents.


I suggest everyone take a look at Anders Nilsen's website and check out his "Conversation Gardening" project. In an effort to bridge that widening gap between creators and their audience, he's asked his readers to buy his books from an independent store, send him proof of purchase and a question or idea written on a small sheet of paper: he will then, eventually, draw you an answer and send it back. I'm currently in the queue for an answer myself and will update with results. It's an incredibly generous and remarkably thoughtful idea, reminiscent to me of such question-based art projects like James Lee Byars and the World Question Center.


 Currently reading:
Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Currently listening to:
Kurt Vile, "God Is Saying This To You"



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ralph Steadman's "Teddy! Where Are You?" (a children's book, signed with chocolate sauce)

At least I think it's chocolate sauce. Let's take a look:



Ralph Steadman, best known for his illustrations to Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Curse of Lono, has a remarkably long bibliography, ranging from books on the Good Doctor himself to strange little children's stories that he both wrote and illustrated. (Many of these have been released in handsome special editions: I remember a version of Fahrenheit 451 that Steadman illustrated that was bound in smokey paper made from recycled paper ashes that looked completely gorgeous.)

Teddy! Where Are You?, published in 1994 by Andersen Press, is one of a handful of twisted little children's books that Steadman wrote in the late 80s/early 90s. It's as inappropriate as you'd imagine from Steadman's demented pen, and the strangest part is that the book means so well. Illustrated by someone else, and the book would be relatively sweet, but it turns into a wonderfully bizarre little piece left entirely in Steadman's hands.



This copy is personalized with a drawing of a beloved stuffed cat or bear, drawn in messy, sticky splatter. Looking at the way the drawing soaks in and stains the page in some areas and feels raised and gummy in others, I suspect it to be some kind of unconventional medium, something like chocolate sauce or an ink-and-sauce mix.





Currently reading:
Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Currently listening to:
Jordan de la Sierra, "Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose"