Sunday, March 29, 2015

Masahiko Matsumoto, "The Man Next Door" (1959, published by Breakdown Press in 2014)

Breakdown Press, a new publisher based in the UK, recently released two great new manga books edited by Ryan Holmberg (creator of the short-lived "10-Cent Manga" series from Picturebox). Although the 40-page Flowering Harbor by Seiichi Hayashi is an exceptional volume, I'm going to focus this post of Masahiko Matsumoto's The Man Next Door.

 Following my post last week on the passing of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, I feel it's important to shine the spotlight over to Masahiko Matsumoto, who was a behind-the-scenes (but integral) player in the formation of the gekiga movement of more mature, darker, literary and cinematic comics (he actually makes a few appearances in Tatsumi's A Drifting Life). Before Tatsumi ever coined the term gekiga, Matsumoto was experimenting with a new style he called komaga, or panel comics.

These "panel" comics are an interesting link to cinematic storyboards and allowed the creator a film director's range of nuance and pacing. Breakdown Press has reprinted four Matsumoto stories (originally published in "Shadow" magazine from 1956) that exemplify this new kind of storytelling and it's a marvel to see how Matsumoto works with his newfound abilities.

It's a gorgeous little book, to boot, with each story reprinted in a different hue of faded, colored ink in purple, green, blue and red.

I could write for pages on The Man Next Door, and in fact I did already: the Spring issue of Rain Taxi Review of Books features a lengthy review I wrote on it. Pick up a copy if you see one! I highly recommend The Man Next Door for anyone interested in vintage comics, manga, or simply a well-produced book. Looking at Breakdown Press's webstore, it appears that their titles are already selling out, so I also recommend acting fast.

Currently reading:
Will Self, Shark

Currently listening to:
"Avalon Sutra" by Harold Budd

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Yoshihiro Tatsumi's The Push Man, signed with drawing (Drawn and Quarterly, 2005)

I was really sad to learn of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's death earlier this month. I was scrolling through instagram and saw that there was a new Tatsumi window display at the Drawn and Quarterly bookstore in Canada... it took me a second to realize that the display was to commemorate his life and not a new book.

Tatsumi was one of the founders of the 'gekiga' manga movement, which opened that medium up to darker, more mature stories. Discovering these, in turn, opened my eyes to a world of manga and comics that I hadn't known about before. Tatsumi made comics the way 'serious' writers wrote short stories; these were comics as literature in a way that even some of the most progressive cartoonists of today haven't been able to meet. In a strange way, I'd put Tatsumi's short works on par with some of the best 70s-era short America fiction; he cut through to the gnarled core of domestic life with as much finesse as Raymond Carver or the Rabbit Angstrom novels.

The stories in The Push Man were first published in 1969 and were translated and compiled by Adrian Tomine for Drawn and Quarterly in 2005. This copy is a second edition, but it's signed by Tatsumi with a drawing on the flyleaf. I wish I could say Tatsumi signed this for me in person, but I recently picked this up from a seller online. It's also signed by Tomine before the introduction.

Currently reading:
The Paris Review 212

Currently listening to:
Bing & Ruth, "Tomorrow Was the Golden Age"

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kazuo Ishiguro, "The Buried Giant" (2015, signed first edition)

Following last week's post on Satin Island, here's another beautifully designed edition from Peter Mendelsund. Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant came out two weeks ago and looks absolutely splendid. I'm only about fifty pages in, but the story reads as if lost in time; Ishiguro's narrator speaks as if he or she is some sort of wise sage and frequently addresses the reader as if we're from generations into the future, post-dystopia, or generations the other way, in some medieval realm.

The book very keenly achieves a similar sentiment: it feels old, well-worn and archaic, and it's incredible to think that a book like this probably has a print run of over 100,000 copies. The jacket's got a nice texture to it, with decorative gold faux-tooling. The endpapers look straight out of Tolkien, and the black stain on the pages' edges add to the overall illusion that this is some kind of rare library find. But it's only $26, less depending on where you look. Here's a link to a 50 GBP limited edition from Faber... I'd say the US version is better.

The boards look like the book's been bound in green leather with a marbled gold spine. 

It's really a gorgeous book, one of the nicest wide-release titles I've seen in a long time. My copy is a signed first edition, signed by Ishiguro on a tipped-in page before the book's front matter. I picked this up at Powell's via their webstore for the retail price -- I imagine there are quite a few signed firsts out there, and I highly recommend you track one down. 

(Also, a quick housekeeping note: you can now find me at No need to include blogspot in the URL anymore!)

Currently reading:
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Currently listening to:
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tom McCarthy, "Satin Island" (2015, signed first edition)

A quick post this week showcasing a newly signed first edition of Tom McCarthy's Satin Island. McCarthy is one of my favorite writers to watch; he approaches each book with remarkable aplomb and takes on wildly challenging stories. Remainder featured falling space debris and a man trying to recreate with a cast of actors a recurring dream. C, a four-part novel that as a whole is about communication, radio waves, and World War I, is exceptionally good, ambitious, and original, and absolutely should have beat The Finkler Question for the 2010 Booker Prize. 

Satin Island, just published last week in the US, is about a cultural anthropologist working for a massive corporation and is almost Kafkaesque in its surreality. I'm only about forty pages in (about a quarter of the way through) but the book is riveting in all its strangeness. Each paragraph is headed like a boring business contract (5.1, 5.2, etc) but features some of the tightest, meditative prose about today's culture of technology and how that world may be informed by bygone cultural philosophers like Claude Levi-Strauss. McCarthy is a brilliant writer and I'm looking forward to digging in more. A review will likely be online at later this month.

This book was signed for me at a reading/discussion that took place last week at the inimitable 192 Books in Chelsea. And, how about that amazing cover by Peter Mendelsund?

Currently reading:
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Currently listening to:
Joy Division, "Preston, 28 February 1980 (live)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Kobo Abe, "The Woman in the Dunes" (1964 first American edition, with original Knopf press letter)

I was recently in Washington D.C. and saw some very tempting rare books by Kenzaburo Oe at The Second Story Bookshop and thought I'd share one of my modern Japanese classics. While I have a few of Oe's early books I might share later on, I'd like to focus here on Kobo Abe. I fell hard into the world of Kobo Abe by way of his collaborations with the filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara; I saw the film of The Woman in the Dunes and was floored by its surreal, sensual madness. I think The Woman in the Dunes, along with Abe's The Box Man can form a pretty direct line to the contemporary Japanese magical realism of Haruki Murakami; if you like Murakami, look to Abe to see where it all originated.

The Woman in the Dunes is about an entomologist who gets trapped in a widow's hut while doing field research. Her hut is slowly being consumed by the surrounding dunes, and the entomologist must try to stave off the flow of sand in order for the villagers to agree to aid him. Things blur between Sisyphean and psychosexual as the entomologist finds himself drawn physically to the widow.

This is a first American Edition, originally published by Knopf in 1964. I picked it up at the Strand in Manhattan about three years ago for around $40 -- some copies are currently out there for a little more, around $65, while others are as high as $400. The condition of the book is great but the jacket's not so good, as there are a few closed tears along the spine. The coloring still looks remarkably bright, too (although the page details I photographed look brown in my low-light...).

The book has some illustrations throughout by Machi Abe, and features this terrifying page right at its beginning:

I also was thrilled to find this wedged into the book: a press letter from Knopf to a "Mrs. Crist", sent at the request of the the production company that put out Teshigahara's film that same year. How exciting!

Currently reading:
Bonita Avenue, by Peter Buwalda

Currently listening to:
Bing and Ruth, "Tomorrow Was the Golden Age"