Sunday, January 31, 2016

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Silverado Squatters (Arion Press, 1996)

Like many book collectors, I've long admired the work of the Arion Press out in San Francisco. I'd know about their Moby-Dick for a while and have a facsimile of the edition - even in a simple paperback reprint one can tell how fine Arion's design is. Although I hadn't handled one in person, I've wanted an original from the press for quite some time. When their 1996 edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's travel journal The Silverado Squatters came up at auction for a relatively cheap opening bid, I figured I'd try.

The book also has a bit of a personal connection for me, as at work I helped put together a book for an artist that named his exhibition after the central line of Stevenson's text: "There are no foreign lands, it is the traveler only who is foreign." The book was an achievement of sorts of for me and this felt like a sentimental way to finish out that project.

The book is gorgeous, hand-sewn with boards bound in cork and a cloth spine. It's nice to see a "real" deckled edge, too:

This is in an editon of 250 copies signed and numbered by Michael Kenna, who provides sixteen color photographic prints for the book. 

My copy is signed by Kenna but out of series:

I remember when I bought this feeling like I'd paid too much. Bidding opened at around $150 and ended without a single counter-bid, but it was with a real auction house that charged a premium and a "professional" shipping charge. This isn't something I do often and I remember thinking suddenly I'd gotten in over my head and caught up in the moment -- at a little over $200, I could've put that money towards something that'd been on my want list for ages. I've since warmed up to it and think of it as quite a treasure - the book was originally $425 from Arion back in 1996, so I certainly feel like I got a great deal.

Currently reading:
What Belongs To You by Garth Greenwell

Currently listening to:
Underworld, "Second Toughest in the Infants"

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ursula LeGuin, The Farthest Shore (1973 Gollancz Edition)

This past holiday I was gifted the third volume of Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea Trilogy, thus completing my set of the 1970s Gollancz Edition with artwork by David Smee. I featured the first two books previously here, and it's a great feeling to finally finish what my grandfather more or less started before the books were passed down to me.

Here's a look at the beautiful wraparound cover of The Farthest Shore:

And, all books together. Upon revisiting Earthsea this weekend, I'm struck with how short and efficient LeGuin's prose is and how she doesn't jeopardize the scope of her book by tightening her plot. The trilogy clocks in at just under 600 pages! You don't need an epic page count to tell an epic story. To think, that in our pop-fantasy era, that final volumes are not only being adapted into films but those films are split into two...

Currently reading:
Adalbert Stifter, Rock Crystal

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Infinite Winter, and a digital update

Infinite Winter, an online David Foster Wallace reading group that will be tackling Infinite Jest about 75 pages a week through May, will kick off on January 31. I'm very excited to be a part of this community, and will also be featured as a guest blogger later in the season (I'll surely post another update here when my comments go live). Details on Infinite Winter can be found here -- if you've ever had any inclination to read this massive book, I urge you to consider joining us. This'll be my first time through the novel and I can't wait.

I've also written a lead-up column for Infinite Winter which just went live today. Please click below for my thoughts on 1996, 6th grade, and how two decades can feel a lifetime away.

Jeff Alford: On 20 of My 31 Years, the Readers We Were, and Those We Strive to Be

In other news I'm tiptoeing into the world of twitter. If you're interested you can follow me @theoxenofthesun.

Currently reading:
Howard Jacobson, Shylock Is My Name

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ander Monson, Letter to a Future Lover (Signed Deluxe Edition of 50 copies)

Happy New Year - hope the holidays were good to everyone. Following my "Best Books of 2015" post I thought I'd share an exciting edition of Ander Monson's Letter to a Future Lover. At one point in the collection, Monson alludes to this very edition, saying that there was an unbound version made which was the "intended" version of the book. I raced to an order page linked through Graywolf Press and Other Electricities and found that there was one copy left of the clothbound "deluxe" version. This book is limited to only 50 copies worldwide, signed, personalized, and numbered. A signed and number, non-cloth-bound limited edition of 100 is still available here.

This is a big unbound book in a clamshell case with black boards, red cloth sides, and metallic red lettering on the front. Inside, the right side is the book's unbound manuscript, ribboned for ease of removal.

To the left, a library pocket features a handwritten title card by the author, with my name written out as if I was the first to take the book out of the library. The title page is dedicated to me, "a fellow traveler", and signed by Monson. On the reverse, the colophon of the limited edition says this is copy 48 of 50.

Here's how the book looks fanned out:

Again, I think this is one of the very best books of 2015, and one of the most engaging non-fiction things I've ever read. It's an honor to have this edition. I think Letter to a Future Lover is a must for any lovers of readers and I strongly encourage you to take a look. My review at Run Spot Run can be read here.

Currently reading:
Magda Szabo, The Door

Currently listening to:
Jamie XX, "In Colour"