Sunday, April 24, 2016

Daniel Clowes, Wilson (signed)

I recently picked up Daniel Clowes's new book Patience but have yet to crack it: after reading through the recently-released Eightball #1-#18 box set, I decided I would go through the complete Clowes on my way to Patience. Plowing through Ice Haven (Eightball #22) and The Death-Ray (Eightball #23) kind of left me a little nonplussed (I don't think those two are particularly stellar stories) but revisiting 2011's Wilson has been a real treat. I've been cracking up over how dark and sad and hilarious the book is!

I got a chance to meet Clowes five years ago at The Strand and he signed this copy for me. Yo Wilson!

Currently reading:
Lian Hearn, Emperor of the Eight Islands

Currently listening to:
"Lost Themes II" by John Carpenter

Sunday, April 17, 2016

David Foster Wallace, Girl With Curious Hair (1st edition)

As I mentioned a few months ago, I've been participating this winter in the David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest book club, Infinite Winter. This weekend I rounded the 900-page corner and have the end in sight - I think I'll finish the novel some time this week. To commemorate this, I thought I'd feature one of my David Foster Wallace rarities, this first edition of Girl With Curious Hair.

My David Foster Wallace collection has a bit of an awkward history: I was on the fence with him and his books for quite some time, having only really read his essays (which were perfectly fine, I figured at the time, but certainly not masterpieces). Coming off the heels of reading the sorta-fine-sorta-useless Both Flesh and Not I decided I wasn't into him. Overrated. I'd picked up a substantial set of Wallace books in library sales and old bookshops over the years, and with Infinite Jest still unread on my shelf I committed to selling the collection to a local bookseller in an effort to fund an art purchase (I had thrown my signed Consider the Lobster up on eBay for a hefty sum already). Fast forward six months, artwork framed on the wall, I find myself nose-deep into the absolutely exquisite Infinite Jest and realize, perhaps too late, that David Foster Wallace was indeed one of the greats and any good library deserves the collection of books that I so coldly treated like a pawn shop cartridge-player.

It's actually kind of fun to "keep an eye out" again and drift through bookstores, which is something I stopped doing once my tastes and library got a little too specific. Now I can pop in and see if someone might have a hardcover 1st of Brief Interviews... or Oblivion, which I still need to pick back up.

This copy was recently picked up, like last week's Arion Press edition, from Powell's ridiculously generous 30% online sale a few weeks ago. Here's the colophon and front-flap of Girl With Curious Hair:

Eyes are peeled for a 1st/1st Infinite Jest. My old copy was a later printing, and not particularly valuable, so no great loss there, but reading through Infinite Jest is a massive important read and one that I think might, looking back, define this point in my life. Really special stuff.

Currently reading:
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

Currently listening to:
Underworld, "Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future"

Sunday, April 10, 2016

How I Came to Be the Governor of the Island of Cacona, by The Hon. Francis Thistleton (1852, reprinted by the Arion Press in 1989)

I recently picked up this little oddity from the wildly generous 30% everything sale that Powell's did a few weeks ago: this is How I Came to Be the Governor of the Island of Cacona by William Henry Fleet, writing pseudonymously as the Hon. Francis Thistleton. Originally published in Montreal in 1852, the Arion Press reprinted the book in 1989 after Andrew Hoyem (the founder of Arion Press) discovered a copy of the original volume.

It's a small volume bound in dark green cloth and ochre paper boards, beautifully typeset and letterpress-printed in black and green ink. There's an introduction by Robertson Davies, and each chapter features a delightful illustration in black and yellow ink by Andrew Hoyem himself. Here's a few of those illustrations:

Here's the original title page:

and Arion Press's updated title:

Cacona is a fictional Canadian island (how great is that map on the cover!), and the story here is in the realm of 19th Century British amusements like Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King and Anthony Hope's Prisoner of Zenda: in Thistleton's novel, a man is surprisingly granted governorship of Cacona by Her Majesty the Queen. Antics ensue as Cacona is further colonized and their government set up.

This is from an edition of only 325 unsigned/unnumbered copies. Here's a photo of the colophon:

Cacona is my second book from Arion Press (after Robert Louis Stevenson's The Silverado Squatters) and I'm looking forward to picking up more as I see them!

Currently reading:
Don DeLillo, Zero K
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

Currently listening to:
Max Richter, "Sleep"

Monday, April 4, 2016

William T. Vollmann, The Ice-Shirt (first edition, signed with drawing)

With 400 pages to go in my Infinite Jest book club and about 1000 pages of books to review currently on my books-to-read stack, I'm finding my eyes are wandering more and more to those volumes that have been lurking on my shelf for years, waiting for my schedule to clear up. I've been itching to get back into a William T. Vollmann novel, and while The Dying Grass beckons, I'm not sure I'll be ready for another 1100 page book so soon after Infinite Jest. So, I think it'll be The Ice-Shirt, and I happen to have a really nice copy.

Vollmann is an outstanding author but also a mesmerizing visual artist. His books are riddled with doodles and sketches and I recently learned that Vollmann will occasionally include a drawing with his signature at book events. When I bought Last Stories and Other Stories from City Lights, I kind of swore that I'd wait to fill in my collection until I was able to find copies of the books I didn't have that were signed with drawings. Someday I hope for a book exclusively composed of his illustrations, but until then, I'll have to settle with these.

The Ice-Shirt, a volume in Vollmann's Seven Dreams series is about Greenland; this copy, fittingly, is illustrated with a viking axe.

Currently reading:
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
Ricky Jay, Matthias Buchinger: The Greatest German Living

Currently listening to:
Underworld, "Barbara Barbara We Face A Shining Future"