Sunday, September 21, 2014

David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (signed and numbered limited edition, personalized with drawing)

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing David Mitchell at a reading during his tour for The Bone Clocks. While I'm still conflicted about the book, I'm still buzzing from his event: I've never seen an author so generous and thoughtful talk about his work. I feel like every writer talks of their novels by saying they've been living with these characters for so long that it's cathartic to get them into the hands of their readers, but Mitchell's version of that sentiment rang far more powerful. In a boldly sweeping statement, I'd say his book is essentially about the reincarnation of ideas, and he does just that with his characters. Much of the cast of The Bone Clocks is made up of tertiary players from his entire oeuvre, and he's given them a second life in The Bone Clocks, a second chance to consume him as an author, and a second opportunity to be released upon a hungry reading public. To listen to Mitchell try to formulate these ideas on stage, and realize he's not only revisiting lost loved ones but continuing to grow with them was a powerful experience. He nailed it, and afterwards graciously waded through the wordy slurry of aspiring writer Q&A, kindly plucking and reshaping questions from his petrified fans. It's wonderful to see that great writers can be great people as well.

I'm working on a review of The Bone Clocks for which I'll probably post here once it's done. For those who have finished the book, I'm curious to know if you think the novel could function with the "Horologist's Labyrinth" entirely excised.

Similar to the limited edition UK release of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, a special edition of The Bone Clocks was announced by Sceptre at the beginning of the summer. I quickly placed a pre-order from The Book Depository (with one of their many %-off coupons) and got word that this shipped in early of September.

Slipcased with unique artwork, this edition features an embossed clock in yellow boards and a maze embossed on the back. Not a spectacular as The Thousand Autumns, it's still a lovely piece. The endpapers mirror the jacket of the UK edition. Like his last limited edition, there are only 500 copies of this available.

I asked Mitchell if he wouldn't mind personalizing these for me, despite them being already signed. He was thrilled to and seemed very pleased to see that these were in the hands of fans. He drew me a lovely scribble of clouds and birds (and a boat in my Thousand Autumns), and we talked a moment about his designers. I'm honored to have this in my library.


Currently reading:
The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Currently listening to:
Oneohtrix Point Never, "Betrayed in the Octagon"

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Charles Bukowski, "The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship" with signed screenprint by R. Crumb

Never intentional, but it seems I've taken another summer off. It's been a life-changing four months; since my last update on Gravity's Rainbow, my wife and I have bought a one bedroom apartment in the gloriously suburban Ditmas Park, an oasis of a Brooklyn neighborhood full of Victorian homes, driveways, trees and cicadas. We also constructed some dreamy built-in bookshelves in our home which I may feature in a future post.

I received this gorgeous Black Sparrow Press edition from my wife for my thirtieth birthday last week. Published in 1998, The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship is a collection of texts from Bukowski's journals from the early 90s. In traditional Black Sparrow Press manner, they've offered the book in a range of collectible formats, but this one is especially interesting considering it was published posthumously. Typically, a lettered edition would have a holograph poem or an original painting or drawing, but since Bukowski died in 1994 something from his hand wasn't an option. The 'special edition' credits instead go to the great R. Crumb, who did illustrations for the book (he also did a few other collaborations while Buk was alive). 426 copies of The Captain include a beautiful screenprint by R. Crumb, bound into the book, and signed below.

Very nice, and interesting to compare this R. Crumb print with the few others that are circulating around from the likes of publishers like TASCHEN. They're currently in the process of a massive reprint of Crumb's sketchbooks; two sets cost $1000 each and come with a signed lithograph each limited to 1,000 copies. Having seen those prints first-hand, I think this Bukowski print is on par, or even nicer.

Curiously, there is another edition of this out there from Black Sparrow that I believe has a portfolio of loose Crumb prints. Would be very nice to see one of those in the flesh!

Despite some IRL distractions, there's plenty more on deck from The Oxen of the Sun this year. If you're reading, please say hi.

Currently reading:
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Currently listening to:
"1970s Algerian Folk and Pop" (Sublime Frequencies)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (First Edition)

This is a major one for me: I've finally acquired a first edition of one of my favorite novels, Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. While I've been dreaming of getting a copy for quite a long time, this acquisition was fast-tracked last month after my visit to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair.

I was surprised to find myself so conflicted after my visit to the fair. Every booth was stocked to the gills with treasures, ranging from $500 to the hundreds of thousands. There were signed dedication copies of literary classics, perfect-condition examples of so many coveted titles for any intrigued collector to drool over. But then, I started seeing books that I have in my own library; things that I purchased for a song on eBay or from some small used/rare shops in the Northeast, things I purchased for around $100 that were priced at the fair for $1000. Am I lucky to have bought those titles at those prices? I don't think so. I'm just a discerning, patient collector who knows the price ranges of the titles I'm looking for and one who is happy to wait for a book to appear at a price that really can't be beat.

I imagine the entire Park Avenue Armory was filled with dealers and collectors like this. So, what's going on when you can go on eBay and see a handful of Gravity's Rainbows selling for a couple-hundred dollars, but there are a handful of copies in these booths for $1250, $2500, and more? Sure, these copies are in excellent, excellent condition, but really, who are these priced for? It felt like these titles were offered with a hefty prestige-premium, for wealthy casual collectors to soak in the Manhattan convention experience.

Later, I was floored to see a copy of For Whom The Bell Tolls dedicated to Hemingway's mother. There were many genuine one-of-a-kind treasures at the fair like this -- I was smitten with some Joe Brainard drawings, some signed firsts by Shirley Jackson, and many more, but that corner of my mind that was looking to finally grab a Pynchon first walked away from the fair frustrated and embarrassed for their potential buyers. This is a fair to buy *unique* books, not simply rare ones.

I went home over-confident that I could go home and buy a Gravity's Rainbow myself online for a fraction of the ones I saw at the fair.

...and so I did.  In a polite and professional back-and-forth with a dealer on eBay, I got my hands on this:

It's a true first edition of Gravity's Rainbow, not price clipped or damaged in any way save for one droplet of discoloration on the top edges. The book has a wonderful provenance, too: this was from the COLUMBIA PICTURES STORY DEPARTMENT (and stamped with that on the front endpapers).

Basically, this means that in the 70s, Columbia Pictures had a library of books that they might consider making into films. Gravity's Rainbow is hilariously unfilmable, and the book is bookmarked only about thirty pages in, at the following passage:

"A Chorus line of quite nubile young women naughtily attired in Busbies and jackboots dance around for a bit here while in another quarter Lord Blatherard Osmo proceeds to get assimilated by his own growing Adenoid, some horrible transformation of cell plasma it is quite beyond Edwardian medicine to explain..."

It's as if someone read those lines, asked "what the hell's an Adenoid?" and shelved this until the department shut down or something. Amazing.

Currently reading:
Marshlands by Matthew Olshan

Currently watching:
Game of Thrones

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ursula K. Le Guin, (partial) Earthsea Trilogy, first UK editions

 These two books came to me from my grandfather's library: Ursula K. Le Guin's The Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, books one and two from Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy. While not especially rare in this state (both are second printings), these two books and the third (The Farthest Shore) make one of the more handsome trilogies I've seen.

Published by Victor Gollancz in the early 70s, each book features lovely jackets by David Smee featuring a fantastic scene in pen and ink. True first editions of Le Guin's trilogy are fetching substantial amounts on the market, but as a set, they visually lack the cohesiveness of the Gollancz editions. I'd take these any day. 

Currently reading:
The Corpse Exhibition and other stories from Iraq by Hassan Blasim

Currently listening to:
Do to the Beast by The Afghan Whigs

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Or Shall We Die? A libretto by Ian McEwan (signed first edition)

Although my wife and I have been taking about it for years, this week marked our first visit to the Met Opera. We saw Massenet's Werther (based on a Goethe short story), which featured an other-worldly performance by tenor Jonas Kaufmann. Previously, I hadn't had much exposure to opera, but some of the more curious lateral connections I've had to the medium have been publications of librettos by authors I like. I posted long ago on Ian McEwan's "For You" and thought this might be an appropriate time to feature my signed first edition of 1983's "Or Shall We Die?":

"Or Shall We Die?" features a lengthy introduction by Ian McEwan which can almost be appreciated as an independent essay. The text deals with the then-current political climate and fear of an exacerbating Cold War, as well as a direct discussion of how to approach composing a meaningful oratorio. The introduction's poignancy is compounded once the reader gets to McEwan's libretto: his themes are masterfuly reduced into tightly metered lines:

"On countless planets that power locked in
matter is traced to larger patterns,
the measurements resume in wonder.

But lesser forms, intent on conquest,
helplessly construct the means of their destruction,
and then must face a simple test of wisdom.

Shall we pass, or shall we die?"

This book is particularly rare to find in hardcover and in fine condition -- I made some compromises by purchasing one with a diamond shaped stain of sticker residue, but I think it only cost me around $5.00. At an event last year for Sweet Tooth, I brought this and a few other early McEwan collections to get signed.

Currently reading:
Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus

Currently listening to:
"Do to the Beast" by The Afghan Whigs

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Signed, first edition of Dusk by James Salter

 One of the most moving novels I read last year was James Salter’s All That Is. While an excellent book, I found myself more moved and perplexed by my lack of previous exposure to Salter. All That Is is a novel so inspiringly precise that it makes me turn inward and try to find all the moments in my past where Salter eluded me. Where was Salter when I was discovering the triumvirate of Bellow, Roth and Updike? All That Is is the work of a great American novelist who has no business being in the shadows of those more outspoken (and often incendiary) authors. Salter is in his late eighties, and I am certain in ten years the reading public will wish they’d lauded him with more praises and awards while they had the chance.

As a collector, I patiently focus my efforts on a handful of authors instead of trying to accumulate everything great I come by. A focused library will lead to incremental levels of completion that I feel will be more rewarding than a wide array of assorted first editions. Upon finishing All That Is, I promptly added Salter to my list and am on the hunt rarities, such as this signed first edition of Dusk. Originally published in 1988 by North Point Press, Dust collects a number of short stories originally published in The Paris Review and Grand Street.

Currently reading:
Ivan Vladislavic, Double Negative

Sunday, February 16, 2014

New Haruki Murakami cover for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage

I spotted the new cover art for this fall's Haruki Murakami novel over the weekend while browsing Amazon. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage will be released in the US this August, translated by Philip Gabriel. Could this be another cover from Chip Kidd?

Of course, the artwork is subject to change -- Amazon has a knack for releasing internal artwork a little before it's officially ready...

Currently watching:
House of Cards, season 2