Thursday, December 20, 2012

Incoming Books: December 20

Today was the beginning of my holiday vacation, and that means one thing: last minute panicked shopping! I did manage to get a couple of things for The Wife, but the primary goal of today's big trip -- to hit the Union Square Holiday Market and buy artisanal something-or-others for various people that need gifts -- was only successful in a very minor way.

Luckily, there was a secondary goal for that big trip -- visiting Forbidden Planet and the Strand, both just down the block from Union Square -- and that was entirely successful; I found several books for my sons and the following towering stack for myself:

Spleenal by Nigel Auchterlounie -- a collection of comics from the blog of the same name (which is also the name of the title character, who is not nearly as autobiographical as he started out). Auchterlounie has a distinct, quirky cartoony art style and an amusingly slanted view, and I keep hoping he's going to get so famous that everyone will remember how to spell his name. This is, I think, his only book-really-printed-on-paper, and it's difficult to find in the US (Auchterlounie is British). But I saw Spleenal on a shelf for the first time ever today, and now It Is Mine.

Nexus Archives, Vol. 5 by Mike Baron and Steve Rude -- one of my favorite people-took-great-pains-to-point-out-the-vanishingly-tiny-ways-it-wasn't-a-superhero comics from the '80s and '90s, which has been reprinted in a series of classy hardcovers that I keep thinking I need to collect and read. This one was shopworn and cheap, and now I have three of the series, which is a start.

The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell -- Bell is one of the best of the current crop of autobio cartoonists; she does stories on her own website and for various publications. This is her new book, full of comics stories I haven't read yet.

Heavy Liquid by Paul Pope -- I had mostly forgotten that I already read this (during my Eisner-judging frenzy in early 2009), but I haven't kept up with Pope's work the way I wanted to. (I started reading THB, his big Martian series, about the first time it went on extended hiatus.)

The Infinite Wait by Julia Wertz -- Wertz is another autobio cartoonist, much rawer and down in the muck than Bell -- more solidly in that ol' Crumb tradition, in other words -- who originally published her work online under the title The Fart Party. (She's since moved away from that title, and the perceived juvenility of it.) This book has three stories from Wertz's life, in her usual loose, almost primitivist style. (Wertz is probably the only autobio cartoonist to draw herself less attractive than she actually is.)

Philip Roth: Novels 1973-1977 -- This is part of a massive Library of America series that looks to reprint all of Roth's work in those wonderful little green cloth books in their matching tan slipcases. I already have a couple of them, and I have periodic wishes to read all of Roth, so I'd better have as many of his books on hand as possible. Besides, this has The Great American Novel in it, and I've got at least three reasons to want to read that.

The Golden Ass by Apuleius, translated by Robert Graves -- One of the great bawdy, crazy, supernatural, bizarre classics, as translated by one of the best writers of the 20th century; I think I had a copy of this before the flood, so it's time to replenish.

Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company by Roy Morris, Jr. -- This is the standard biography of Bierce for this generation, and Bierce is probably my favorite American writer. (I had an older Bierce bio sitting on the shelves unread at the time of the flood -- I think Richard O'Connor's late-60s take.)

The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum -- I might have heard of this in passing before, but I picked it up because of the title and cover (yes, all of those people who claim that covers do not influence their decisions are lying -- possibly to themselves, but definitely lying). It's the non-fictional tale of how poisoning stopped being such an easy way to kill people around 1920 in New York when science (and some particular forensic scientists) caught up to human ingenuity, not for the first or last time.

Banvard's Folly by Paul Collins -- The first major non-fiction book by the author of Not Even Wrong, The Trouble With Tom, The Book of William, and Sixpence House, which I finally found in person after years of looking vaguely for it. (I also see that Collins had a new book last year, The Murder of the Century, which I missed entirely.) It consists of biographical portraits of thirteen men and women, all of whom failed at the great work of their lives.

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household -- I'm pretty sure I've been recommended this book several times (though I also keep mixing it up with Rogue Herries, which other than one word is apparently nothing like it): it's a thriller from just before WWII, told in what seems to be a very cold and distanced manner by a first-person narrator who nearly dies on page 2.

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz -- I had this book before the flood; in fact, I had this very edition (trade paperback with all the eyeballs) before the flood. And, since I finally read the first book (and really liked it), I might just get to this one sometime soon.

Worst Laid Plans edited by Alexandra Lydon & Laura Kindred -- A collection of short, funny stories about bad sex, which originated as a comedy show, by a whole bunch of people (mostly women, and mostly using what seems to be their real names). If I didn't have two teen/tween boys in the house, this would be an awesome bathroom book, but I guess I'll find some other way to read it.

The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Maculay -- I have the sense that every literary person two generations older than me has read this book, and hardly anyone at all since then. That's an interesting phenomenon, no matter the actual merits of the book, so I snatched up this nice New York Review Books edition.

Dracula Cha Cha Cha by Kim Newman -- I was a big fan of the original Anno Dracula (an alternate-historical vampire novel in which pretty much every 19th century fictional vampire appeared -- it's from 1992, and so predated both the ongoing vampire boom and Alan Moore's multiple projects doing pretty much exactly the same thing), but I somehow missed this third book in the series the first time around (in 1998). But the wonderful thing about books is that it's never too late to read any of them.

Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan -- I had a copy of this pre-flood, and I want to read it before I read O'Nan's Emily, Alone (which is a sequel to WYWH), so I clearly had to buy it today.

The Complete Henry Bech by John Updike -- Somehow, someday, I will read some Updike; I feel weird admitting that I still haven't touched any of his work yet. Maybe this smallish omnibus of four books about a Rothian literary writer will do it.

Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett -- This is supposed to be very funny, and very inside-publishing, and I had a copy of it before the flood (which, I think, I got free, back in those halcyon bookclub days when the books flowed like water).

The Girl in Blue and Indiscretions of Archie by P.G. Wodehouse -- I had about three shelves full of the Overlook editions of Wodehouse pre-flood, and I definitely need to replace and complete that set. So I buy a couple whenever I get a chance. These are two minor Wodehouse books, true, but they're also two Wodehouse books I've never read, which is pretty good.

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