Saturday, December 26, 2009

Incoming Books: Christmas!

As part of the general festivities yesterday -- as usual, the Pompton Lakes Wheelers had our Day of Three Christmases, with a fourth (my extended family) to follow tomorrow and a fifth (The Wife's extended family) to be held without us, since the first date was snowed out two weeks ago and we're already booked for the new date -- I got some books as gifts.

One of the gifts, though, was a book I ordered from Amazon for myself months ago -- long before it was published -- and had The Wife wrap it up when it arrived, a week or so earlier than expected, on the 23rd. And another short stack of books are things I special-ordered at my favorite independent (the mighty Montclair Book Center), with the intention of picking them up while I'm on vacation next week, but which The Wife bought for me by surprise.

So most of these are books I expected and even ordered myself -- that's weird, but not entirely un-Christmassy.

Biggest and probably best is Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons, a giant three-books-in-a-slipcase set from Fantagraphics. We really are in a golden age of fancy books of cartoons (led by the major Calvin & Hobbes and Far Side retrospectives from a few years back), and Wilson's work definitely deserves and benefits from the great packaging. Some snobs will predictably turn their noses up at Playboy, but it's been one of the most dependable sources of good gag cartoons for the last half-century -- and one of the strongest and earliest supporters of Wilson's macabre and creepily funny work. Wilson is the great whistling-past-a-graveyard cartoonist of our time, and it's wonderful to see his work treated with this much care and respect.

The stack of books were all by P.G. Wodehouse, and all from Overlook's continuing series of small hardcovers. They've now published sixty-some of Wodehouse's roughly hundred books in a uniform format, and I have nearly all of them. (Though I'm getting behind on reading them; I may have to go on a Wodehouse binge sometime in 2010.) The ones I got yesterday were:
  • The Man With Two Left Feet, a story collection 1917 including the first appearance of Jeeves
  • Doctor Sally, a very short novel originally serialized in Collier's in the early '30s [1]
  • Barmy in Wonderland, a '50s comedy apparently in a very high Wodehouse style
  • A Few Quick Ones, another story collection, this time from the '50s
  • and Galahad at Blandings, a late novel in the Blandings Castle series, complete with impostors and aimless men threatened with marriage.

And then there was one unexpected book, something I didn't actually order myself: Stephen Fry in America. This, I gather, is the companion to a TV show that I don't think has aired over here yet -- perhaps it has in the UK -- for which Fry motored around the USA in a London black cab for several months, accompanied only by a large film crew. The idea is appealingly stunt-ish; I know I've had vague daydreams of seeing "the whole country," and I'm sure others have as well. And Fry has been a dependably humorous and witty writer so far.

[1] It just struck me that I'll probably live long enough for "the thirties" to have an entirely different referent. And I wonder if the Twenties will roar this time around, too?

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