Monday, May 26, 2014

Incoming Books: May 23

This past Friday, there was a land-rush to get out of the office ahead of the long weekend...but I didn't have a train home for two hours. Well, that's never stopped me before: as usual, I went the opposite way, into NYC, to eventually grab a bus heading homeward.

And if I somehow found myself in the Strand along the way, well -- that's just good planning, isn't it?

The Strand is one of the world's great used bookstores -- well, it's more than that, but I treat it like a used bookstore, and don't bother with the new stuff up front -- and the great rule of a used bookstore is that you can't be looking for anything specific. Oh, certainly: come in with a list, on paper or electronically or just swirling in your head. But make sure it's a long list, and be on the lookout for other things as well. Because the point of a used bookstore, unlike one with new stuff, is that you have no idea what you'll find, and you have to be open to serendipity.

(Parenthetically, I had another realization that I'm getting older and crankier by the moment: the Strand had a major renovation a number of years ago, which made the place more open and airier and cleaner and easier to navigate, with better signage, an improved entrance and cash/wrap, and a great internal staircase. And I keep thinking that I hate it: I want the old crowded place back with massive rows of half-price hardcovers in the basement. I am self-aware enough to realize that at least half of what I want back is the pre-e-book publishing world, and much of the other half is my own youth. But, still: it is new and I don't like it.)

And here's what I found, with the graphic novels/comics first and then the straight prose afterward (since I already have them piled up according to where they'll be shelved):

Welcome to the Dahl House, which seems to be a collection of loosely related strips (though maybe it's one continuous story) by Ken Dahl, who is also the author of the graphic novel Monsters.

I'm Pretty Sure I've Got My Death-Ray in Here Somewhere! a collection of the incredibly obscure but great strip cartoon Eyebeam by Sam Hurt. There were five or so collections of this strip through the '80s (and at least one of its successor Queen of the Universe in the early '90s), and I had collected most of them after discovering the strip about twenty years ago. (They're very hard to find, especially thirty years later -- I think they're the kind of books that turn up used only when someone dies.) I was just missing one collection -- Our Eyebeams Twisted -- when the flood hit, but now I'm back from zero. And, googling to write this, I see Sam Hurt has come back to Eyebeam in the past decade and his style is amazingly still consistent.

I've been reading a lot of Roger Langridge lately -- he'd been on my "you'll probably like him" mental list for a long time, but I really clicked with the Muppet Show books he did for a stretch a few years back -- so I was happy to see Zoot Suite, another collaboration with his brother Andrew from the late '90s. (And I hope this isn't entirely work that's also included in Art d'Ecco, which I just read.)

I read the massive and vital Willie & Joe: The WWII Years collection by Bill Mauldin when I was an Eisner judge a few years back, and I do have a copy of the follow-up, Willie & Joe: Back Home (which is almost as important to comics history and, in its buried way, perhaps even a more impressive achievement). And now I have a copy of the WWII book in the cheaper single-volume paperback edition -- it doesn't seem to be designed quite as wonderfully as the slipcased hardcovers were, but all of the Mauldin cartoons are here, which is the central thing.

Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection: 1987-1991 collects most of Scott McCloud's first major comics work -- everything but the first ten issues, which were originally in color and can be found in a Kitchen Sink trade paperback reprint if you hunt -- and now I have a copy of it again.

And another book I had to re-buy after the flood is Cyril Pedrosa's Three Shadows, which I reviewed for ComicMix in 2008 when I first saw it. It's not well-known here, though it won a major prize at Angouleme when originally published in French, and I stand by what I said about it then: "This book will break your heart; I warn you now."

And then to prose:

I read and loved Martin Amis's London Fields back in about 1991 -- I might have even bought the iconic Vintage International edition, all yellow and black -- and that set me off buying and reading backwards and forwards in Amis's career, until that lousy book about "a police" stopped me, for at least a while. And then the floods destroyed all of the Vintage International editions, lined up carefully. But I heard that there's a film of London Fields coming -- someone (and I forget who) was on Craig Ferguson's talk show recently talking about it --and so that seemed like a good excuse to get the same edition again and try to find time to re-read the book.

I read Lawrence Block's smutty thriller Getting Off-- transparently published with a small writing as Jill Emerson" credit -- from the library when it was published a few years back, but didn't have my own copy of it until today. Block is one of my favorite writers, though, so I do intermittently think about trying again to collect all of his books.

I do have nearly all of Steven Brust's books -- the flood was damaging, but authors at the beginning of the alphabet in hardcover weren't touched -- with a few exceptions, and Sethra Lavode was one. I also intermittently think I might re-read all of his Dumas pastiches, and now I actually have all of them.

I originally read Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita back in the '80s -- I got it from the SFBC, in whatever the standard translation was in those days -- and have vaguely thought about re-reading it since. That desire picked up when there was a major new translation a few years back, and I had a copy of that new translation sitting on the shelf when the flood hit. So, today, when I saw a Penguin Classics edition -- translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the standard famous translators of Russian novels for this generation -- I figured that was it. But after a little research, I think the acclaimed translation was by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor, and came out a year before the Pevear/Volokhonsky. As I understand it, both of the '90s translations are from the rediscovered uncensored original text of the novel -- unlike the '60s translation I originally read -- so either one is good that way. I doubt I'll have time to read both translations, but who knows?

I've seen several British writers -- Martin Amis, I think, and others I can't recall right now -- praising the short novels of Penelope Fitzgerald, who started her novel career in 1977 at the age of sixty-one. So when I saw an inexpensive edition of her novels Offshore, Human Voices, The Beginning of Springin a nice Everyman's Library edition, I snapped it up. Particularly since I'm doing Book-A-Day this year, short novels look appealing to me.

I've had St. Clair McKelway's Reporting at Wit's End -- a colleection of his journalism from The New Yorker of the '30s through the '60s -- on my "look for it" list for several years, and I finally found a cheap trade paperback copy today.

I've had a vague interest in re-reading J.D. Salinger for years, so I also grabbed The Catcher in the Rye in mass-market. If I manage to get to it, and like it, I might dive into all of the Glass stories after that -- but that would be the next thing.

And last was The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux -- though, as I remember the shopping trip, I think this was actually the first book I picked up and decided to buy, which is nicely circular -- which seems to be a bunch of quotes and passages about travel and various specific places by the travel writers Theroux himself likes. I've liked Theroux's own travel books, so it wasn't a stretch to think I might like the things he liked.

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