BOOKLOVE: September 2014
I’m feeling a little bit book giddy today, generally happy about the state of literature and about the large number of books that I have yet to read so I’ve decided to write, sooner that I would have, about the books that I got last month. September was a bit crazy overall because there was a day when the secondhand store that I frequent for books was filled to the brim with interesting titles and also because I attended three book signings (Antrim, Mitchell, Oates) which, naturally, increased my book hoard for the month.
Anyway, I’ll be showing my September hoard in batches. First, the signed books:
- The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – Mitchell is unlike anyone in the world of literature today and his books are unlike anything that I have ever read. Cloud Atlas alone has secured his place in the world of literature but his other novels are all a brilliant show of his mastery and craft. Anyway, I digress. The Bone Clocks is said to be another genre-bending work from Mitchell that has all of my bookish friends raving about it.
- The Emerald Light in the Air by Donald Antrim – Antrim has always been on the outskirts of my interest. He’s the writer whose books I want to have but not necessarily read immediately. However, when I saw him and heard him speak about his writing, he went from being on the outskirts of my interest to the forefront of it. Hearing him read the title story of this particular collection was a treat.
- High Lonesome: New and Selected Stories 1966-2006 by Joyce Carol Oates – Oates is one of if not the most prolific writer of her generation. In her long career she must have written hundreds of short stories and here, in this collection, are the stories that represents her short fiction the most.
- Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates – The main thing that interests me about this novel is its resemblance to One Hundred Years of Solitude when I read the blurb. It tells the story of several generations of one family and their estate at Lake Noir. Part gothic tale, part magical realism, I have high hopes for this one.
- The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim – Literally a novel about one hundred brothers who all gather at their childhood home for a gathering. Jonathan Franzen calls this as “possibly the strangest novel published by an American.”
- The Verificationist by Donald Antrim – Another one by Antrim where the setup is about a pancake dinner between fellows of a psychiatric institute. When the protagonist tries to incite a food fight, he suffers from what George Saunders calls an “impossible activity.” I have read about 1/3 of the novel and it is actually quite brilliant.
Then, during Donald Antrim’s signing, I went to Politics & Prose and discovered that they have a section for books on sale in their basement which led to this:
- The Tenth Man by Graham Greene – One of my favorite authors is Graham Greene, despite having read only one work by him (The End of the Affair), and this has led me in a search for all of his published works. This particular novel is set in France during World War II in which one man traded all of his wealth in exchange for his life.
- Living, Thinking, Looking by Siri Hustvedt – Yes, I’m still on a Hustvedt high after meeting her two months ago but that’s not the only reason why I bought this book of essays written by her. This has also been in R.’s wishlist for quite a while now so I really have no reason not to buy this.
- Cartesian Sonata and Other Novellas by William H. Gass – Gass is another one of those authors whose work interests me yet I found it difficult to find his works back in the Philippines (I saw a book of his back at Fullybooked but I passed on it). Anyway, this particular book is a collection of four of his novellas that are interrelated. How? I don’t have an idea but I’m very excited to read this soon and find out if my instincts on Gass is spot on.
- Till I End My Song: A Gathering of Last Poems edited by Harold Bloom – I was really glad when I saw this book because I remembered seeing this back in the Philippines but passed on it because it was too expensive. Anyway, in Till I End My Song, Harold Bloom has collected the final poems, either actual or imagined, of certain masters of poetry like Pope, Whitman, Yeats, and Eliot.
Next came the graphic novels that I bought when I came upon a comic book store one day:
- Poem Strip by Dino Buzzati – Probably one of the weirdest NYRBs that I have come across and purchased. It’s a graphic novel from the 1960s about one man’s search for his girlfriend who lives in a weird street that doesn’t show up in any map. Browsing the graphic novel, I can see that it’s a mix of gothic fiction, erotica, and surrealism.
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – One of the more interesting graphic novels that I have wanted to read, Persepolis tells the story of a woman growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution.
- Maus by Art Spiegelman – Probably one of the greatest graphic novels ever, Maus tells the autobiographical story of Spiegelman interviewing his father about his life during the Holocaust.
- Saga: Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples – I’ve finished this already and I can see that it has the potential to be a great comic in the vein of Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man.
- Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine – Summer Blonde is a collection of four short stories from Adam Tomine’s critically-acclaimed comic series, Optic Nerve. Tomine is said to be the Raymond Carver of comic books and, after reading this collection, I can see why he merits such a comparison.
Of course, my month would be incomplete if I didn’t visit Unique, the thrift shop I frequent ever since I came here:
- Seven Short Novels by Anton Chekhov – Why not Chekhov? If somebody calls my favorite short story writer the “Modern Chekhov” then the impulse would be to find out why she is deemed as the modern incarnation of a Russian short story writer.
- Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson – Said to be Winterson’s most famous work about the complex love affair between the nameless and genderless narrator and a married woman. I really don’t have any expectations for this one since Winterson is not high on my list of to-read authors.
- Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino – To be honest, I was disappointed by Calvino’s supposed masterpiece, If on a winter’s night a traveler, because I felt that its style greatly overshadowed its content although there were moments of brilliance in the book. Which is why I’m willing to give Calvino another chance by buying (and hopefully reading) his other works in order to see if he can change my mind about his writing.
- Betrayal by Harold Pinter – Truthfully, I know nothing about Harold Pinter except that he’s a Nobel laureate and that he had a role in the film adaptation of John le Carre’s The Tailor of Panama. Still, I have heard and read praises about his work so I’m curious as to why he’s critically-acclaimed.
- Saturday by Ian McEwan – McEwan chronicles one Saturday of Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, against the backdrop of a large demonstration taking place against the United States’ 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
- Dancing Bear by James Crumley – I have actually been collecting these old Vintage editions but I do have my reservations if I don’t know the author. However, its subject matter (a private investigator embroiled in noir-ish plot) and the fact that it’s a signed copy made it appealing.
I also bought several nonfiction works because my reading of nonfiction is currently limited to articles I find on the internet and I think that needs to change:
Of course, Hitchens is a writer whose work I admire and de Beauvoir, Pound, Brodsky, and Proust are writers whose work I always wanted to read.
So this was the result of indulging my bookish whims last September and what is probably a pathological need to buy books and keep them close. Anyway, as one friend put it, this is a happy problem.