TINY BOOKS / BIG RECOMMENDATIONS
The following set of mini reviews has been extracted from my VanderWorld Report, an e-newsletter that comes out six times a year. It includes book, movie, and music reviews, in addition to weird internet links, news about my books, exclusive excerpts, and information about my upcoming readings and other events. To sign up for it, just go to my website and click on the link at the bottom left of the screen. The next one will be emailed in July.
Because I'm working on edits to Shriek, I haven't read much of late. But I did read on our Seattle-Vancouver-Victoria trip. I didn't read any SF or Fantasy. I'm kind of burned out on fantasy. Most of what I picked up was confessional first person literature or some form of literary mainstream fiction. This will come as no surprise to long-time subscribers. I should note that I had a brilliant idea on our recent trip. Well, I thought it was brilliant. I would only buy little books, under even the size of your typical mass market paperback. So all of the books listed are really small. The potential of these small sizes seems vast, given the difference in design between these books, all of which are pleasing. Did my plan work? Not really. I wound up buying twice as many books as usual, because each time I bought them they took up so little space in my bag that I didn't realize how much I was buying. So . . . we bought an extra suitcase and had to ship two boxes of books home. But I now have literally a hundred cool little books. So all's well that end's well. I guess.
ON THE NAIVE BUT HONORABLE SELF-DETERMINATION OF TEENAGE GIRLS by Amber Gayle (Evil Twin Publications).
Evil Twin Publications is run by two woman who are indeed twins. One lives in New York City and the other in Portland, Oregon. The book is the first person journal account (fictionalized) of a high school girl living in Germany. Dealing with classes, culture clashes, romance, etc. What makes it so compelling is both its immediacy and its sincerity, mixed with a genuine page-turning what-will-happen-next quality. I really loved this little book. Not just the text, but also the way it's put together. It's listed as No. 5 in the "My Evil Twin Sister" series of narrative zines. I really felt like I had gained insight into somebody's life after reading the book, and I want to apply that immediacy and lack of guile to some aspects of my fiction. I've seen other books from Evil Twin, and they all look fascinating. Check out the website.
ON BULLSHIT by Harry G. Frankfurt (Princeton University Press).
This little book is exactly what the title suggests: an essay on bullshit, as opposed to fabrication and lying. Frankfurt makes a compelling case for the idea that there is more bullshit in the world now than ever before. A neat little book, well worth sending as a gift to friends.
IRAQ: A TOURIST GUIDE by The State Organization for Tourism, General Establishment for Travel and Tourism Services (1982). We picked up this gem in one of the fourteen bookstores in Sidney-by-the-Sea on Vancouver Island. A pre-invasion travel guide issued during Saddam Hussein's reign, this book contains several gems of information. First, there is a nice photo of "Field Marshal Saddam Hussein, Hero of National Liberation" in the front. He looks like a middle manager at Price, Waterhouse or something. Chapter 1 begins with a photo of a sculpture that looks like a bull buggering a man. Of course, we get the full story of the glorious revolution, including the 8th February 1963 Revolution: "It was a socialist, democratic, and nationalist revolution in which all the civil and military formations of the Party took part, which elicited the hostility of imperialist forces. The latter combined in conspiring against it on 18th November 1963, while it was only a few months old." We also learn that Iraq promotes tranquility for all, while it "confronts Zionism, and calls for the realization of peace and cooperation in the world." We learn of the grand Street of Progressions. We also get several more photos of a sculpture of a bull (?) standing over a man. I'm sure I'm missing the symbolism--my apologies. At the end of the guide, we find that the layout was created by Yugoslaviapublic in Yugoslavia and that it was also printed there. Alas, in the main it's not nearly as entertaining as it sounds.
THE CLEAR CUT FUTURE edited by Clear Cut Press.
This sampler of fiction, nonfiction, and photographs from Clear Cut Press authors provides an excellent guide to the burgeoning West Coast literary scene. There seems to be a real Golden Age of indie presses in the area between Portland and Seattle. Stacey Levine contributes "The World of Barry," one of her idiosyncratic, razor-sharp short stories. I'd never heard of Levine before, but heard her read at the Unassociated Writer's Conference in Vancouver. Stunning work--very sharp, clear, and original. The whole sampler is kind of like that. And the graphical style chosen for all of Clear Cut Press' books is wonderful. Check out their books . I can't recommend them highly enough.
THE LOGOGRYPH by Thomas Wharton (Gaspereau Press).
I haven't read this novel yet, although it sounds fascinating: "In a small town in the mountains, a young boy is given a suitcase filled with battered old books. So begins a lifelong pursuit of the elusive creature known as the logogryph. Describing imaginary books and alternate realities, Wharton explores the mysterious alchemy called reading." However, the reason I'm listing the book now is that it's one of the best examples of book as lovingly-made artifact I've seen. The book is housed in a brown paper sleeve with the title, author, and a woodcut of two hands on the front, with the novel information on the back. When you slide the book out from the sleeve, you find that it's made with high quality granular paper for the dust jacket (on a paperback!) and then a lovely, lovely design on the boards themselves. The interior is no less delectable--marvelous typography and margins and design that breathe. Quite simply, I am going to buy every book in this press' catalog because they're all so incredibly beautiful. Check out the website.
Other cool oddities collected include a World War II portable paperback edition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde created specially for the armed forces; a copy of seminal novella Lenz by Georg Buchner from Archipelago Press (a gorgeous little book, with both the original German and the English translation); a collection of essays about Japan called Kuhaku (another beautiful little book--hardcover this time); and a London Folio Society edition of Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese.