Tag Archives: James Baldwin

Books Acquired Recently: Desk Copy Edition

I recently received some desk copies of books I will be teaching next semester. Baldwin’s and McClatchy’s are for a Queer Literature course and Atwood’s and Smith’s are for a Literature and Religion course. I’ve taught the latter two a number of times, but it will be my first time teaching the first two, although I have taught some of Baldwin’s other novels before.

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. 1986. New York: Anchor Books, 2017.

Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. 1956. New York: Vintage Books, 2013.

McClatchy, J.D., ed. Love Speaks Its Name: Gay and Lesbian Love Poems. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2001.

Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. 2000. New York: Vintage Books, 2001.

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Books Acquired Recently

Acker, Kathy. Bodies of Work. London: Serpent’s Tail, 1997.

—. Don Quixote. New York: Grove, 1986.

I love Kathy Acker, and have been meaning to read Don Quixote for quite a while now. I picked up Bodies of Work, a collection of her non-fiction, because it was only a dollar. It is in terrible shape; large chunks of pages are falling out, but all of the pages are there, so I’ll get the book re-bound. Normally I don’t buy books in bad condition, but I made an exception in this case because I love how Acker’s mind works.

These along with the Baldwin and Everett were purchased at Ken Sanders Rare Books.

Baldwin, James. Just Above My Head. 1979. New York: Dell, 1980.

Baldwin is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve been getting into his later fiction more recently. I actually ordered this book several months ago, but it was out of stock, so it was nice to find a copy while browsing in person.

Everett, Percival. I Am Not Sidney Poitier. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2009.

I also really enjoy Everett’s work, and I Am Not Sidney Poitier is one of his well-known books, so I am excited to read it. I am moving across the country in a week, thus I decided when I went to Ken Sanders this afternoon that I would only look for books by Acker, Baldwin, and Everett instead of browsing indiscriminately because I already have a lot to pack as it is. But my search for work by these authors was successful in all three cases!

Incidentally, I met Sidney Poitier when I was seven at the Los Angeles airport. I got his autograph (which hung on the wall of my bedroom for years, though I sadly no longer have it), and my mother got her picture taken with him. He was very gracious about being stopped by his fans.

Penner, Christina. Widows of Hamilton House. Winnipeg: Enfield, 2008.

This book was recently recommended to me by a friend who knows about my interest in Mennonite literature. It’s a gothic mystery, which is not a subject I normally read, but it should be fascinating because of the Mennonite elements.

This and D’anna’s two books were purchased from amazon.com’s network of sellers.

D’anna, Lynnette. Belly Fruit. Vancouver: New Star, 2000.

—. vixen. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I recently ordered a bunch of D’anna’s books because she is the rare Mennonite writer who writes openly about sex. Both of these books have tacky titillating covers, so we’ll see whether the stories live up to their billing.

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Books Acquired Recently

Cohen, Samuel, and Lee Konstantinou, eds. The Legacy of David Foster Wallace. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2012.

I ordered this book at a discounted price at the Modern Language Association bookfair last month, and it finally arrived this week. As I’ve mentioned numerous times here, I am a big fan of Wallace’s work, especially Infinite Jest. I am happy to see that scholars are actively writing about him, as his work certainly deserves canonization. I would love to teach Infinite Jest sometime, but it is so large that one would really need to devote an entire course to it. His first short story collection, Girl With Curious Hair, will have to suffice.

Jackson, Lawrence P. The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2011.

I bought this volume at a discount from Labyrinth Books, which is the premier independent seller of scholarly books in the United States. The book covers the period of twentieth century African American literature that I know the least about even though several of my favorite authors, including James Baldwin and Gwendolyn Brooks, were active during it, so I am excited to read the text in order to remedy this gap.

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Books Acquired Recently: Desk Copy Edition

Baldwin, James. Another Country. 1962. New York: Vintage, 1993.

I will be teaching Baldwin’s and Castillo’s novels in my Introduction to Literature course next semester. Another Country has been one of my favorite books since I first read it three years ago, and I have finally decided to teach it despite its length. At 436 pages in this edition, it’s rather long for an undergraduate general education course, but I think it is compelling enough that students will be able to handle it.

Castillo, Ana. The Mixquiahuala Letters. 1986. New York: Anchor, 1992.

I read this book at the end of the summer and loved it! I always like to teach at least one novel that forces students to question issues of form as this one does: it asks readers to choose the order in which they read the chapters depending on what type of personality they have. Students will therefore have read different novels because none of the sequences include every single chapter. The class discussions should be interesting!

Rushdie, Salman. The Satanic Verses. 1989. New York: Random, 2008.

I am using Rushdie’s and Shelley’s novels in an Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism class next semester. They are both incredibly rich texts, and thus serve well as primary sources for reading and writing criticism.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: A Norton Critical Edition. 2nd ed. 1818. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New York: Norton, 2012.

I love Frankenstein, and the Norton edition is perfect for teaching because it includes a wide range of critical responses. I have used the Norton first edition several times; the new edition just came out. I am happy to see that it includes some of my favorite pieces of criticism from the previous edition as well as some newer perspectives.

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On the Accumulation of Multiple Copies of the Same Book

In an article in the July 12, 2012 New York Review of Books, Michael Chabon writes that he “acquired five copies, of various size and vintage” of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake during the year that he worked his way through the novel. I love this little detail because I, too, find myself obsessively buying different printings of books that I treasure. Reading isn’t just about encountering ideas in a book, it is also about interacting with a physical object (which is yet another reason why ereaders are evil), and I like that Chabon acknowledges this by ensconcing himself both physically and mentally in the book.

Books that I keep buying include

James Baldwin’s Another Country, which is one of the best novels I’ve ever read about both race and LGBT issues. I think it is Baldwin’s best novel–more powerful than Go Tell It On The Mountain, more sincere than Giovanni’s Room. I have it as an old Signet paperback and in the Library of America’s collection of Baldwin’s early novels, and once I get to teach it I’ll pick up the current Vintage paperback.

Samuel R. Delany’s novels, the old cheap paperbacks (especially the Bantam ones) of which I encounter fairly frequently in used bookstores, and always buy because they are so aesthetically appealing even though I have most of them in their most recent printings from Wesleyan University Press or Vintage.

Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, which, alongside Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, is the cornerstone of American literature, thus one can never have too many copies of it. I have the Penguin edition, a hideous teaching edition from Pearson-Longman, and two beautiful collector’s editions, one from the Folio Society and one from the Franklin Library.

Frank O’Hara’s poetry: I have the indispensable Collected Poems edited by Donald Allen, which was the first of O’Hara’s books that I bought, and I also have the 2008 Selected Poems edited by Mark Ford, as well as O’Hara’s two major original collections, Meditations in An Emergency and Lunch Poems.

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which of course was published in six different editions over nine printings during Whitman’s lifetime. I have the Penguin printing of the 1855 edition (the best edition), the Signet printing of the 1892 edition, the Library of America volume which includes the 1855 and 1892 editions plus much of Whitman’s prose, an illustrated edition by Heritage Press (I think it’s the 1855 edition, but I don’t remember off of the top of my head–I’m writing this at my office and the book is at home), a faux facsimile of the 1855 edition by Oxford University Press (it reproduces the exact typsetting formatting of the original, but is not a photographic facsimile), the New York University Press variorum edition that collates all six original editions, and a selection of poems which draws on all of the Leaves of Grass editions edited by Galway Kinnell and published by Ecco that I use for teaching because it includes “Poem on the Proposition of Nakedness,” which did not appear in the 1855 or 1892 editions.

Also, on a somewhat different subject, shortly after reading Chabon’s article, I encountered an article by Louis Menand in the July 2, 2012 New Yorker about biographies of Joyce. I haven’t thought deeply about Joyce in years because I’m not really a fan of his work (I recognize its historical significance, but it feels dated to me), but it always strikes me when I encounter several random references to a person or book within a short period of time. It feels uncanny. I find that this happens to me several times a year, usually with someone whose work I am not familiar with (Marina Abramovic is one example from several years ago, and Antonin Artaud is a more recent one). It is like the universe is telling me that it is the right time in my life for me to encounter the person in question in order to learn from them, and this is often the case–the timing is perfect. I don’t really have the time this summer to give Ulysses the attention that would be necessary for a re-read of it, but these recent encounters with Joyce make me stop and ponder.

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