Tag Archives: John Ashbery

Books Acquired Recently: Toronto Edition

torontobooks

I was in Toronto this weekend for the first time since high school. As usual when I travel, I looked up some independent bookstores to visit. I made stops at Ben McNally Books and Type Books (the Queen Street store). Although Type was smaller, it had better selection. McNally was rather disappointing, frankly (and it drove me nuts that their sections are not labelled: sometimes I don’t want to browse, I want to go straight to the poetry section), though I did end up finding two books, Cohen’s and Ruthnum’s, there. I spent over $100.00 CDN at Type–and could have spent at least $50.00 more–whereas there wasn’t much else that caught my eye at McNally. But I’m glad I got the chance to visit both and to support two independent businesses.

Bowering, George. A Short Sad Book. 1977. Vancouver: New Star Books, 2017.

Cohen, Leonard. Beautiful Losers. 1966. Toronto: Emblem Editions, 2003.

After reading Nick Mount’s recent book on Canadian literature I made a list of authors whose work sounded like it would be worth checking out. My purchases of Bowering’s  and Cohen’s books were a result of said list. I must note that the Cohen cover is hideous and it almost made me not buy the book even though I was looking for it specifically. “Never judge a book by its cover,” yes, but that doesn’t mean that good cover design is not important. A book should be beautiful as an object as well as as a repository of ideas and stories.

Jones, Dylan. David Bowie: A Life. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2017.

I love Bowie, and this new oral history about him was too tempting to pass up. It is interesting to note that the book does not list a city of publication: I had to look up where Doubleday Canada is located to complete my citation of it. I have noticed this omission in several other recently-published books as well. I don’t know whether this is a coincidence or the beginning of a trend, but either way it bothers me. Place is important, and it is thus helpful to state a publisher’s geographical context even when it is a big corporate publisher as in this case.

Roffman, Karin. The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

I have been wanting to buy this book since it came out, but it felt like the kind of book I needed to buy from an independent bookstore rather than online or at Barnes & Noble. Going to Type was the first time I had been in such a store that had it in stock since its release.

Ruthnum, Naben. Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2017.

This slim volume was an impulse buy at the register, where it was temptingly displayed. Contra Cohen’s book, its cover sucked me in completely. I have been thinking about the relationship between food and literature lately as well as about postcolonial literature, so this book, which discusses all three, felt like a serendipitous find.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Books Acquired Recently: Road Trip Edition

I just got back from a two-week road trip through Pennsylvania and New York to visit some family and friends, and did some book shopping along the way, all at independent bookstores. Here is what I acquired:

Ashbery, John. Breezeway. New York: Ecco, 2015.

I have always enjoyed Ashbery’s work, and his newest book has gotten good reviews, and I’ve been craving some poetry lately, so I thought I would pick it up. I bought it, Gessen and Squibb’s anthology, and Koch’s book at my favorite place in the world, the Strand.

Gessen, Keith, and Stephen Squibb, eds. City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis. New York: Farrar, 2015.

One of the things I love about going to the Strand is finding amazing books that I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered, and this book looks like it will be another instance of that tradition. It is a collection of essays about the current status of various American cities (some large, like Los Angeles, and some relatively small, like Syracuse) and how they have coped with the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash. I am fascinated by both halves of this topic, thus the decision to buy the book was an instant one.

Holmes, Safiya Henderson. Madness and a Bit of Hope. New York: Harlem River, 1990.

I haven’t heard of Holmes before, but her book caught my eye because of the name of the publisher. It has a blurb by June Jordan, who has been an important poet for me, and even though it is signed (“To: Nancy Thank you so much for being here snow & all Safiya ’92”) I was able to buy it for only $5.00 from the Rose & the Laurel Bookshop in Oneonta, New York.

Koch, Kenneth. On the Edge: Collected Long Poems. New York: Knopf, 2007.

I really enjoy Koch’s work and think that his longer poems are some of the best in the American tradition. I’ve been wanting to buy this book for a while: I first discovered it at the Strand several years ago, but didn’t buy it, and have regretted it ever since. Happily, on this visit they had a copy in pristine condition, much better than the original one that I had considered buying.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman. New York: Harper, 2015.

Like everyone else interested in American literature, I am in a tizzy about Lee’s new novel, in which Atticus Finch is apparently not nearly as sympathetic as he is in To Kill a Mockingbird. I am horrified that Go Set a Watchman might destroy the experience of To Kill a Mockingbird for me, but of course have to read it anyway. I bought my copy at The Green Toad Bookstore in Oneonta, New York.

Sexton, Anne. Selected Poems of Anne Sexton. Ed. Diane Wood Middlebrook and Diana Hume George. 1988. Boston: Houghton, 2000.

I’ve enjoyed Sexton’s poems that I have encountered in anthologies and in the one collection of hers that I’ve read, Transformations. As noted above I’ve been in a poetry-reading mood lately, so when I found a copy of this book in excellent condition for a good price ($9.50) at Winding Way Books in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I decided to buy it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Books Acquired Recently: Strand Edition

Yesterday I once again visited my favorite place in the world, the Strand Bookstore at 12th and Broadway in Manhattan. I was recently remarking to a friend how when I lived within walking distance of the Strand about a decade ago it always seemed like I would go there and there would be a book specifically waiting for me, whether it was the book that I had gone there to look for in an exquisite edition, or a book that I didn’t know that I was looking for (as I would often go just to browse and see what caught my eye) that grabbed me and was somehow a perfect fit. The past few times I’ve gone to the store this hasn’t happened, and it has been depressing (though, of course, I’ve still enjoyed myself there) as a symbol of how both my relationship to the city and the store itself have changed (the Strand looks fantastic now, but I miss its old, badly lit grittiness before the renovations that were completed seven or eight years ago). But when I went yesterday, it happened again in three instances! It was tremendously exciting.

I eschewed a shopping cart when I entered the store, vowing that I would only buy as much as I could carry in one hand. I am proud that I had enough fortitude to stick to this vow, which is why I only bought five books.

Ashbery, John, and James Schuyler. A Nest of Ninnies. 1969. Champaign: Dalkey Archive, 2008.

I have been wanting to read this novel for quite a while because I am a big fan of the New York School poets and because I enjoyed Schuyler’s novel What’s for Dinner?, but it is a relatively minor work and thus I have never gotten around to it. But there was a stack of copies on one of the fiction tables at the back of the store on the first floor, and it was priced at only $5.95 new, so I had to have it.

Davis, Lydia. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. New York: Picador, 2009.

I have never read any of Davis’s work before, but recently read an article about her in the New Yorker that intrigued me, so I decided that I would begin looking for this collection the next time I was in a good (i.e., not Barnes & Noble) bookstore. Of course the Strand had a stack of this aesthetically pleasing volume right at the front of the store!

Robbe-Grillet, Alain. A Sentimental Novel. 2007. Trans. D.E. Brooke. Champaign: Dalkey Archive, 2014.

I have enjoyed the work of Robbe-Grillet’s that I’ve read, so I picked this book up while browsing and was immediately drawn to it by the beginning of its blurb: “In France, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s final novel was sold in shrink-wrap, labeled with a sticker warning that this adult fairy tale might offend certain sensibilities.” Sold! I read it on the train ride home and enjoyed it (on an academic level, you dirty-minded readers) for the most part. It is like a better version of Sade without all of the political diatribes.

Wallace, David Foster. Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity. 2003. New York: Atlas-Norton, 2010.

I love David Foster Wallace, so I bought this book even though I am not a mathematics enthusiast. I appreciate learning about intellectual history, though, and am therefore hopeful and expectant that Wallace will make this subject fascinating to me. After I read his unfinished novel The Pale King, which is mostly about IRS agents, I was half-tempted to become an accountant, so I am confident that my investment in this volume will not have been in vain.

Whitman, Walt. Franklin Evans or The Inebriate: A Tale of the Times. 1842. Ed. Christopher Castiglia and Glenn Hendler. Durham: Duke UP, 2007.

I love Whitman’s poetry, but have never read this, his only novel, which is supposed to be awful. I’ve been wanting to read it since one of my students did a presentation on it this past year, and when I saw it I knew I had to buy it immediately because I am acquainted with Chris Castiglia! He is a lovely man who teaches at Penn State. It is always exciting to buy a book by someone whom you know. Thus I will enjoy reading it even if the novel itself is terrible.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Books Acquired Recently

Kane, Daniel. All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s. Berkeley: U of California P, 2003.

I am a major fan of the New York School of Poets (John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, et al.) and its descendants. Kane’s book covers both groups, so I bought it to read for fun.

McNeill, Elizabeth. Nine and a Half Weeks: A Memoir of a Love Affair. 1978. New York: Harper, 2005.

I recently learned about this book when a friend posted an article about it on Facebook which mentions that the author went to my alma mater/my friend’s former employer, Goshen College. This fact was not enough for me to buy the book, but its subject matter–bondage, a scholarly interest of mine–was.

Millay, Edna St. Vincent. A Few Figs From Thistles. 1922. Fayetteville: Juniper Grove, 2008.

I enjoy poetry, but have read very little of Millay’s work. I read about this collection in an essay on Greenwich Village in the 1920s that made the book sound delightfully scandalous, and since I hadn’t bought any poetry in a while I decided to buy it.

Both this and McNeill’s book bear a note on the final page that they were printed on 2 December 2012 in San Bernardino, California. This has also been the case with other lesser-known books that I’ve ordered from amazon.com (Walter Abish’s Alphabetical Africa immediately comes to mind). On the one hand, it is wonderful that publishing technology has advanced to the point where books are able to stay “in print” even when they have not actually been printed yet because more books are able to remain available to readers, which is a good, important thing. But it also helps large retailers such as amazon, who have the facilities to print the books on-site, save on warehousing costs, which gives them a competitive advantage over brick-and-mortar bookstores. This is a bad thing.

All books bought via amazon.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature