Friday, 19 January 2018
Books either anticipated or surprising - just out of the carton.
We That Are Young by Preti Taneja $38
A sprawling but incisive retelling of King Lear, set against a backdrop of tradition, misogyny and corruption in modern India.
Long-listed for the Republic of Consciousness Prize.
>> Modern rewritings of King Lear tend to have Lear the CEO of a corporation. See also Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn.
Peach by Emma Glass $27
"Slip the pin through the skin. Start stitching. It doesn't sting. It does bleed. White thread turns red. Red string. Going in. Going out. I pull. Tug. Tug the pin. In. Out. Out. Out. Blackout. Something has happened to Peach. It hurts to walk but she staggers home to parents that don't seem to notice. They can't keep their hands off each other and, besides, they have a new infant, sweet and wobbly as a jelly baby. Peach must patch herself up alone so she can go to college and see her boyfriend, Green. But sleeping is hard when she is haunted by the gaping memory of a mouth, and working is hard when burning sausage fat fills her nostrils, and eating is impossible when her stomach is swollen tight as a drum."
"An immensely talented young writer. Her fearlessness renews one's faith in the power of literature. Peach is a strange and original work of art that manages to be both genuinely terrifying and undeniably joyful" - George Saunders
Letters to the Lady Upstairs by Marcel Proust, translated by Lydia Davis $28
Letters written between 1909 and 1919 to Madame Marie Williams, the upstairs neighbour to his elegant apartment at 102 Boulevard Haussmann, revealing his concerns with his health and with noise (that harp!), in a mix of elegance and haste, refinement and convolution, gravity and self-mockery.
>> Lydia Davis on translating Proust's letters.
The Blind Owl, And other stories by Sadeq Hedayat $17
One of the foremost works of modern Iranian literature, The Blind Owl tells the story of an unnamed pen case painter, the narrator, who sees in his macabre, feverish nightmares that "the presence of death annihilates all that is imaginary. We are the offspring of death and death delivers us from the tantalizing, fraudulent attractions of life; it is death that beckons us from the depths of life. If at times we come to a halt, we do so to hear the call of death. Throughout our lives, the finger of death points at us." The narrator addresses his murderous confessions to the shadow on his wall resembling an owl. His confessions do not follow a linear progression of events and often repeat and layer themselves thematically, allowing for an open-ended interpretation of the story.
Risography: Loving imperfections by Carolina Amell $65
An excellent selection of works demonstrating the scope, characteristics and quirks of this printmaking process.
>> Risography explained and demonstrated.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin $17
Fear (as opposed to anxiety, terror, horror, angst and its other cousins) clarifies perception and heightens the significance of details, much as does good writing, building an electrostatic charge which almost craves, yet ultimately resists, the release offered by the revelation of the feared. Schweblin’s short novel is like a Van de Graaff generator, building a textual charge that can be felt up the spine long after the book is finished. Now in paperback.
Shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.
Classic Food of Northern Italy by Anna Del Conte $45
Recipes for dishes both familiar and surprising, both rustic and sophisticated, from restaurants and farmsteads, from city and country; all authentic and delicious.
"Beyond doubt, the best writer on Italian food." - Nigella Lawson
"Anna is a purist. She will not countenance anything that isn't in the strictest sense authentic." - Delia Smith
The Medici by Mary Hollingsworth $65
Argues that, far from being benign protocapitalist patrons of culture, the Medici were as devious and immoral as the Borgias, that they in fact despised the Florentines and beggared the city in their lust for power and wealth.
"Vividly told." - The Times
China: A history in objects by Jessica Harrison-Hall $65
A stunning visual history told in 6000 artefacts and objects.
Massive, Expressive, Sculptural: Brutalism now and then by Chris van Uffelen $85
An overview of post-war and contemporary brutalist buildings and of the relationship - in appearance and design, in the grand concepts and the smallest details - between brutalism today and its ancestors.
Barbara Hepworth: The sculptor in the studio by Sophie Bowness $35
Trewyn Studio in St Ives, and especially the garden that Hepworth shaped there, was the primary and ideal context in which her sculptures were viewed. Following Hepworth's death in 1975, the studio was opened as the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Mister Monkey by Francine Prose $33
An engaging comedy about Mister Monkey, a screwball children's musical about a playfully larcenous pet chimpanzee (and not a monkey), the kind of 'family favorite' that has certainly seen better days. The novel is told from the viewpoints of wildly unreliable, seemingly disparate characters whose lives become deeply connected as the madcap narrative unfolds.
"Beautifully crafted, incisively written. What elevates this novel is Prose's ability to let us see into the heart of each character, to render each so vulnerably human, so achingly real in just a few short paragraphs." - Minneapolis Star Tribune
Inside Madeleine by Paula Bomer $32
A collection of raw but unflinching stories, all examining the complexities of women's relationships with and through their bodies.
"Bomer offers her characters no outs only the creeping sense that they're doomed to swing forever between futile attempts at self-determination." - The New York Times
"Reading Paula Bomer is like being attacked by a rabid dog - and feeling grateful for it. This is some of the rawest and most urgent writing I can remember encountering." - Jonathan Franzen
The Leveller Revolution: Radical political organisation in England, 1640-1650 by John Rees $25
The Levellers comprised one of the earliest modern social movements, agitating for equality first against the Monarchy and then against Cromwell. An interesting and well-written study of one of the roots of modern democracy. Now in paperback.
"A scrupulously researched, carefully told narrative and a work of impressive scholarship." - Spectator
A Hero for High Times: A young reader's guide to the Beats, Hippies, Freaks, Punks, Ravers, New-Age Travellers and Dog-on-a-Rope Brew Crew Crusties of the British Isles, 1956-1994 by Ian Marchant $40
A personal and enlightening guide to subculture history.
Red Star Over Russia: A revolution in visual culture by Natalia Sidlina and Matthew Gale $22
A good introduction to the correlation between political change and visual media, well illustrated with photomontage, photographs, paintings, handwritten notes, books, enclosures and ephemera.
>> Draws on the 250000 pieces of art and ephemera from the David King Collection.
>> And inside the collector's home (he also collected Sunmaid Raisin packets).
Counting on Snow by Maxwell Newhouse $16
A lovely Arctic counting book in which the animals are gradually obscured by snow.
Oneida: From free love Utopia to the well-set table by Ellen Wayland-Smith $28
How did a radical religious community practising open sexual relations become a manufacturer of silver cutlery and a bastion of conservative American values? Bizarre.
The Future Won't Be Long by Jarett Kobek $37
New York in the late 80s and early 90s: a city of club kids, drag queens, artists and junkies; the urban laboratory where identities are being reinvented for the new millennium.
"The Great New York City Novel has been loudly attempted and proclaimed so many times, one is tempted to assume it simply couldn't exist. Yet, with piercing intelligence, vitality, hilarity, and a rather startling sweetness, Jarett Kobek has done it. Staggering." - Matthew Specktor
"A novel that not only dissects with consummate skill the cultural life of fin-de-siecle New York, but finds there the early symptoms of our contemporary malignancy." - James Purdon, Observer
"An inspired evocation of the last days of the underground empire, before the fall." - Chris Kraus
Little Mouse and the Red Wall by Britta Teckentrup $30
Sometimes we find that the walls that keep us from freedom are not as substantial as we had thought. Little Mouse and his animal friends have something to learn about the wall between them and the outside world.
Hello World: A celebration of languages and curiosities by Jonathan Litton $33
Make friends around the world with this lift-the-flap board book.
White Trash: The 400-year untold history of class in America by Nancy Isenberg $28
The United Sates' treatment of poor whites has been almost as shameful as its treatment of Blacks and Hispanics. This book, now in paperback, traces the roots of the disaffection that has manifest itself in the US's current woes.
Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, microbes and the fight for real cheese by Bronwen and Francis Percival $35
In little more than a century, the drive towards industrial and intensive farming has altered every aspect of the cheesemaking process, from the bodies of the animals that provide the milk to the science behind the microbial strains that ferment it. This book explores what has been lost, but is also enthusiastic for what can be reclaimed: artisanal processes and the associated microbial structures that provide flavours not otherwise achievable.
Radical Happiness: Moments of collective joy by Lynne Segal $27
Is it possible to overthrow the mindset that makes happiness an individualised commodity and make it instead a collective mode of action?
Fables by Arnold Lobel $22
A crocodile admires the orderly pattern of flowers on his bedroom wallpaper. When confronted with the riot of flowers in Mrs. Crocodile's garden he retreats to his bed in distress, where he is comforted by the neat floral rows of the wallpaper. After that he seldom leaves his bed, becoming a sickly shade of green. The moral: "Without a doubt, there is such a thing as too much order."
An instant favourite: twenty cheerful fables, wonderfully illustrated.
Animation Studio by Helen Piercy $33
Everything (including the film set!) a child needs to create stop-motion videos on a mobile phone or digital camera.
Feed the Resistance: Recipes + ideas for getting involved by Julia Turshen $30
When people search for ways to resist injustice and express support for civil rights, environmental protections, and more, they begin by gathering around the table to talk and plan. What should you give them to eat? Useful.
A Note of Explanation: A little tale of secrets and enchantment from Queen Mary's dolls' house by Vita Sackville-West, illustrated by Kate Baylay $35
A hitherto unpublished work commissioned in 1924 for the library of Queen Mary's Dolls' House, beautifully illustrated in period style.
>> Visit the dolls' house.