Thursday, July 31, 2008

Art Books – Art Nouveau

Why I have so many books on Art Nouveau, is beyond my comprehension.

Granted, the era with its multiform artistic expression did fascinate me at one stage of my life and it was resurrected in popular culture during the 1960s and ‘70s along with the Decadents and Symbolists. Books on the subject were plentiful and I obviously bought every one I came across.

These days I prefer the elegant geometric style of Art Deco rather than the often ornate florid style of Art Nouveau. There is an Art Deco exhibition currently running at the Victorian National Gallery which I am looking forward to visiting next Monday.

But back to Art Nouveau, below is my collection of books on the subject.

This one could have been called the Giant Book of Art Nouveau. It covers every aspect of the movement from objet d’art, furniture to architecture and is quite comprehensive.


The following books were published by various discount publishers, at that time bringing culture to the masses. The reproductions are actually quite good, so in buying these books you got value for money.

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The next one is by Phillipe Jullian who was an authority on the subject and authored books on the Symbolists and Decadents. He also illustrated the English editions of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past - the C K Scott Moncrieff editions.


Coming next – Decadents and Symbolists

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Art Books - Mervyn Peake

As I go through the shelves of my book collection and realise how many books I haven't looked at for years, I keep thinking that I was fortunate to be in the position to buy them when I did. Some are quite rare these days, so the 1970s editions - of which there are quite a few - represent to me a golden age of book publishing. Publishers in those days seemed more adventurous in what they chose to publish, hence such gems as I am about to reveal, were at the time readily available even here in Australia.

Penguin books published Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy in their Modern Classics series in 1969. All of a sudden Mervyn Peake was a discovery and a lot of his work was subsequently made available.

As I've said before I became Peake mad after reading the Gormenghast trilogy and I acquired every book on or by him as it came to my notice. This of course included books on his art.

He was an original in both his writing and his artwork. Below is one of his illustrations for Treasure Island. It is stunning and highly individual in style. It is unquestionably Mervyn Peake.

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The drawing was scanned from the book The Drawings of Mervyn Peake, a handsome large format hard cover, published in 1974 by Davis-Poynter.

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I have two other large format books on Peake's art and writing as below.

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Writings & Drawings is a large paperback published in 1974 by St Martins Press and is a collection of various writings and lavishly illustrated with photos and drawings.

Rhymes Without Reason, also published in 1974 by Methuen, has board covers and is a collection of nonsense poems written for children.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Art Books - Heath Robinson

Here for your delectation are two large books on Heath Robinson’s life and work. and a large format paperback, Men That Might Have Been that I acquired back in the early 1970s. I discovered the work of Heath Robinson some years previous to these publications and was at the time charmed by his eccentric machines and humorous cartoons.


The following picture is one of my favourites – it’s so absurd it makes me laugh every time I look at it.


Heath Robinson sounds as if he’d have been a great guy to know and he liked cats. Here is a photo of Heath Robinson and his cat called Saturday Morning from the book Heath Robinson - Artist & Comic Genius.


And The Men That Might Have Been...

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Men That Might Have BeenThe Wiggulozoa roaming the lonely seas of Ohmycene Age

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Mid Sized Bookshelf

Apologies for the longer than anticipated hiatus in posts, but updating duties on various web sites have occupied my evenings for the past week.

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This bookcase occupies a wall in what we term the computer room, called thus as it is where the computer resides. Its dimensions are 6ft x 6ft and I had it custom made quite a few years ago to take the overflow of books from the big bookcase.

As you can see this bookcase is stuffed full to bursting with books doubled up on most of the shelves.

It contains my collection of art books, paperback (and hard cover) science fiction, fantasy and children’s books. It also has a shelf or two of New Age type literature on Astrology, Tarot, Numerology and such like.

More tomorrow hopefully...

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Miscellany

This entry marks the end of the books I will display from the small bookshelf. From here on I will move onto bigger, and hopefully, better things on the other two bookcases.

First off, two hard cover copies of famous books, which I basically purchased to fill a gap when the paperback copies disappeared.

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The Enormous Room I first read way back in the 1960s when my sister in law recommended it to me. It was her favourite book. It is an oddity, a memoir by ee cummings on his experience when he was detained as a suspected spy in France during the first world war. It is written in the idiosyncratic style Cummings later developed in his poetry.

The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien is one of the great absurdist novels and probably O’Brien’s best known novel. I do have a first edition copy of The Dalkey Archive on another bookshelf, but alas this edition of The Third Policeman is a later edition.

Janwillem Van De Wetering wrote a series of detective novels set in Amsterdam featuring Police Officers Grijpstra and de Geir, two very engaging characters. The novels are laid back and gently humorous with ingenious plots. The following two novels, The Mind Murders and The Streetbird were published in 1981 and 1983.

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I am saddened to see, on his Wikipedia page, that Van de Wetering died early this month on July 4th which coincidentally is the day the remarkable Thomas Disch chose to end his life.

Another pair of oddities – Azazel by Isaac Asimov and The Kingdom Fanes, are respectively, a collection of short stories featuring the two centimetre tall demon Azazel published in one volume in 1988, and the other is an unusual fairy tale by Amanda Prantera. As a physical object, The Kingdom of Fanes is a lovely little hard cover. Amanda Prantera wrote several metaphysical novels early in her career – Strange Loop and The Cabalist to name a few, and also wrote a sort of tribute to Lord Byron in her novel Conversations with Lord Byron on perversion, 163 years after His Lordship’s death. She is an interesting writer and deserves to be better known.

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Lastly, two unusual Faber publications – The Mystery of the Sardine by Stefan Themerson and The Pearl Killers by Rachel Ingalls. These books were part of the haul given me by my Faber rep friend.

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Oh, I almost forgot – Billion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss – a respected history of Science Fiction, a bit out of date these days, but still valid.

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There may be a short hiatus in postings as I scan books for the next stage of bookcase revelations - art books, science fiction and fantasy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Whittemore and Wolfe

Most of the books in my personal library are paperback, but after losing countless copies of my favourite books in paperback to borrowers who failed to return them, I acquired hardcover copies and rarely loaned them out.

Such is the case with my Edward Whittemore collection. Actually I acquired the first edition hard covers of Sinai Tapestry and Jerusalem Poker through the auspices of a work colleague who noticed them on a remainders table, and knowing how much I admired the author, bought them for me for $2.00 each for which I reimbursed him.

I had first discovered the amazing writing of Whittemore in paperback, when I stumbled across Sinai Tapestry in 1979. He became an obsession for me and over the years I kept an eye out for the news of the remaining two volumes of the Jerusalem Quartet. This was before the Internet, so I had to pester booksellers for information, and order them in when I discovered one had been published. So I have ended up with the Quartet in first editions, and also have a British first edition hard cover of Quin’s Shanghai Circus.

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Possibly my all time favourite writer; I have read Whittemore’s books many times and treasure these editions dearly. Check out Jerusalem Dreaming, my tribute site to Edward Whittemore, for more information.

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Gene Wolfe’s sequence The Book of the New Sun I read initially in paperback and still retain my copies of the paperbacks with the beautiful Don Maitz covers, as have the hardcover Timescape editions below.

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Sometime later I bought the hardcover set in the Timescape editions, excepting the Urth of the New Sun which I purchased at the time of its publication in a British hardcover edition. I have not read these books for some years, but I was immensely impressed with them when I first did.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Modern Firsts – Brautigan, Le Guin, Russ, Eco, Vonnegut etc.

It has certainly been interesting for me going through my bookshelves for the purpose of this blog. I have been struck by the fact that there are many books that I haven’t read in years, or even read a first time. A lot of them could do with a looking over in the future. Oh well, perhaps when I retire from work this can be accomplished.

So on with modern firsts...

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I found the Joanna Russ book Extraordinary People and Deborah Levy’s Beautiful Mutants on the remainder table at Reading Books a bookstore in Carlton – fine editions to add my library.

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I am proud to have first editions of Richard Brautigan’s The Hawkline Monster and Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, purchased when they were first published in 1974 and 1973 respectively. These two authors were immensely popular in 1960s and 70s though they are less read these days, more’s the pity. Brautigan was a unique stylist and Vonnegut was also part of that period of innovative and original writing which seemed to suddenly spring up in the late sixties and continued on into the seventies.

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The Dispossessed won Ursula Le Guin the Hugo in 1975. The 1975 World Science Fiction Convention was held for the first time in Australia in my home town of Melbourne and Ursula Le Guin was the Guest of Honour. At the time I working for a Science Fiction bookshop, Space Age Books, so I got to meet Ursula Le Guin in person and she signed my copy of the book.

Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum is one of those novels that people either love or hate. I know people who couldn’t be bothered reading it to the finish, but I am not one of them. I’ve even read it several times.

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Next, to get this Modern Firsts section over, are two fantasy novels acquired at the time of publication.

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Patricia McKillip's Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a delightful fantasy and one of her best loved books. It won the World Fantasy Award in 1975.

Another odd book is The Grey Gentlemen by Michael Ende. I think I bought this one for its cover, and though I did read it way back in the 1970s I can’t remember a thing about it.

And finally…

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Red Shift by Alan Garner and The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, which won the Booker Prize in 1992, are practically the last of the modern firsts on the small bookshelf, though I have plenty more on the bigger shelves.

Modern Firsts – Part 2 – South American and other foreign writers

My book collection is quite eclectic as you no doubt have realised by now. Below are more first edition hard covers from a variety of writers.

Quite few of them were given to me as gifts and others I purchased at the time they were published or I found them on the remaindered books table of a discount bookstore.

Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende I remember purchasing after a successful gamble on a race horse. A long shot winner gained me a windfall of $100.00. I celebrated by buying this book- her third novel published in 1985. I also have somewhere a proof copy of Stories of Eva Luna.

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Keeping to South American authors The General in his Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez I acquired as a Christmas present in 1990. That year I had to perform the function of present buyer for my mother who was unwell so bought the book for myself as a present from her.

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I acquired The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa sometime or other from my friend in the book trade who was at that time the Australian representative for Faber and gave me many interesting books, in hard cover, paperback or proof copy. I can’t remember if I ever read The Storyteller, but it certainly has a great cover.

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Other books from this source are the wonderful The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, News From a Foreign Country Came by Alberto Manguel, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

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