Volumizer: The Week in Books, 9/26 – 10/2

Posted by Nick Curley

Having spent the last several months baffled as to where to go for a comprehensive but pocket-sized digest of the day’s tomes-of-the-moment, I decided to draft one myself.  I’ll keep this up weekly for as long as it continues to entertain me and prove no burden. All books are fair game, including those newly reprinted.  To drop a dime about your new release or someone else’s, send all useful info to nick@vol1brooklyn.com or via direct message at twitter.com/therealcurley.

New Releases:

LISTEN TO THIS (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $27.00) by beloved New Yorker critic Alex Ross might very well be the most exciting book of the week, and when it the smoke clears it may prove of the best books on music written this decade.  A collection of essays on everything from Chinese classical to Bjork and John Paul Jones, Ross is in hot pursuit of the virtuosic in symphony and song, that art form that often seems most mysteriously entwined with our heartstrings.

OBAMA’S WARS (Simon and Shuster, $30.00), the sixteenth book by the now gently owl-faced Bob Woodward profiles our president-in-peril, stuck with an insubordinate military, simultaneous offensives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and well-intentioned but deeply flawed Fred Armisen impersonations.  Redford can return as Woodward, but I’m pulling for a Botoxed Joe Mantegna to play Rahm.

Early reports suggest SQUIRREL MEETS WOODCHUCK: A MODEST BESTIARY (Little, Brown and Company, $21.99) to be David Sedaris’ first mixed critical reaction to date, but like my boy Geordi La Forge says on Reading Rainbow, you don’t have to take my word for it.  This foray into fiction about the lives of animals contains purdy illustrations by Ian Falconer and makes a great gift for the “LOLCats Should Look Like Peter Rabbit” sect.

Sara Marcus’ GIRLS TO THE FRONT: THE TRUE STORY OF THE RIOT GRRRL REVOLUTION (Harper Perennial, $28.00) has been the buzz of Brooklyn of late, with a hearty review by Le Tigre’s Johanna Fateman appearing in the current Bookforum and a whole lot of gospel spoken of Marcus’ first-hand account of the scene and its socio-political feminist roots, spanning from Olympia to D.C. and all points in between.

James Swanson, BLOODY CRIMES: THE CHASE FOR JEFFERSON DAVIS AND THE DEATH PAGEANT FOR LINCOLN’S CORPSE serves as both a requiem and sequel (sequiem?) for Swanson’s wildly popular 2007 Lincoln assassination account Manhunt, this time juxtaposing Honest Abe’s grandiose funeral procession with Confederate president Jefferson Davis’ defeated odyssey through the liberated South.

Under the theme of “Islands”, bimonthly cultural journal CABINET’s thirty-eighth issue presents Julia Walcott study of islands in sci-fi, Jeffrey Kastner on the marooned among us, Janet Connelly in West Berlin, and Simon Rezak on sea-surrounded prisons.  One of my old art history teachers is a contributing editor.  Nice guy, and a dad to two grade schoolers who are fond of pirates, so they’re probably amped for this issue.

THE FALL (Harper Collins, $13.99), part dos of surrealist film director Guillermo Del Toro’s “Strain” trilogy of vampire novels penned with mystery writer Chuck Hogan, features a mouthful of characters with names like Ephraim Goodweather, Abraham Setrakian, and Vasiliy Fet.

Tucker Max’s ASSHOLES FINISH FIRST (Gallery, $25.99) offers more tales of blowhard smugness in step with Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, one of the more divisive memoirs of the last few years, insofar as creeps loved it while others did not.

THE WILDING by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf, $23.00) continues the wunderkind Iowa State prof’s streak of sour, hard-nosed tales of nature’s eccentricities, this time in a tale of a father and son taking one last trip into Oregon’s Echo Canyon before it’s renovated into a golf resort.

Hans Ulrich Obrist’s BATTERY CITY: A POST-OLYMPIC BEIJING MARATHON (JRP, $19.95) continues Obrist’s series of engaging the academics and artists of the last city to host the Olympic Games in feverishly written, “marathon” style compendiums.

FREUD’S MEXICO: INTO THE WILDS OF PSYCHOANALYSIS by Ruben Gallo (MIT Press, $32.95) sheds new light onto the mutual rapport between Mexico and Sigmund Freud, a rapidly discredited psychologist and avid collector of Mexican art!  Learn of the legit and dreamed-up influences Freud had on Mexican legends like Octavio Paz, Salvador Novo, Frida Kahlo, and Trotsky assassin Ramón Mercader.

Issue 200 of APERTURE Magazine (Aperture, $14.95) arrives Thursday wearing two variant covers, one by Cindy Sherman, the other by Clare Strand.  Strand is the subject of a profile within by David Campany; the bicentennial edition also features Mike Mandel’s 1970s baseball card project, thoughts on new media by Michael Lesy, and a report on Nola’s Lower Ninth Ward five years after Katrina.

Simon Goddard’s MOZIPEDIA: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MORRISSEY AND THE SMITHS (Plume, $30.00) charts all you’ll ever need to know about the word’s most beautiful and talented xenophobe, and his band of merry men that virtually owned English pop music for a spell in the mid eighties (and various points beyond).

EVERY DAY IS A GOOD DAY: THE VISUAL ART OF JOHN CAGE (Hayward, $30.00), edited by Jeremy Millar and Lauren Wright, presents our first overview of Cage’s I Ching influenced approach to chance and gamesmanship in music reapplied to his rich watercolors and prints, as well as interviews with Cage and his colleagues detailing his process.

A RUSSIAN NOVEL by French screenwriter and director Emmanuel Carrere (La Moustache, La Classe de Neige) shares many of the hallmarks of the nation’s volumes: author as protagonist, love affairs, road trippin’, and the pursuit of a ghostly patriarch.  Restore your faith in the Motherland here after watching that Youtube video of Putin getting owned by a kid half his size in a martial arts class.

YEARS OF RED DUST: STORIES OF SHANGHAI (St. Martin’s, $24.99) by Qiu Xiaolong spans fifty years of Chinese history told from one street called Red Dust Lane, from the Cultural Revolution to Tiananmen Square, to Chairman Mao and Brooklyn teenagers naming their beloved kitties ‘Chairman Meow’.  Republished from the pages of La Monde.

Now in Paperback:

Stephen Elliott’s THE ADDERALL DIARIES (Graywolf, $14.00) places the Rumpus kingpin in the down and dirty of a murder trial that finds Elliott on the Hunter S. trail of his BDSM companion Sean Sturgeon, who without warning has confessed to killing the wife of their wrongfully accused friend.

CITY BOY: MY LIFE IN NEW YORK DURING THE 1960S AND 1970S (Bloomsbury, $16.00) dutifully caresses Edmund White’s recollections of the New York of his young manhood, much talked about for their juicy details of his literate lovers and bon mot encounters with Capote, Borges, Sontag, and Mapplethorpe.

THE WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERHEROES (DC Comics, $29.99) collects Paul Dini and Alex Ross’s six giant-sized collaborative annuals, each a grand Norman Rockwell style tale of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and the rest of the Justice League of America.

New Editions and Collections:

The Library of America continues its decades-long warpath with BELLOW: NOVELS 1970-1982 ($40.00), their second collection of tomes by Saul Bellow, one of America’s best loved writers and a hell of a violin player.  Collected inside are three of Bellow’s most esteemed novels from his visiting professor trapped in academia period: Mr. Sammler’s Planet, Humboldt’s Gift (for which he won the ’76 Nobel for literature), and The Dean’s December.  Plus it comes with a fancy ribbon sewn in for a bookmark!

CHARLOTTE BRONTE: SELECTED LETTERS (Oxford, $12.95), edited by Margaret Smith, charts the Jane Eyre scribe’s youth in a Belgian private school, to her home life as a child and adult, to her freewheeling in nineteenth century London, all in her own pastoral, wistful words.

A revised edition of editor Adrian Parr’s THE DELEUZE DICTIONARY (Edinburgh University Press, $30.00), the compendium supreme for scholars of departed French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, will have you knowing your transcendental idealism from your ontological univocity in no time.

First printed in 1954 and only this week released under its first English translation, Yves Klein’s THE FOUNDATIONS OF JUDO (Everyday, $29.95) offers a fascinating look of experimental painter, photographer, and proto-postmodernist demonstrating judo’s six initial “katas” (fundamentals fashioned into synchronized routines). Intro by Ichiro Abe.  I saw this new edition in a certain Chelsea bookstore last week, but here lies the official pub date.

THE PALACE AT MIDNIGHT (Subterranean, $35.00) is a fresh collection of Robert Silverberg’s stories written for zines like Playboy and Omni as a refrain from retirement through the 1980s.  Marvel at dinosaurs from outer space, devoutly religious apes, and a scientist who implants his brain into a lobster.

THE PENGUIN BOOK OF IRISH POETRY (Penguin, $62.00), edited by Peter Krotty into a tidy 1,120 pages contains all the major hits and some truly deep cuts from the likes of James Joyce, W.B Yeats, Swift and Heaney, as well as lesser known broduil like Louis MacNeice and Patrick Boland.

A.E. Housman’s A SHROPSHIRE LAD AND OTHER POEMS, ed. Archie Burnett (Penguin, $16.00) gets the Penguin Classics treatment, one of the better looking bindings on your shelf.