Puff Chrissy’s Shelf Porn: Part 3

Posted on Posted in Headline

Shelf 3

Welcome back to Shelf Porn.

From the left…

Classical Mythology in Literature, Art and Music is one of my favorite books on the subject. When I was a kid, my father had this book in his library and I couldn’t get enough of it. Over the years, whenever I shipped more books to Poland from the States, I always tried to sneak my father’s copy of this book into the suitcase. About two years ago, my father found a copy online and had it shipped to me. That was a happy day. I’m so damned proud to have this book in my collection. I’ll probably have to get my dad to autograph this for me.

My two copies of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. The first copy is a hardcover I found in New Jersey a long time ago and the softcover is the very first one I bought in Buffalo back in 2000. The latter copy is full of notes and highlights, and has been read over seven times now, either for entertainment or for my studies. Still holds up nicely, and it still offers me surprises every time I open it.

Hunter S. Thompson’s Kingdom of Fear, the last book he wrote before taking his life. Like Songs of the Doomed, there are moments of greatness, but by this point, Thompson was already looking for the exit door. Thompson couldn’t handle what America had become, and to be frank, I completely understand. What I miss about him the most is being able to hear his thoughts on current events. I feel the same way about Bill Hicks.

Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is a good book. Not a great one, but it’s overflowing with so many ideas you can’t help but love it. I got this book back in the days when Gaiman wasn’t nearly as recognizable as he is today, so seeing his name on a book in the bookstore was such an amazing thing. I’m always looking forward to what Gaiman does next.

Garrison Keillor’s Wobegon Boy is one I still haven’t read. I need to do something about that.

The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature isn’t a bad book to have on your shelf.

My two Alex Robinson books are next in line. I’ve shared my thoughts on Box Office Poison here before. Tricked is another great read. I remember Alex mentioning that one of his favorite movies was Magnolia, and I always suspected that this was his way of doing a story in that vein.

Iain Sinclair and Dave McKean’s Slow Chocolate Autopsy is something I picked up because of McKean’s involvement. Sadly, it left me cold. I should give it another chance sometime.

The World’s Great Classics is nice. I could be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure there is a library somewhere in the world missing a copy of this book.

Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath is one of those books you should have in your collection if you have a peripheral interest in American poetry. I appreciate her and see why people respond to her, but she doesn’t do much for me overall. When it comes to poetry, my heart belongs to Emily Dickinson.

Crawling Chaos by H.P. Lovecraft is one of numerous editions of his collected short stories. I remember spending way too much money on this book back in university, when his work was slightly harder to find. It’s a lovely edition, but I still searching for one collection that houses all of the stories I like from Lovecraft.

William Gibson’s Spook Country took me by surprise. I picked it up in Berlin when it came out and ended up having read it by the time I returned to Poland by bus the next day. It’s a good book that didn’t get quite the recognition it deserved. But more importantly, it was so beautifully optimistic that it had me feeling good for days. I didn’t expect that at all from Gibson.

Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is so strange and charming, I can’t help but love it. The book is a brick, a weapon of choice, but its true power is its storytelling. Well worth your time.

One of Monty Python’s All the Words books, collecting the scripts to their many comedy sketches. A lot of it holds up quite nicely, and these are good to use for English lessons.

The Last of the Savages, by Jay McInerney, didn’t do a lot for me. I suspect that McInerney is like Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut, where I end up reading their best book first, and everything else doesn’t live up to that first experience. With McInerney, I read Ransom first, a book I’ve read twice now. Maybe it was living abroad or maybe it was just who I was when I read it, but Ransom was like a punch to the gut. And that final page will leave a dent in your soul.

Over the years, I’ve distanced myself from Clive Barker (outside of The Thief of Always, I’ve found his later stuff to not be my cup of tea), but there’s no denying that when he started out, especially with Books of Blood, that he was a force to be reckoned with. Some of those short stories were as beautiful as they were lovely. There’s imagery in this book that I will never forget, and that’s one of the greatest compliments a writer can get.

The Buddhist Religion is one of my many books from my religious studies courses in university. It came in handy a few years back when I dove into the religion to finally explore it. Still though, despite attending three different Buddhist temples and practicing meditation, it worked better on paper. That’s the problem with religion, it’s perfectly good until you get people involved…

I have a soft spot for collections of letters, and A Literate Passion, collecting the letters between Anais Nin and Henry Miller is a great book. These two were bright shining supernovas and to see them dancing around one another and often colliding is absolutely lovely. If you appreciate either of these writers, you must pick this book up.

Speaking of Miller, there’s Sextet and Conversations with Henry Miller. Sextet is one of those books of his that always makes me happy, especially the beginning. And until I heard the recordings of his interviews last year, Conversations was the closest thing I had to listening to Miller’s thoughts.

Katsuhiro Otomo’s Domu is something I’ve read a dozen times by now. The book is just full of “Oh Shit!” moments. Otomo’s art is as cinematic as you’d expect it to be if you’ve experienced Akira, but it’s his writing that makes this one really shine. Once he establishes the setting the puts the characters on the board, he slowly turns up the heat towards its inevitable conclusion. And though you know it’s going to be bad, the horror of it still takes you by surprise.

Only Revolutions is my least favorite of Danielewski’s work. I love everything about it, from its design to his self-imposed limitations to its wonderful concept, but the story does nothing for me. Make no mistake about it, the book is an achievement, and Danielewski deserves to be recognized for what he set out to do here, but at the end of the day, the story is what brings me home. And Only Revolutions, sadly, kept me far from home.

Matt Ruff’s Bad Monkeys is a book I kept seeing again and again in when I went book hunting in Berlin. I never heard of the writer or the book, but the design of the book, especially its cover, had me almost buying it a few different times. I ended up writing the name down and when I returned home, I bought a used copy through Abebooks. Sadly, the edition I got wasn’t the one I fell in love with in Berlin, but the story turned out to be a lot of fun.

I think Glen David Gold sabotaged himself with his book Carter Beats the Devil. The first chapter is one of the most perfect openers ever.  The amount of mystery he established in those pages – and then, in most cases, he immediately answers them – is breathtaking. By the time the story kicks off, you’re extremely pumped…and while it is a wonderful story, the end product just doesn’t live up to the promise of those first pages. Still worth your time, especially if you’re a writer who wants to be reminded how to write an amazing beginning.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Hocus Pocus is okay. It’s on my shelf because it’s Vonnegut. Again, after Breakfast of Champions, it felt like: what’s the point?

And last but not least… on top there is N. Pendleton’s Museion Annual #1, something everyone should have in their library. If you have doubts about clicking the ad for it on the right there, consider reading my thoughts about it here.

Okay, that’s it for this week. Why exactly did I decide to do this again? Never in a million years did I think these posts would end up being so long. I hope you’re enjoying my slow descent into madness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *