Bibliophagy

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Once upon a time, Emera and Kakaner were high school students who shared roughly half their classes and more importantly, were badminton partners in gym.

I am writing to tell you all about a peculiar period of time in our senior year of high school during which we tried to memorize the hulking blaring entirety of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. Emera had read this first and strongly impressed upon me that if I did not read it soon, my very existence would dwindle and die away. In no time, we were both completely obsessed with JSMN and literarily worshipped its texts, and for a long time, could speak of nothing else. Reviews of JSMN will be forthcoming– it’s just that our current reviews are rather explosive and incoherent. JSMN also made it to our The Black Letters Top Books list, so you can understand what kind of literary entity we are dealing with here.

We were inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451. Although both of us had already read the book before being assigned to read it in AP English, the second time around, the concept of memorizing an entire book in secret really tickled our fancies. So, we conferred, and somehow decided that the 800-page JSMN was the obvious choice.

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By now, I’m sure you’ve seen Emera’s and my numerous reviews of Isaac Marion‘s works, namely The Inside, Warm Bodies, and Anna. These works are pretty much all highly recommended, and are self-published by Marion (links provided at the bottom of this post). Marion is noted for his strange genre niche that is, for the most part, a mix of horror, weird fiction, and romanticism.

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In an effort to stave off our ridiculous acquisitions rates, Kakaner and I have undertaken a pact not to buy any more new books until… well, for as long as we can possibly restrain ourselves, and hopefully we’ve actually read the greater part of the books we’ve bought but haven’t yet read. But prior to that, I, of course, bought a lot of books this summer. Ahem. Here are some of the ones that I’m most excited about.

A 1905 (?) edition of Lafcadio Hearn’s  A Japanese Miscellany (originally published 1901) – I’ve been wanting to find a copy of his Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things for ages, with little luck given his relative obscurity. So I was astonished to see three beautiful, first-edition-or-nearly hardcovers of his works on a shelf at Skyline Books in New York City. No Kwaidan, but this seemed the next best thing. 1905 is pencilled in on the endpapers, but I suspect from this nifty index of Hearn’s work that I have the 1906 edition, which would make it second edition.

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…but we do hunger immortally. And if we could stalk books and watch them sleep, we probably would. Below, find some of our most yearned-after books, over which sighs have been heaved and wallets have been fingered.

Emera’s delicious unattainables

  • Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Signed, limited, $200 (HarperCollins, 2009) – The first Neil Gaiman novel I read, and still one of my most beloved. “Deluxe Limited Numbered Edition, signed by Neil Gaiman, with a full cloth jacket in a fabric-bound slipcase. Includes two-color text and endpapers, and two full-color illustrated spreads. Limited to one of 1000. ” According to the man himself, it is also “several thousand words longer than the current US edition” and “has a bunch of odd, previously stuff in the back — my original outline for the BBC series and such.” Aiiiieee.
  • Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles: The Complete Edition.  Signed, limited & lettered editions currently on preorder, $300/$900 (Subterranean Press, 2009). Over 50 stories, essays, introductions, two full-length screenplays, full-color plates, “deluxe binding” on the lettered edition… excuse me while I expire in this corner. Subterranean Press: elevating book-shopping to a whole new level of debauchery.
  • Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn: The Lost Version. Signed, limited, out of print (Subterranean Press, 2007) – Beagle’s original, abandoned draft of his classic novel, featuring a modern setting and a completely different cast, apart from the unicorn herself. I always knew I would regret not buying this the instant it came out, which was at about the same time that I became aware of small press. This was also before I had multiple jobs and thus disposable income. Curses! It’s been unavailable on every book site that I watch, oh, pretty much ever since then, but I have put out watches for it on both Amazon and AbeBooks (which has a book-watching tool far superior to Amazon’s – Amazon’s commits you to buying the item if it ever becomes available, without your being able to review the condition and price first). It will be mine, someday.

On the other hand… stuff that’s significantly more attainable and will in fact be coming home at one point or another:

  • Kage Baker’s The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, a steampunk mystery novella about exclusive prostitutes who also happen to be the intelligencers of a secret organization. One reviewer described it as “James Bond in the 19th century.”  Could this sound any more AWESOME? Also, Kage Baker has a really cool name.
  • Caitlin Kiernan’s Alabaster, a dark fantasy short story & novella collection about an adolescent, albino, monster-killing girl named Dancy.  Again, sounds awesome, I love the cover art, and Caitlin Kiernan is one of those authors whom people keep telling me I’d like.
  • Peter S. Beagle’s Mirror Kingdoms. A “best of” short story collection. I preordered this in large part because I was smarting at not being able to find TLU: The Lost Version, and because I was resolved not to repeat the incident. Also, preordering of either the trade or limited editions is currently discounted – I got the normally $60 limited for $48, and Subterranean preorders give you free shipping. Win-win.
  • Finally, fellow bibliophile/blogger Vega, of The Athenaeum, was kind enough to obtain a signed copy of The Unicorn Sonata from Peter S. Beagle himself at San Diego Comic-Con for me. A thousand thanks!!

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Kakaner’s Objects of Desire

  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. First edition. $1000. ‘Nuff Said.
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffeneger. First edition, signed, $225. I’m a bit torn about this possible purchase… the only copy I can find is a bit worn and stained. However, to still my grabby hands, I have pre-ordered this. I can’t wait for October 1st!
  • Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein.  First Edition ~$5000. These books are the reason why I feel it is important to make money… have an income in general. Of course, with a name like Heinlein, one should totally expect to spend at least this much money. At least there’s hope! There seem to be a couple copies floating around, although I would totally hold out for a signed edition.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. 1st edition, 8th printing, signed. This will probably be pretty high on my list, despite the fact that I already own four… other… editions…

What I Currently Have…

  • The Scar, by China Mieville. Limited 1st Edition, signed, #407/1000. Gold-edging, ribbon marker, overall droolness.
  • Ender in Exile, by Orson Scott Card. Signed 1st Edition. I’d always wanted to see Card’s signature in real life… it’s powerful! Huge round, loopy OSC. What a treasure =)
  • The City & The City, by China Mieville. 1st Edition (well, technically I think), signed, and personalized at a China Mieville author event I attended! Incredibly treasured, and sits proudly next to The Scar.

Moving onto less well-known authors, but equally treasured in my library:

  • Kings and Assassins, by Lane Robins. 1st Edition signed! Personally shipped by the author– everyone should read Maledicte. I own two copies of Kings and Assassins and one copy of Maledicte.
  • Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion.  1st Edition, self-published, one of 100+ copies, signed. I am of the strong opinion that Isaac Marion is going to experience great writing fame in the future. Although Warm Bodies isn’t necessarily my top choice when it comes to his works, his short stories (all available on his website) are delectable and must-reads.

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Anyone else out there hankering for oh-so-tantalizing books? Those teases.

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