Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

Spring/Summer 2007 Books from Europa Editions


Europa Editions is one of my favourite small press publishers. The books they publish offer a window into worlds I don’t normally view and they certainly cause me to think about new ideas.

Here are my picks from their spring/summer 2007 line.

* The Fugitive by Massimo Carlotto, trans. by Antony Shugaar (April 15, 2007)
* Prime Time Suspect by Alicia Giménez-Bartlett, trans. by Nicholas Caistor (June 24, 2007)
* The Worst Intentions by Alessandro Piperno, trans. by Ann Goldstein (July 20, 2007)

Spring & Summer 2007 Book Lists


After reviewing the Spring & Summer 2007 offerings from the various publisher’s catalogues, I created several lists of my personal recommendations. This post is intended to provide a summary of the publishers I listed, with links to the relevant original post. If publishing houses are missing it is because I have not yet looked through their Spring & Summer offerings.

My disclaimer: These are the books which I personally am looking forward to hearing more about and perhaps reading. This is in no way a reflection on what I think is going to be a big hit nor am I suggesting that any author is publishing a “bad” book by not listing it here. At the time the lists were created, I had not read the books.

List of Publishers
Alma Books
Arcadia Books
Ballantine Books
Back Bay Books
Bloomsbury UK
Bloomsbury USA
Bond Street Books
Broadway Books
Canadian Manda Group
Chatto & Windus
Chicago Review Press
Chronicle Books
Couteau Books
Del Rey
Delacorte Press
Dial Press
Doubleday Canada
Douglas & McIntyre
Europa Editions
Faber & Faber
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Gibbs Smith
Greystone Books
Harcourt (HBJ)
Harvill Secker
Henry Holt
Hesperus Press
Houghton Mifflin
Hyperion Books
Key Porter Books
Kondansha International
Little Bookroom
Little, Brown & Company
Metropolitan Books
Miramax Books
Nan A. Talese
NYRB Classics
Owl Books
Pelican Publishing
Penguin Group
Raincoast Books
Random House
St. Martin’s
St. Martin’s Minotaur
Shaye Areheart Books
Simon & Schuster
Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Tachyon Publications
Thistledown Press
Three Rivers Press
Touchwood Editions
Vintage Canada
Walker & Company
Warner Books
William Heinemann

Spring/Summer 2007 Titles from Hachette Group


Today I got the catalogues from the Hachette Group covering April to August 2007. I love wading through publishers’ catalogues, it’s almost like Christmas – seeing all the upcoming books and deciding what you want to read. Then comes the wait until you finally get a chance to buy the books, open them and have that new book smell. Nothing could be better!

So after extensive review, here are my picks of upcoming 2007 titles from Hachette. (Photos to follow)

Little, Brown & Company
* The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin (April 2007)
* Afternoons with Emily by Rose MacMurray (April 2007)
* Addled by JoeAnn Hart (May 2007)
* The Confetti Cakes Cookbook: Spectacular Cookies, Cakes, and Cupcakes from New York City’s Famed Bakery by Elisa Strauss (May 2007)
* The Blood of Flowers: a Novel by Anita Amirrezvani (June 2007)
* Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney (July 2007)
* Exposure: a Novel by Kurt Wenzel (July 2007)
* By George by Wesley Stace (August 2007)

Back Bay Books
* Transparency: Stories by Frances Hwang (April 2007)
* Bank: a Novel by David Bledin (May 2007)
* The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo: a Novel by Peter Orner (May 2007)
* Tiare in Bloom by Célestine Vaite (June 2007)
* Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst (Trade Paperback, July 2007)
* Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England by Juliet Barker (Trade Paperback, August 2007)
* The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler (Trade Paperback, August 2007)

Warner Books
* Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson (Trade Paperback, May 2007)
* The Devil You Know by Mike Carey (July 2007)
* The History Book by Humphrey Hawksley (August 2007)

Twelve Hardcover
* Boomsday: a Novel by Christopher Buckley (April 2007)

Fall Title Feature


I wrote this article in August for an online publication which did not end up using it. So, even though it is already early October I thought it was worth posting here.

2006 has been a year of scandals for the publishing industry. In January, James Frey’s bestselling memoir A Million Little Pieces was exposed as fiction by The Smoking Gun, to the utter embarrassment of one of the author’s biggest fans, Oprah Winfrey.

Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, took Random House and Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, to court for breach of copyright. Baigent and Leigh claim that Brown “stole the whole “architecture” of their non-fiction work.”

A few months later Kaavya Viswanathan was exposed as a plagiarist. The Harvard student, whose heavily promoted novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life has since been recalled by Little, Brown & Co., was accused of flagrantly copying the works of authors Megan F. McCafferty, Salman Rushdie, and Sophie Kinsella, with over 40 specific instances now cited.

So after all this excitement, what should readers expect in the remaining months of 2006? The fall is generally when most publishers release their “big guns,” the titles they expect to lead sales in the lucrative Christmas sales rush. With so many new releases on the horizon, how does a reader determine what to read?

If you survey the litblogs, most seem to be eagerly waiting for St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, a collection of short stories (Knopf, September) and The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón (Hill and Wang, September). If you go by the trade publications, the focus seems to be on the lead nonfiction titles, such as Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne (Random House, July) or Palestine: Peace not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster, October).

2006 may not see a blockbuster title release on the magnitude of a Harry Potter or The Da Vinci Code; however, a wide range of great and exciting titles continue to be published each month. Interesting experimental and “literary” fiction continues to be offered, often from smaller publishers. With the rise in litblogs and the ease of online book purchases, readers have access to a much broader range of titles than ever before.

After attending BookExpo Canada (the annual book publishing trade show) earlier this year, I believe that reports of books being “doomed” are grossly exaggerated. Publishing may change but readers will always want books. With that in mind, here are some of the titles I believe will catch some “buzz” in the coming months.

Giraffe by J.M. Ledgard (Penguin Books, August). J.M. Ledgard is a foreign correspondent for the Economist. Giraffe, a debut novel, is based on the true story of the massacre of the largest herd of giraffes ever in captivity.

The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud (Knopf, August). A comedy of manners in a post-September 11th New York City, from a masterful observer of human nature.

Only Revolutions: A Novel by Mark Z. Danielewski (Pantheon, September). Danielewski, author of the cult hit, experimental horror novel House of Leaves, has taken his experiments in literature in this story about teenage lovers. Printed on two sides, readers hear the story from Hailey’s point of view, flip it over and get Sam’s.

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (Knopf, September). A debut collection of ten short stories on the perils and pains of growing up in a dysfunctional home, from an author many are heralding as the next great voice of American literature.

The Interpretation of Murder: A Novel by Jed Rubenfeld (Henry Holt, September). A historical thriller featuring Sigmund Freud inspired by his one visit to New York City in 1909. Freud is drawn into the mind of a sadistic killer who is savagely attacking Manhattan’s wealthiest heiresses.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (Atria, September). In this tribute to gothic novels, Margaret Lea, a London bookseller’s daughter, is invited by author Vida Winter to her estate in Yorkshire. Having finally decided to share the secrets which made up her tragic past, she has selected Margaret to be the author of her biography and repository of her ghosts.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (Crown Books, September). Chronicling the apocalyptic years through the testimony of survivors, Brooks creates a chilling account of the Zombie War which came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity.

Lisey’s Story by Stephen King (Scribner, October). In the two years since author Scott Landon died, professors and collectors have tried to get their hands on his unpublished manuscripts and letters. After receiving threats, Lisey decides to prepare her husband’s papers for donation to an appropriate archive. From there, the story heads off into typical Stephen King territory.

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (Little Brown, October). After retiring a millionaire at the end of Case Histories, former detective Jackson Brodie once again finds himself in the midst of several mysteries which intersect in one giant and sinister scheme.

Restless by William Boyd (October). Restless is the story of Eva Delectorskaya, recruited in 1939 in Paris and trained as a spy. Fast-forward 30 years and Eva is living a quiet life in the Cotswolds as Sally Gilmartin, when suddenly she must confront the demons of her past.

The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford (Knopf, October). Resuming in the fall of 2000 where Frank Bascombe’s story left off (Independence Day), Richard Ford’s long awaited sequel may be his finest work yet. Its release is sure to be one of the main literary events of the fall.

The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits (Doubleday, October). In late afternoon on November 7, 1985, sixteen-year-old Mary Veal was abducted after field hockey practice at her all-girls, New England prep school. Or was she? A novel of many layers and twists.

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier (Random House, October). After his stunning success with his debut novel Cold Mountain, Frazier made his fans wait for almost ten years for Thirteen Moons. A novel of one man’s passion for a woman and how her loss, and love, can shape a man’s destiny.

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra (HarperCollins, January 2007). Weighing in at 912 pages, Sacred Games is the epic saga of a notorious Hindu gangster and a police inspector whose lives unfold and eventually intersect with cataclysmic consequences.

Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne (Knopf, August). A Times-Picayune metro editor vividly depicts the storm and its horrific aftermath, through the stories of the men and women who experienced it.

The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science and What Comes Next by Lee Smolin (Houghton Mifflin, September). With clarity, passion, and authority, Smolin, one of the founders of Canada’s Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, charts the rise and fall of string theory and takes a fascinating look at what will replace it.

The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón (Hill and Wang, September). The 9/11 Commission report and final report card in graphic format from two giants of the comic industry – the 9/11 Report for every American.

The War of the World: Twentieth Century Conflict and the Descent of the West by Niall Ferguson. A consideration of why unprecedented progress has coincided with unprecedented violence and why the “seeming triumph of the West bore the seeds of its undoing.” A big book from an influential historian. (September 2006)

50+: Igniting a Revolution to Reinvent America by William Novelli (St. Martin’s Press, October). Novelli, the CEO of AARP challenges boomers on their role in America.

Palestine: Peace not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster, October). Former US President Jimmy Carter’s assessment of what must be done to bring permanent peace to the Holy Land.

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham (Doubleday, October). Grisham’s first nonfiction title is sure to be a big hit. Ronald Keith Williamson, a second-round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics in 1971, was convicted in the late 1980s of raping and killing a waitress in Oklahoma. Williamson was five days away from execution in 1999 when he was exonerated by DNA evidence.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (Crown Books, October). Larson, author of The Devil in the White City (2003), pairs the story of Hawley Harvey Crippen’s unhappy marriage (leading to a love affair with young Ethel Le Neve and the murder of his wife) with Guglielmo Marconi’s struggles to develop and perfect wireless technology in the face of adverse weather, envious fellow scientists, and everything in between. Marconi’s technology is eventually used to apprehend Crippen.

Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield (Da Capo Press, November). The shocking, decadent, true story behind the making of the Rolling Stones’ beloved double album Exile on Main Street.


BOOK REVIEW: One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson


Jackson Brodie, retired from the private investigation business after a client leaves him her millions, has spent the last two years living a life of ease in France. In Edinburgh for his girlfriend Julia’s performance in a Fringe Festival play, Jackson ends up a reluctant witness to a rear-end collision cum road rage incident. As a chain of events is set in motion, a number of the bystanders’ paths begin to intersect with Jackson: the wife of an unscrupulous real estate tycoon; a timid but successful crime novelist; and a hardheaded female police detective.

As the other bystanders begin experiencing unexpected consequences from witnessing the accident, Jackson is attacked by the Honda driver and then charged for defending himself. Suddenly Jackson must figure out what is going on if he wants to keep out of jail, and have time to figure out why Julia is acting weird.

After years of writing award-winning literary novels, Atkinson scored a breakout hit with Case Histories, her first foray into the mystery genre. In One Good Turn, Jackson Brodie returns and faces a puzzling mystery that unfolds over four days. Atkinson doesn’t write straightforward mysteries with a central crime that must be solved; rather, she presents details and events that are slowly woven together to create an emerging image. Certainly the reader can guess at what is emerging; however, Atkinson possesses a master’s skill and readers may be unaware at how effectively they are being manipulated.

To avoid any spoilers, little can be said about the plot of One Good Turn. As always, Atkinson creates characters so real that it wouldn’t be surprising to find them striding off the page. One Good Turn features some truly irritating characters, shallow to the extreme.

The sign of a good writer is one who can emotionally engage the reader in the created world. Atkinson is a literary writer, renown for her ability to create character studies and here she uses irritation to engage her readers. Some of the characters are so banal, passive and frustrating that the reader almost wishes violence upon them. And with that realization, readers are forced to face their own inner evil and propensity to violence, as the characters are within One Good Turn.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0316154849
ISBN13: 9780316154840

432 Pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October 11, 2006


BOOK REVIEW: The Dead Fish Museum by Charles D’Ambrosio


Charles D’Ambrosio’s second story collection, The Dead Fish Museum, is a collection of eight short stories, six of which were previously published in The New Yorker. D’Ambrosio has masterfully captured human misery, exposing the darkest place of the human soul to the light of day. Reading some of these stories can be likened to picking up a rock and finding maggots, except in this case, what the reader finds are realities most wish to hide from themselves.

In The Dead Fish Museum, normal lives and healthy relationships are an illusion. D’Ambrosio’s characters are the forsaken, the lost and the marginal of society. A consistent theme found within his stories is despair, often beyond that felt by the “average” person.

Within these eight short stories, individuals are mired in lives where hope barely exists. In ‘Screenwriter,’ the narrator meets a ballerina in rehab, a young woman who burns her flesh to put “the pain in a place I can find it. On the outside.” The narrator suffers from despair; however the ballerina, while appearing to be on the road to recovery, suffers from a deeper anguish which is continually exposed through her attacks on her skin. Ramage, the protagonist of the collection’s titular story, ‘The Dead Fish Museum,’ carries with him a gun which is both his adversary and his passion: “a theater where he poured out his lonely ardor, rehearsing scenarios, playing with possibilities.” While in his mind Ramage still believes he will use the gun to end his life, in reality the gun has become a talisman with all the same comforts a security blanket cedes to a child.

The agony with which D’Ambrosio infuses his stories is almost unbearable, yet there is beauty to be found in his evocative descriptions and word choices. In ‘Screenwriter’ he describes the ballerina’s grandparents: “…with their hopeless, past-tense faces and their old leafy clothes; standing beside them in a gauzy spring dress, the ballerina seemed a mere puff of self, passing like a spirit out of their heavy Old World sadness, whatever it was about.” He shoots out words until their sharp edges almost wound the reader. In ‘Drummond & Son,’ Pete suddenly confronts his father with the statement “Jesus Christ was brain-dead,” a phrase which stops readers dead, like a slap in the face. With one simple, yet aggressive phrase, D’Ambrosio pulls away from the comfort provided by the straightforward narrative, and forces readers to feel Drummond’s despair and loneliness.

Charles D’Ambrosio is the author of two short story collections, The Dead Fish Museum and The Point, as well as Orphans, a collection of essays. A finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award for his first story collection, D’Ambrosio is known to many as a “writer’s writer,” one who continues to plow his own path, writing essays and stories about what interests him in the world. As he shared in an interview with Dan Wickett (Emerging Writers Forum): “Stories strike a more resonant chord in my soul and wrestling with them I usually come out the other end feeling renewed; essays leave me feeling a little ragged.”

D’Ambrosio is not an author who hawks his work, in fact he is leery of the entire business of promotion. For Orphans, he sent copies of the collection to some bloggers: “The only thing I did on my own was share the book with various bloggers. I’d never heard of these things, these blogs, until the book came out, but my name came up on a few, and I got a quick education, and it immediately seemed like a place where the whole conversation of books, largely an underground thing, these days, was still alive and even thriving. I can’t say I sold any books because of blogs but I don’t really care –things circulated, and that’s enough for me.”

The Dead Fish Museum has garnered a great deal of attention in the blogosphere and quickly became a favourite, promoted on most of the highly respected litblogs. However, no litblog explains D’Ambrosio’s standing as a writer as well as this review by Kirkus Reviews: “Though D’Ambrosio is hardly among the most prolific writers of the contemporary American short story, he ranks with the best….”

Read the review at ReadySteadyBook.

ISBN10: 1400042860
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: April 18, 2006
Binding: Hardcover


Further Summer & Fall Selections


The publisher’s catalogues continue to trickle in, in a more manageable fashion luckily. Two weeks ago the Canadian Manda Group catalogues arrived and I’m finally ready to list some titles here. Canadian Manda Group represents a long list of publishers in Canada, some whose catalogues I covered in June and won’t repeat here.

Sterling Publishing
* Andean Folk Knits: Great Designs from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador & Bolivia by Marcia Lewandowski (Paperback, September 2006)
* Knitting Beyond the Edge: Cuffs and Collars, Necklines, Hems, Closures by Nicky Epstein (October 2006)
* Knitting Color: Design Inspiration from Around the World by Brandon Mably (October 2006)
* Museum of the Missing: a history of art theft by Simon Houpt (October 2006)
* Vogue Knitting Stitchionary 3: Color Knitting by the Editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine (October 2006)
* Knits from a Painter’s Palette: Modular Masterpieces in Handpainted Yarns by Maie Landra of Koigu Wool Designs (November 2006)
* Knit.101: the indispensible self-help guide to knitting and crocheting by the Editors of Knit.1 Magazine (November 2006)
* Origin of Everyday Things (November 2006)
* The Curry Companion (November 2006)

* Missing Masterpieces: Lost Works of Art 1450 – 1900 by Gert-Rudolf Flick (already available)
* Reading Women by Stefan Bollmann(already available)
* In Praise of the Needlewoman: Embroiderers, Knitters and Weavers in Art by Gail Carolyn Sirna (September 2006)

Stewart, Tabori & Chang
* Secrets of Slow Cooking: Creating Extraordinary Food with your Slow Cooker by Liana Krissoff (September 2006)
* Knit 2 Together: Patterns & Stories for Serious Knitting Fun by Tracey Ullman & Mel Clark (October 2006)
* Knitting for Peace: Making the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time by Betty Christiansen (October 2006)
* Eating Cuban: 120 Authentic Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs (November 2006)

Andrews McMeel Publishing
* The World at Worship: a Celebration by Connie Sullivan (September 2006)

Independent Publishers Group
* Andean Inspired Knits: Designs in Luxurious Alpaca by Helen Hamann (Interweave Press, September 2006)
* Cluny: In Search of God’s Lost Empire by Edwin Mullins (Bluebridge, September 2006)
* Lady of Mercy by Michelle Sagara West (Benbella Books, September 2006)
* Natural Knits for Babies and Moms: Beautiful Designs Using Organic Yarns by Louisa Harding (Interweave Press, September 2006)
* Neal Cassady: the Fast Life of a Beat Hero by David Sandison and Graham Vickers (Chicago Review Press, September 2006)
* The Broken Book by Susan Johnson (Allen & Unwin, September 2006)
* Year’s Best Fantasy 6 edited by David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer (Tachyon Publications, September 2006)
* Spin to Knit: the Knitter’s Guide to Making Yarn by Shannon Okey (Interweave Press, October 2006)
* Stagestruck Vampires and Other Phantasms by Suzy McKee Charnas (Tachyon Publications, October 2006)
* The Cat’s Pajamas and Other Stories by James Morrow (Tachyon Publications, Paperback, October 2006)
* The Messiah: the Little Known Story of Handel’s Beloved Oratorio by Tim Slover (Silverleaf Press, October 2006)
* Talking to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer edited by John Gattuso (Stone Creek Publications, October 2006)
* A Journey into Ireland’s Literary Revival by R. Todd Felton (Roaring Forties Press, November 2006)
* The Grit Vegetarian Cookbook: World-Wise, Down-Home Recipes, revised and expanded by Jessica Greene and Ted Hafer (Chicago Review Press, November 2006)
* Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby (XRX Books, November 2006)
* A Journey into Flaubert’s Normandy by Susannah Patton (Roaring Forties Press, February 2007)
* The Horse in the Attic by Barbara Frackowiak (Burman Books, Inc., February 2007)
* Sacred Places Europe: 108 Destinations by Brad Olsen (CCC Publishing, March 2007)
* The Erotic Agony: Bolivar’s Love and Death by Victor Paz Otero (Vellegas Editores, March 2007)

* The Adventuress by Audrey Niffenegger (September 2006)
* The Gothic Reader: a Critical Anthology edited by Martin Myrone (September 2006)
* The New English: a History of the New English Art Club by Kenneth McConkey (November 2006)
* How to Read a Modern Painting: Lessons from the Modern Masters (December 2006)
* Worldchanging: a User’s Guide for the 21st Century edited by Alex Steffen (January 2007)




BOOK REVIEW: The Inhabited World by David Long


Evan Malloy realizes he died in 1992, but the how and why of his suicide eludes him. Trapped on the property of his home in Seattle, his only companion a ginger tom, Evan watches a progression of residents come and go, until Maureen Keniston moves in during the summer of 2002. Something about this troubled woman causes Evan’s memories to slowly return, casting him into the past, reliving the events leading up to his death. Told in series of flashbacks interspersed with the story of Maureen’s increasingly desperate attempts to leave her married lover, The Inhabited World explores the nature of relationships, fidelity and self-acceptance.

David Long has paced his novel in a deliberate manner. The passages revealing Evan’s reflections are long and drawn out, as days must appear to a ghost. Interspersed are short moments in the present through which the reader gradually learns of Maureen’s turbulent relationship with Ned, her lover and former co-worker. The scenes of Maureen’s life serve to propel the narrative forward as each one moves Evan deeper into reflection, slowly leading to acceptance of his history. Languid scenes at the beginning, which feel infused with golden light and naïveté, shift incrementally to become the claustrophobic darkness which binds both Evan and Maureen.

Long’s ability to evoke volumes with the sparseness of his prose illustrates mastery of his craft. The choice to place all dialogue in italics, rather than quotation marks, is initially a distracting one, causing the reader to wonder if the italics signify a different narrator or voice. Soon, however, the italics help evoke the dissociative state in which Evan must exist, creating the languor that permeates this deceptively simple novel.

The Inhabited World is not the typical novel usually considered when discussing literature; however, it is an important work that compels readers to look beyond the words on the page and consider what message Long wishes to leave behind. Long has fashioned a remarkable work for those willing to enter his world.

David Long is the author of two previous novels and several collections of short stories. His fiction has appeared in many publications such as The New Yorker, earning him many honors including an O. Henry Award and a Pushcart Prize. The Inhabited World is his third novel.

See the review, and my interview with David Long, at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 061854335X
ISBN13: 9780618543359
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: July 10, 2006
Binding: Hardcover
Author Website:

Other works by David Long:
* The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux
* The Falling Boy
* Blue Spruce (Short Stories)
* The Flood of ‘64 (Short Stories)
* Home Fires (Short Stories)


BOOK REVIEW: The House of Paper by Carlos María Domínguez


Bluma Lennon, a Cambridge academic, is struck and killed while crossing the road in Soho. Her death, occurring while reading a poem by Emily Dickinson, is taken by her colleagues to show the dangers inherent in books and reading.

Following her death, a colleague discovers, among her possessions, a mysterious copy of Joseph Conrad’s The Shadow Line, strangely inscribed and covered in what appears to be cement. His investigations lead him to Buenos Aires and the Uruguayan coast, in search of Carlos Bauer, an obsessive and dedicated bibliophile whose mania for books has led to his mysterious disappearance. And so begins the unusual and haunting tale that is The House of Paper.

Carlos María Domínguez’s The House of Paper is an obvious homage to the magical realism of Jorge Luis Borges. Domínguez has learned well at the knee of the master, integrating Borges’ playfulness with language, creation of miniature worlds and views of literature as recreation into this slender volume.

Readers should not be fooled by the miniature nature of this work for, like much of Borges’ canon, many large themes are touched upon: the nature of time, infinity, labyrinths, reality, and identity. Books create labyrinths of rooms, libraries and collections define identity, and reality is subsumed when Bauer loses the index to his massive and valuable collection of books. In describing this loss, one of Bauer’s friends resorts to the analogy of losing the ability to access one’s memories:

“Then one day, unexpectedly, you lose the sequence of these memories. They’re still there, but you can’t find them…Your personal history is lost…The worst thing about it is that the facts are there, just waiting for someone to stumble on them. But you don’t have the key. It’s not forgetfulness drawing its kind veil over things we cannot tolerate. It’s a sealed memory, an obsessive call to which there is no answer.”

Readers must decide if it is this loss of identity, and the key to his library, in the fire which leads Bauer to the madness that is his undoing? Perhaps the madness already existed and the loss of the key brought freedom for him from slavery to his books? Whether these questions are ultimately answered is left for readers to decide.

The House of Paper draws readers in and will cause many to reevaluate their relationship to their books. If cataloguing methods are stages within the disease, then most readers are far from the illness inflicted on Bauer. In his library, Shakespeare cannot be placed next to Marlowe, because of accusations of plagiarism between the two, and Martin Amis cannot sit alongside Julian Barnes because of a falling out.

Conrad’s The Shadow Line is referred to throughout the narrative and, like Conrad’s novella, The House of Paper is an ironic commentary on the nature of experience and wisdom reflected through the story of one man’s struggle with his books. Like Conrad’s protagonist, our narrator is never named; however, he is not the true protagonist in this tale, rather it is The Shadow Line itself.

“And again he pleaded for the promise that I would not leave him behind. I had the firmness of mind not to give it to him. Afterward this sternness seemed criminal; for my mind was made up,” the captain said of the delirious sailor on his sickbed, victim of a “downright panic.” In those words it seemed to me I heard the tacit appeal the book had been making to me from the very start.

Peter Sís’ whimsical illustrations add much to the sense of being outside of any recognizable time while reading this compelling novella.

See the review posted at ReadySteadyBook.

ISBN10: 0151011478

Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor
Illustrated by Peter Sís

Publisher: Harcourt Books (US), Harvill Secker (UK, Published as The Paper House)
Publication Date: October 6, 2005
Binding: Hardcover

Related Books:
* Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
* Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
* The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges


BOOK REVIEW: The Dodecahedron; Or, A Frame for Frames by Paul Glennon


Dodecahedron: A Platonic solid composed of twelve pentagonal faces, with three meeting at each vertex. It has twenty vertices and thirty edges. Definition from

Paul Glennon’s The Dodecahedron or A Frame for Frames: a novel of sorts is composed of twelve short stories, each representing one of the pentagonal faces of a dodecahedron. The key to understanding this unique work is in the subtitle: “a novel of sorts.” Instead of creating a series of unrelated short stories, Glennon has added a new dimension to his work by applying Oulipian principles (OuLiPo is a group of French authors who create literature based on arbitrary constraints of their own making) to his collection. Glennon explains these principles in the book’s afterword:

“Each chapter was to be as self-contained and whole as any short story. As in a story cycle, each story would cast a new light on the ones that preceded it, and promote a novel-like unity of themes. What I did not want to write was a cyclical book, in which the final story is the final word, a story with more authority than all others, one that casts a sort of judgment on the rest…I envisioned a book in which each of the twelve chapters or stories represented a face of the dodecahedron…In A Frame for Frames these sides represent a relationship to an adjacent story…Each story must refer to or be referred to by each of the five stories adjacent to it.”

A further constraint Glennon puts on his work is also best explained by his own words:

“A dodecahedron has twenty vertices, points where three sides meet. In A Frame for Frames these vertices are represented by certain repetitions and recurrences in each of the three stories that meet in these points. If the elements that represent the vertices were extracted and placed in the order of their first appearance, they would form another text of sorts, which might provide another perspective for evaluating the whole.”

Glennon’s stories cover a wide range of genres; diaries of adventurers, conspiracy theories, academic essays, all leading to unexpected connections. The stories, as stand-alone tales, are entertaining but it is in their interlacings that they become luminous. A Frame for Frames consists of stories about stories, adding both a platform on which to build this three dimensional creation, and the invisible conception itself. Readers will be tempted to create a dodecahedron of their own to unravel Glennon’s creation.

The ethereal creations arise, like the shadow child in “Why Are There No Penguins?”, taunting the reader with half-realized ideas. Even if the reader never sees the creation Glennon intends, the hallucinatory threads invented by the mind are magical in their own right.

Hallucination and dream states exist throughout these stories, most apparently being in “Tenebrian Chronicles” where monks spend months each year dreaming the histories and world events they later inscribe as fact.

Glennon introduces his readers to a profound journey of the mind and senses; one that will remain in their minds as clearly as if they had eaten the pages of this mesmerizing book, like the hero in the lead story “In My Father’s Library.” The quote by Francis Bacon, which prefaces “Library,” could easily be applied to the entirety of A Frame for Frames: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

No matter how the reader dips into The Dodecahedron or A Frame for Frames: a novel of sorts, this book will remain with them long after the final page is consumed.

See the review posted at ReadySteadyBook.

ISBN10: 0889842752
ISBN13: 9780889842755

Publisher: The Porcupine’s Quill
Publication Date: September 2005
Binding: Paperback

The book’s cover image is a photograph of a room in the Collegium Maius, Cracow, Poland, where Copernicus studied in 1502, taken by Erich Lessing. The dodecahedron illustrations are from

Related Books:
* 3 by Perec (Includes La Disparition [The Void], a novel written entirely without the letter E) by Georges Perec
* If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller (Se Una Notte d’Inverno un Viaggiatore) by Italo Calvino
* Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn


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