• I've just picked up a gorgeous edition of Russian author Nikolai Gogol's The Collected Stories, published by the Folio Society and illustrated by Peter Stuart. I'm always impressed with Folio Society publications, but with this one they seem to have out done themselves. 

    My only complaint is that they use the old Constance Garnet translation. A good article on her various flaws as a translater can be found at the New Yorker. It would have been marvelous if the Folio Society had comissioned a new translation from that genius team: Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, who have completed changed our notion of Russian writers like Tolstoy, Dostoevesky and Bulgakov. 

    In any event, the Garnet translation is certainly readable, so it's not a deal breaker. Where the Folio Society have scored is in choosing Peter Stuart to illustrate the volume. Amazing work by a remarkable artist. Here are some examples of his illustrations from Gogol's The Collected Stories

    Peter has also illustrated several other books for the Folio Society, most notably Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Robertson Davie's The Deptford Trilogy. For more of this brilliant animator's work, try is website peterstuart.com

    You can purchase Gogol's Collected Stories via the Folio Society website or any good indie bookseller. I recommend Tattered Cover in Denver, CO. or Powell's Books in Portland, Or. Of course, if you have a great indie store near you, go there!
  • I recently acquired four new Ross MacDonald vintage paperbacks and wanted to share them. Ross MacDonald is one of my favorite American mystery writers. He was the first mystery author to receive a front page review in the New York Times Book Review (Underground Man, reviewed by Eudora Welty) and he was instrumental in taking the mystery genre out of the pulps and into literature. I still think he tops Chandler and Hammett in his writing skills. You will be richly rewarded if you venture into your local used bookstore and pick up one of his Lew Archer novels.

    You can find more about Ross MacDonald here

  • I can't seem to stop reading the remarkable trilogy of novels by Jeff Vandemeer collectively titled The Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance). The one volume hardback edition came out last week and I've dived into it with no lack of enthusiasm considering it's my third reading.

    That's how the madness of the world tries to colonize you: from the outside in, forcing you to live in its reality.
    ― Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation

    What makes these books so fascinating? They are beautifully written for one thing and a pleasure to read. The depictions of nature (the southern Florida landscape/seashore) are remarkable and crystal clear. Plus, the story is so involving/moving that the characters and situations are becoming part of my own life memory. 

    There are scenes in these three novels that will shock you, creep you out, amuse you, move you and anger you (among only a few reactions to the characters/story). And the characters are like Lovecraft channeling Henry James: they are characters with many levels and a complex inner life. 

    The books are about death, obsession, how our modern culture is despoiling nature, first encounter with aliens, obsession and abuse by government. And the monsters...ah, well, you have never encountered anything like it.

    These are novels whose stories make the hair stand up on your neck. I urge you to pick up the one-volume hardback, or the first volume in the trilogy: Annihilation. You will not regret it. The journey in these novels is unlike anything you have ever read.