Herbert's favorites

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The Unforgivable: And Other Writings By Cristina Campo, Alex Andriesse (Translated by), Kathryn Davis (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Cristina Campo, Alex Andriesse (Translated by), Kathryn Davis (Introduction by)
$18.95
ISBN: 9781681378022
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: NYRB Classics - February 6th, 2024

Cristina Campo, the pseudonym of Vittoria Guerrini, was born in Bologna in 1923, with a heart defect that narrowed and focused her activities and ultimately ended her life in 1977 at the age of 54. Intensely private, Campo said of herself that she “wrote little and would like to have written less.” Most of that “little” is collected in the wondrous pages of this “delicate textbook of perfection” (Ceronetti), which holds some of the most precise and acute, yet radiantly strange essays you will ever read. “Strange” in the sense of otherworldly, hidden from, and unspeakably unknown to––our time. Nourished on patience and silence, Campo was an advocate of the practice of attention (under the sign of Simone Weil), exegete of the magnetic fields of fairy tales and legends, and weaver of the ineffable. She translated more than she wrote, namely those she revered, her Unforgivable Ones—John Donne, Gottfried Benn, Katherine Mansfield, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s astonishing Andreas, among others. Her texts––about the inaccessible and unutterable, sacredness and music, poetry and liturgy, animal kingdom and death––move from epiphany to vision in prose of almost supernatural clarity. The aristocracy of form in the unique splendor of her style is never luxury, but rather a necessity to transmit substance. Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity, wrote Simone Weil. If you treasure Weil, or the works of Borges, Calasso, Marcel Schwob, Emily Dickinson, and Marcel Proust, you will want to stay with Cristina Campo for the rest of your life.


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The Cheap-Eaters By Thomas Bernhard, Douglas Robertson (Translator) Cover Image
$17.50
ISBN: 9781943679133
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Spurl Editions - March 10th, 2021

I was still living in Vienna when the death of Thomas Bernhard in the winter of 1989 was noted with near relish and observable relief by both the larger part of the Austrian press and the (not always) “silent majority” of the population. Despite the posthumous tide of Bernhard adulation, The Cheap Eaters is still little-known and read in German-speaking countries. This slim volume of philosophical-maniacal rants and furiously exhausted reflections from the beginning of Bernhard's final period reads like Musil or Wittgenstein knotted into Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man. It was brought into English with excellent care by Douglas Robertson and given the rare Bernhard-appropriate book cover design by Spurl Editions. Readers of E.M. Cioran, Elfriede Jelinek, Samuel Beckett, or Kafka will want to submit to Bernhard’s labyrinthian narrative of mangled existence and overwhelmed mind.


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Thought Forms: A Record of Clairvoyant Investigation By Annie Besant, Charles Webster Leadbeater, Mitch Horowitz (Introduction by) Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780999609996
Availability: Backordered
Published: Sacred Bones Books - December 22nd, 2020

A thoughtfully conceived and finely presented clothbound reprint of a strange but seminal book that first appeared in 1905. Conceived by theosophists Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater, Thought Forms: A Record of Clairvoyant Investigations is a deep-dive exploration of the visual forms created by sounds, thoughts, and emotions—and the notion that these exist as objects. Besant and Leadbeater conveyed their clairvoyant observations of the unseen world to a group of visual artists & friends, who translated these "second-sight trance states" of "auras, vortices, etheric matter, astral projections, and energy forms" into fifty-eight striking watercolor paintings. Thought Forms quickly reached beyond its original readership and exerted a foundational (if at times unacknowledged) influence over some of the early luminaries of abstract art—including Kandinsky, Klee, Malevich, and Mondrian. But it perhaps most deeply inspired abstract art’s earliest yet erstwhile unseen light, the Swedish artist and mystic Hilma af Klint. Although largely ignored by modern art historians and institutions—due to a time-honored aversion to arcane knowledge in artistic manifestations—these investigations into the "art of seeing the invisible" have continued to inspire countless areas of artistic creation.


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Every Man for Himself and God Against All: A Memoir By Werner Herzog, Michael Hofmann (Translated by) Cover Image
By Werner Herzog, Michael Hofmann (Translated by)
$30.00
ISBN: 9780593490297
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Press - October 10th, 2023

The long awaited memoirs of the great self-invented, nearly mythic German film director Werner Herzog. In tone both fierce and seductively melancholic, the book recalls in memorable vignettes of adventure and injuries Herzog's austere but miraculous childhood in archaic rural conditions. The book delivers remarkable insight into Herzog’s life as a visionary filmmaker and ponders the significance of great books and deep reading. Herzog writes about his love for caves and windmills, his troubled alliances with Klaus Kinski and Bruno S., and his admiration for the mysterious works of Hercules Seghers or Carlo Gesualdo. Essential reading.


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The Forest: A Fable of America in the 1830s By Alexander Nemerov Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780691244280
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Princeton University Press - March 7th, 2023

Alexander Nemerov summons essence in these brief narratives depicting "the people, sights, smells, and sounds" of the United States during the early years of the 19th Century. It was a place of great beauty and terror, filled with reveries and signs, where one could find intricate worlds now utterly vanished—like the primeval forests that existed before there was an “America." Nemerov's deep plunge into these archived histories conjures and stages trees as the keepers of secrets amidst the “unholy energies” of the 1830s—which saw an immense erasure of nature on behalf of rank tanneries, mill towns, and sawmill landscapes. His theme is the “weird old America” of Thomas Cole, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sanford Gifford, Edgar Poe, or Nat Turner—who “saw hieroglyphic characters on the leaves." This period's grand menagerie of figures and events created "a realm congenial to hallucination" and epiphanies. The book accomplishes an almost somnambulist “piecing together of untold parts,” rich with marvelous emblems, episodes, and fables. In aim somewhat evocative of Roberto Calasso’s excavations—or those of Benjamín Labatut. Nemerov's preamble statement that “only some of it is true” conceals (and marks) its revelations of high truth and deep value. Beautifully designed and a pleasure to hold, The Forest is one of 2023's most intellectually unshackled books—and one of its best.


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The Sphinx and the Milky Way: Selections from the Journals of Charles Burchfield By Charles Burchfield (Artist), Ben Estes (Editor) Cover Image
By Charles Burchfield (Artist), Ben Estes (Editor)
$28.95
ISBN: 9781734035148
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Song Cave - October 17th, 2023

Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) was an American painter whose works could be described as visual symphonies. Almost musical in tone, his paintings were derived from an acute attentiveness to the changing seasons, as well as his personal cache of symbols, which described his own inner landscapes. He was also an obsessive diarist and note-taker. This slim but wondrous selection of astute and mystical entries from the monumental Journals is bolstered by Burchfield’s radiant & otherworldly watercolors of the natural world that surrounded him. Part spiritual autobiography, part logbook, the Journals document atmospheric changes in nature, humanity, and the mind of an artist “who spent much of his life looking at and considering the sky.”


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Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents) By Ian Penman Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781635901887
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Semiotext(e) - May 2nd, 2023

Ian Penman’s “Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors” is a confessional love letter, mildly resigned cut-up investigation, and trance-obituary of the author's own personal obsessions & experiences with the Fassbinder myth. Looking back at Fassbinder's unique and resolutely unbalanced potlatch life of impossible productivity & unrestrained appetites, Penman’s maze-like essay in 450 fragments opens and shuts doors and trapdoors into the heart of its subject.


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Cosmic Scholar: The Life and Times of Harry Smith By John Szwed Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780374282240
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - August 22nd, 2023

Anthropologist, folklorist, and "alchemical painter-filmmaker" Harry Smith detested the word “artist” and routinely discarded or destroyed his own work. He was habitually impoverished, frequently intoxicated, and often ill-tempered. He was also one of the rare American visionaries who could keep secrets. Jones Mekas described him as “the last alchemist of the western world.” Smith was an obsessive and lifelong collector of relics and artifacts, including 78-rpm records of intensely emotional, caustic, and strange songs and sounds that—in 1952—materialized as the indispensable “Anthology of American Folk Music." Consumed by an unceasing desire to create a unified theory of culture, he created experimental animated films and visual music; painted renderings of “the language of angels” and the music of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davies; and recorded Peyote songs of the Kiowa and deathbed prayers of Bowery bums. A lifelong student of Native American culture, he was a transformational genius who lived to resurrect the marvelous. John Szwed’s definitive restoration of Harry Smith’s mercurial life and mind is patient and sensible. It shows respect, appreciation, and an admirable unwillingness to whitewash or take sides. As a biography of a brilliant phantom—exasperatingly arcane and even a riddle to those who “knew” him—it is nearly perfect. Essential.


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as mornings and mossgreen I. Step to the window (The German List) By Friederike Mayröcker, Alexander Booth (Translated by) Cover Image
$24.50
ISBN: 9781803091426
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Seagull Books - June 25th, 2023

Friederike Mayröcker, who died in 2021, was an incomparable radical prose miniaturist. Alexander Booth did a great service in translating her enchantingly difficult texts with love, knowledge, and great care. The book’s design is unusually wonderful and appropriate, as well.


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The MANIAC By Benjamin Labatut Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780593654477
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Press - October 3rd, 2023

A thematic continuation of his earlier book on “the ecstasy and agony of scientific breakthroughs,” Benjamin Labatut’s The Maniac unfolds its historical philosophical (science) fiction by portraying a triptych of characters from the 20th Century, shaped by its excesses of reason. The book portents the vertiginous irony of our anthropocentric predicament—to go on breaking the “natural world” while worshiping AI as the latest and last deity on our “inexorably logical” path to oblivion.


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Zama By Antonio Di Benedetto, Esther Allen (Translated by), Esther Allen (Preface by) Cover Image
By Antonio Di Benedetto, Esther Allen (Translated by), Esther Allen (Preface by)
$16.95
ISBN: 9781590177174
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: NYRB Classics - August 23rd, 2016

A masterpiece. It reads like Blood Meridian by way of Pessoa.


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The Unnamable Present By Roberto Calasso, Richard Dixon (Translated by) Cover Image
By Roberto Calasso, Richard Dixon (Translated by)
$17.00
ISBN: 9781250251213
Availability: Not On Our Shelves Now (Usually Ships in 1-5 Days)
Published: Picador - July 21st, 2020

A fine and disturbing book by the incomparable Roberto Calasso, who left this world in the Summer of 2021. Very timely yet utterly untimely meditations on our "age of the insubstantial."


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The Birth-mark: Essays By Susan Howe Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780811224659
Availability: Backordered
Published: New Directions - December 7th, 2015

My favorite book (with "My Emily Dickinson") by the incomparable Susan Howe. Inside narratives on Dickinson, Melville, Thoreau, Hawthorne etc. "If history is a record of survivors, Poetry shelters other voices." Indeed.


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The Judges of the Secret Court: A Novel About John Wilkes Booth By David Stacton, John Crowley (Introduction by) Cover Image
By David Stacton, John Crowley (Introduction by)
$15.95
ISBN: 9781590174524
Availability: Backordered
Published: NYRB Classics - June 7th, 2011

"Such is the malice of events. The whole world is a parable." David Stacton’s great epigrammatic documentary-novel about Edwin and John Wilkes Booth and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is imbued with deep melancholy and spiked with fevered irony. It is a great work of literature and a page turner. Unjustly forgotten, it was unearthed by the ever dependable New York Review Books.


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Wrong Norma By Anne Carson Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9780811230346
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions - February 6th, 2024

Every new book by Anne Carson is an unpredictable adventure for hearts & minds. A wild ride, as they say. Carson has a wonderfully precise yet lurching, forensic yet funny way with words and worlds. Her explorations into “the limits of human wisdom” suggest an insect collector’s notebook entries. They are often wry yet boundlessly curious and never overwrought. Her “strategic sentences” weave and swerve into and out of blocks of text, reappear and disappear like smells or hallucinations. Her language meditates and deconstructs, shuffles and collages unburied facts, familial fragments, and hidden thoughts into part screwball, part slapstick comedy routines and “glorious off-key tragic songs” that “squirt sideways, mute and mad.” The whole thing is enchantingly unruly and strangely affecting. “The pieces are not linked,” she writes. “That’s why I’ve called them ‘wrong.’” But we sense we are in good hands and take the plunge and read. Surprised and bewildered, we find that erudition can be fun.


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As Serious as Your Life: Black Music and the Free Jazz Revolution, 1957-1977 By Val Wilmer, Richard Williams (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Val Wilmer, Richard Williams (Foreword by)
$18.95
ISBN: 9781788160711
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Serpent's Tail - June 12th, 2018

"Music is the thing that keeps me alive." (Albert Ayler) Valerie Wilmer's exhaustive, opinionated, and mesmerizing account of the new black music of the 1960s and 70s provides deep insight into the concrete struggles and esoteric experimentations within the radically innovative work of such legendary African American jazz artists as Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman. John and Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, and the wondrous Pharoah Sanders. There is much to learn from the martyrology of revolutionary musicians inside THE original American art form---jazz. Inextricably rooted in the horrific history of slavery and the black experience in America, it eventually branched and blossomed into inspiration for innumerable forms of musical articulation.


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The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem By Matthew Hollis Cover Image
$19.95
ISBN: 9781324065982
Availability: Not On Our Shelves Now (Usually Ships in 1-5 Days)
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - January 9th, 2024

Matthew Hollies's brilliant biographical reconstruction of T.S. Eliot's still towering, still disquieting twentieth century masterpiece The Waste Land---one hundred years after its publication---is a work of brilliance and precision. It excavates essence from an abundance of poignant and fascinating details.


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Written in Stone: Minerals Collected and Described by Roger Caillois By Roger Caillois, Marguerite Yourcenar, Carlo Ossola Cover Image
$87.00
ISBN: 9791280294203
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Franco Maria Ricci Editore - January 18th, 2024

Roger Caillois (1913-1978)—described by Marina Warner as a "polymath, aesthetic philosopher, historian of science, and social analyst of ritual and belief"—wrote two books on stones, a subject which consumed his later years: "Pierres" (1966, Gallimard) and "L'écriture des pierres" (1970, Albert Skira). "Written in Stone," a new deluxe publication of Caillois's "brilliant metaphysics of inanimate nature," brings together texts from both. Caillois’s meditation on the nature and essence of stones excavates in highly concentrated and extremely precise poetic language an immanence hidden in things "vitrified thousands of centuries ago at temperatures no longer known."A captivated collector & obsessed scientific observer—like the entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre—and an idiosyncratic writer of scholarly brilliance—like Jorge Luis Borges (whom he brought to fame in France), Caillois’s examination of "histories more ancient than our own" recall the slow chemistry of the minerals, as "a call from the center of things" in near mystical wonderment. The hieroglyphic effigies found in cut or broken stones seem to offer abysses of landscape, hallucinatory revelations from cosmic time. To Caillois’s thinking––operating in the marvelous no man's land between science and art––we are "late-coming, temporary, and transient." Eternity belongs to nature’s paralyzed realm of minerals and their "almost menacing perfection––for it rests on the absence of life, the visible stillness of death [...] It had been there always: we only had to find our way into its presence." This sumptuous and indispensable book features an abundance of photographs, Marguerite Yourcenar’s original eulogy, and other informational texts of interpretation and remembrances by friends.