Monday, February 06, 2012

Re-revisiting the Big Dalkey Get

Three years on, and given my stated plans to read what I have and to get rid of excess books, it seems time to take another look at my enormous Dalkey Archive purchase. When this blog was but a month old, I posted a list of the 55 Dalkey Archive books I'd acquired a couple years previously when a friend and I took advantage of their big sale (100 books for $500, with five thrown in for free; my friend let me take the extra five). At the time of the original post, I'd read 23 of the 55 books. In 2009, I updated the list, by which point I'd read 31, but also discarded four. As of today, I have read 35, and several are likely to be discarded (read and unread alike). It should be noted that, at $4.55/book, I made out very well on the sale, even if I never read any of the remaining books.

Here, again, is the list, with those I've read in bold and the discards crossed out:

1. Chapel Road, Louis Paul Boon
2. Rigadoon, Céline
3. Some Instructions to my Wife, Stanley Crawford
4. Storytown, Susan Daitch
5. Island People, Coleman Dowell
6. Too Much Flesh and Jabez, Coleman Dowell
7. Phosphor in Dreamland, Rikki Ducornet
8. Criers and Kibitzers, Kibitzers and Criers, Stanley Elkin
9. George Mills, Stanley Elkin
10. The Rabbi of Lud, Stanley Elkin
11. Van Gogh's Room at Arles, Stanley Elkin
12. Mrs. Ted Bliss, Stanley Elkin
13. Foreign Parts, Janice Galloway
14. Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife, William H. Gass
15. Quarantine, Juan Goytisolo
16. Blindness, Henry Green
17. Concluding, Henry Green
18. Nothing, Henry Green
19. Doting, Henry Green
20. Fire the Bastards!, Jack Green
21. The Questionnaire, Jirí Grusa
22. Flotsam & Jetsasm, Aidan Higgins
23. Crome Yellow, Aldous Huxley
24. Time Must Have a Stop, Aldous Huxley
25. A Minor Apocalypse, Tadeusz Konwicki
26. The Age of Wire and String, Ben Marcus
27. Reader's Block, David Markson
28. AVA, Carole Maso
29. The American Woman in the Chinese Hat, Carole Maso
30. Cigarettes, Harry Mathews
31. Singular Pleasures, Harry Mathews
32. 20 Lines a Day, Harry Mathews
33. The Human Country, Harry Mathews
34. The Case of the Perservering Maltese, Harry Mathews
35. Women and Men, Joseph McElroy
36. Impossible Object, Nicholas Mosley
37. The Hesperides Tree, Nicholas Mosley
38. Odile, Raymond Queneau
39. Collected Novellas, vol. 1, Arno Schmidt
40. Nobodaddy's Children, Arno Schmidt
41. Two Novels, Arno Schmidt
42. Is this what other women feel, too?, Jill Akers Seese
43. The Sky Changes, Gilbert Sorrentino
44. Imaginary Qualities of Actual Things, Gilbert Sorrentino
45. Mulligan Stew, Gilbert Sorrentino
46. Pack of Lies, Gilbert Sorrentino
47. Blue Pastoral, Gilbert Sorrentino
48. Under the Shadow, Gilbert Sorrentino
49. Something Said, Gilbert Sorrentino
50. The Making of Americans, Gertrude Stein
51. Annihilation, Piotr Szewc
52. Monstrous Possibility, Curtis White
53. Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, vol. one, Marguerite Young
54. Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, vol. two, Marguerite Young
55. Marguerite Young, Our Darling, Miriam Fuchs, ed.

Ok, by now I've read 35 of these books. With the four already discarded (unread), that now leaves 16 books. Of those remaining 16, six are in storage (the Arno Schmidt books, the Sorrentino books, The Making of Americans) and so don't really affect my immediate need to downsize (though I kind of wish they were on hand). Of the four books I read since the last update, three were novels (both Coleman Dowells, of which Too Much Flesh and Jabez was easily my favorite, and Nicholas Mosley's The Hesperides Tree), and the other was Curtis White's book-length essay on post-modernism and politics, Monstrous Possibility. I especially appreciated White taking Fredric Jameson to task for his account of "post-modern" literature ("It is simply inadequate and intellectually irresponsible to account for contemporary fiction with a twenty-year-old label ('fabulation') and one novel from E.L. Doctorow."), as well as his criticisms of the American left and its abandonment of culture (gets in a couple good, not undeserved, gibes at the Albert/Chomsky wing).

I don't have much to add about the prospects of reading the ones still as yet unread, beyond what I wrote about them in the last update, other than to say that recent passes at both the Goytisolo and the Gass have been much like previous attempts. The Goytisolo strikes me as vague and showily literary; the Gass still seems overly cute and not as much fun as he seems to think it is. I love William H. Gass, but his prose style can be a bit much at times (if you're not in the right mood, it can be excruciating), and in cases where he is explicitly playing with the size and shape of the words themselves, my mind drifts. Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife is so short that I'll probably hold on to it, just to keep it with the rest of his books, even if I never quite warm to the game. There is, however, a solid chance that I get rid of Goytisolo's Quarantine, since the writer otherwise means nothing to me (I've read only his The Marx Family Saga, and was somewhat underwhelmed by the experience). I do still intend to read at least some of the sections of Joseph McElroy's enormous Women and Men, but I fear that it, too, will ultimately not be long for my library. Marguerite Young's even more enormous Miss MacIntosh, My Darling sits quietly there, awaiting my clear-headed, clear-eyed attention, which I hope to have to give it before too long. I know of almost no one who has read this book, incidentally, but did just recently notice that Umbagollah, the blogger at Pykk, is currently in the middle of it, so that will be interesting to monitor.

Of the 35 books I've already read, a few may well hit the discard pile. I'm thinking the Susan Daitch (I much preferred her novel, L.C.), the Rikki Ducornet (along with her other books; I enjoyed them, but they aren't essential to me; may re-read her novel The Stain), Mosley's The Hesperides Tree, which was ok, but nowhere near as good as Impossible Object (or, indeed, Hopeful Monsters). I'm undecided on Chapel Road, Island People (though I'm definitely keeping Dowell's Too Much Flesh and Jabez), and The Questionnaire. Some Instructions to My Wife.... is a goner.

I noted in the earlier update that my attitude towards Dalkey has shifted somewhat over the years, but that they nevertheless remain an exemplary publisher. This remains the case, of course, even if I'm not quite as into the so-called post-modern fiction they often champion. Still, they continue to publish plenty that I'd like to read, especially as they've greatly expanded their catalog of translated titles.

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