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Lost Books Resurrected: Notable Books by Famous Authors (2006)
Collected and Annotated by Jeff VanderMeer
Dust Jackets by Jacob McMurray of Payseur & Schmidt

Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel; The Hermaphrodite Edition Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel; The Hermaphrodite Edition by Milorad Pavic
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, August 2006
When first published in English (1988), Pavic's Dictionary came in Male and Female versions that differed by one paragraph. Revisiting the novel for a special 15-year commemorative version, Pavic has created a "Hermaphrodite" edition that, to accommodate such dual leanings, reportedly contains more substantive changes. The following examples are by no means comprehensive.
Page 117: "'If your egg is really all that valuable, why don't you keep it for yourself,' I said, looking him in the eyes..." has been replaced by "'Why don't we go for a drink at that bar you like so much,' I said, staring at the pavement."

Page 163: "And so it was from the old man that Masudi received his first instruction in his new vocation and learned all there is to know about dream hunters." has been replaced by "And so it was from the old woman that the cross-dressing Masudi received his first instruction on his new vocation and learned all there is to know about flamenco dancing."

Page 243: "He agreed, and Nikolsky began dictating the dictionary from memory until, at the end of seven days, he had dictated the entire book, all the while eating cabbage with his incisors, which were so long they seemed to grow out of his nose." has been changed to "The idea of racing gerbils had not seemed all that practical to Nikolsky; however, profits had been tremendous and the gerbil track regularly saw more than five hundred spectators a night. Soon they would be rich enough to grow cabbage out of their noses, as the old saying went."

(All original quotes from the 1988 U.S. hardcover edition.)

The Messiah The Messiah by Bruno Schultz
New York: Penguin Group, September 2006 (translated by Rebecca Wieniewska)
Long-rumored but only recently discovered in a KGB records vault outside of Minsk, Schulz's novel proves to be a puzzling mix of masterpiece and muddle, dramatically less coherent than alluded to in the author's diary almost 65 years before. The protagonist's midnight ramble through a transformed Warsaw of "demechanized" humans forced to hide from intelligent guns, bulwarked by vast bureaucratic guardian demons at the four corners of the city, qualifies as nightmare writ large. The turgid prose conceals images of unbearable sadness and power, as when one of the guardians, dying, metamorphoses into a delicate mayfly of a creature, its song cut short when it is slaughtered by a roving band of "torture animals." When the Messiah of the title turns out only to refer to short-lived day, the reader's very bones groan and shiver. Gone are the themes and the meticulous style set out in such masterworks of the short form as "The Street of Crocodiles." The Messiah's closest equivalent emotionally might be William Hope Hodgson's Nightland. First published in Poland to intense debate as to the novel's literary merit, subsequent English translations of The Messiah have only served to fuel the controversy. Some critics claim the novel is not Schulz's at all, a fact refuted by handwriting analysis.

The Violence Taker The Violence Taker by Alasdair Gray
London & New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1972/November 2006
An early motorcycle gang-on-the-run novel, notable for its similarities to Kerouac's On the Road. Gray self-published The Violence Taker at the age of 17, under the pseudonym Hugh MacThistle (for the good of all Scotsmen). Bloomsbury subsequently reissued the book in 2002. The novel is most notable for the early appearance of the protagonist from Janine 1982 -- beaten up in Chapter 3, "Whereupon A Thrashing Is Delivered, and None Too Soon."

A Habit of the Knife A Habit of the Knife by Marcel Proust
New York: Atheneum, June 2006
Discovered beneath the floorboards of an apartment in Paris where Proust once spent a summer in his youth, A Habit of the Knife is nothing more or less than a noir potboiler. Perhaps inspired by a combination of Edgar Allen Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle, the plot concerns the camphor cigarette-smoking detective M. Swann -- clearly an early version of the character found in Proust's later In Search of Lost Time. M. Swann's journey through the squalid Parisian underground on the trail of a femme fatale who may or may not possess a knife linked to his client's murder is matched only by certain scenes in Jean Lorrain's Monsieur de Phocas. The prose is remarkable for its hardboiled simplicity and the story moves forward at breakneck speed. The opening lines of A Habit of the Knife provide as a good an example as any of the contrasts with Proust's later work:
"For a long time, Swann would go to bed so late, the candles would have burned out long before. This particular night, nursing a bullet wound in the shoulder, Swann found his reveries upset by a pounding on his door. Followed by gunfire. It was Combray again. Wanting its money."

The Original of Laura The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, September 2006
Nabokov intended to complete this novel after finishing Look at the Harlequins!, but ill health prevented him from doing so. For many years, all Nabokovites had to sustain them were such Laura notes as "Inspiration. Radiant insomnia. The flavour and snows of beloved alpine slopes. A novel without an I, without a he, but with the narrator, a gliding eye, being implied throughout." None of which revealed much about the plot. In 1999, a friend of the Nabokovs -- a roving entomologist on a Fulbright -- found a series of notecards hidden in the casing of a Nabokov butterfly case donated to Cornell University upon his death. The notecards sketched out a preliminary draft of The Original of Laura. Dmitri Nabokov then enlisted the help of Martin Amis to complete the novel. In that a first person narrator replaces Nabokov's "gliding eye" and that Amis inserted several seedy characters and changed the setting of the novel to London's underbelly, one might wonder if it would have been better had the notecards remained with the butterflies.

Sarah's New Pony Sarah's New Pony by Cormac McCarthy
London: Penguin Juvenile, 1978/October 2006
McCarthy's early children's story about a girl's misadventures in the Old West while riding a magic pony mystifies with its blend of extreme violence and adult themes. Trademark McCarthy touches are apparent from the first sentence: "She picked up the stuffed horse. She picked up the stuffed horse. She picked up the stuffed horse as she went out to ride her pony." Later descriptions in which Sarah smashes a bottle over a drunk's head and shoots a revolver wildly into a crowded saloon are sure to puzzle parents, even if delightful to some children. Sequels Sarah and the Pony in California and Sarah and the Pony Ride to Mexico for Tequila failed as well. Soon thereafter, McCarthy turned his attentions to adult fiction for good.

Eye Candy for Magpies Eye Candy for Magpies by Angela Carter
New York: Henry Holt, November 2006
Long held back from publication by the trustees of Carter's estate because they feared it might be found lacking next to her other fiction, Eye Candy for Magpies may be Carter's greatest novel. It combines the faux realism of such later work as Wise Children with the unrepentant surrealism of The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman. Set in modern-day London, the novel features Cynthia Gimcrack, a psychologist beset by a series of sudden fantastical visions of such depth and power that she begins to doubt the existence of the real world. As Eye Candy for Magpies progresses, the intensity and duration of the visions increase until her every-day existence by its very grayness becomes a terrible pain to her. Inexorably, Cynthia finds herself drawn to this other world where she can escape the masks she has created for herself in the here-and-now. This transition causes an equal amount of pain in her husband of 15 years, Mark Gimcrack, but, ultimately, his feelings for her are not enough to bring her back from the path she has set out upon. In the end, it is the overwhelming sense of loss mixed with the joy for a fantastical world that has none of the fey aspects usually found in lesser examples of this type of fiction that provide the reader with a catharsis almost unparalleled in modern literature. Knowing that Carter had entered the final stages of terminal lung cancer while writing this novel adds an almost unbearable sadness to the proceedings. However, Eye Candy for Magpies is bulwarked by Carter's trademark bawdy sense of humor and images so strong they almost cut the eye in imagined vision.

Copyright © 2006 by Jeff VanderMeer

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