November Remembering | Classic Returns

The Classic Returns offered this month touch on many themes: cute dogs; autism; cross-dressing; vintage dressing; the idiocy of war; the aftereffects of the Holocaust and of AIDS. We’re also introducing a new Short Takes section with even more rereleases and reissues.

Dogs as I See ThemDawson, Lucy. Dogs as I See Them. Harper Design. 2015. 96p. illus. ISBN 9780062412881. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780062412898. Fine ARTS
This facsimile edition of an endearing 1936 “collectible classic” is a dog lover’s dream. Eighty-five charcoal and chalk portraits (22 in color) of dogs by illustrator Lucy “Mac” Dawson (1870–1954) convey the animal’s characters and temperaments, as do Dawson’s handwritten observations of their behavior. The English artist’s canine illustrations were very popular in the Thirties and Forties; she was even commissioned by the royal family to paint the Queen Mother’s favorite corgi, Dookie (the portrait was later reproduced as a Christmas card). With a foreword by dog lover and best-selling author Ann Patchett.

Shock TreatmentFinley, Karen. Shock Treatment: Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition. City Lights. 2015. 176p. ISBN 9780872866911. pap. $15.95. THEATER
Performance artist Finley challenged the status quo and scared the crap out of people in the 1990s with her graphic, raging performances decrying homophobia and misogyny. Now, 25 years after its publication (and celebrating publisher City Lights’s 60th anniversary), this expanded edition features a new introduction by the artist and provocateur (currently a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of Art & Public Policy). In it, Finley recalls publishing her first book as she became one of the famous “NEA Four,” artists who were denied grants because of perceived “obscenity” in their works.

The Boy Who Went Away Gottlieb, Eli. The Boy Who Went Away. Liveright: Norton. 2015. 224p. ISBN 9781631490927. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631490934. F
Gottlieb’s 1997 debut autobiographical coming-of-age novel set in 1967 suburban New Jersey, narrated by preadolescent Denny, tells of a family dealing—and not dealing—with autism. Denny’s brother, Fad, is acting out, and his outbursts are increasingly violent. Their mother is desperate to keep her son out of an institution. Their dad crawls into a bottle, every night. Denny begins to spy obsessively on his family and neighbors. In the 1997 May issue of School Library Journal, reviewer Dottie Kraft called the first part of this novel “reminiscent of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye as Denny experiences growing adolescent sexual awareness and curiosity and a loss of innocence,” adding that the novel “can be funny at times but more often it presents a very somber look at a very serious situation.” This reissue serves as a bookend to Gottlieb’s 2015 novel Best Boy (Liveright: Norton), which is narrated by the autistic brother, now middle-aged and institutionalized (Best Boy is one of LJ‘s Top Ten Best Books of 2015).

The Last Days of Mankind Kraus, Karl. The Last Days of Mankind. Yale Univ. (Margellos World Republic of Letters). Nov. 2015. 672p. tr. from German by Fred Bridgham & Edward Timms. illus. ISBN 9780300207675. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780300216431. THEATER
Austrian satirist Kraus (1874–1936) wrote this 1919 “apocalyptic drama” as a textual collage, incorporating actual Austrian Army quotes, political speeches, newspaper editorials, etc., to document the self-destruction of the Austro-Hungarian empire during World War I. This volume is part of the “Margellos” series identifying and publishing “works of cultural and artistic significance previously overlooked by translators and publishers.” Kraus’s work speaks to today’s readers while chronicling events and ideas of 100 years ago. German dramatist Bertold Brecht heralded the play as a masterpiece of Viennese modernism, and novelist Jonathan Franzen calls The Last Days, “the strangest great play ever written.”

primoleviLevi, Primo. The Complete Works. 3 Vols. Liveright: Norton. 2015. 3008p. ed. by Ann Goldstein. tr. from Italian by Ann Goldstein & others. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780871404565. $100; ebk. ISBN 9781631492068. LIT
Here for the first time in three slipcased volumes are the complete works of Auschwitz survivor and writer Levi (1919–87). Translator and editor Goldstein, with a team of nine others including Antony Shugaar, Allessandra and Francesco Bastagli, and Jenny McPhee collect the author’s essays, poems, sf-inflected short stories, memoirs If This Is a Man, The Truce, and The Periodic Table, and only novel, If Not Now, When? Poet and author Toni Morrison provides the book’s introduction. While Goldstein and her team translated 13 of Levi’s 14 books, Levi’s first English translator, Stuart Woolf, revised If This Is a Man for this collection. Highlights include the posthumously published Uncollected Stories and Essays, many of which appear in English for the first time. The Wrench, a compilation of linked stories set in the 19th century, and Lilith and Other Stories, are also featured here in English for the first time. A New York Times “Notable Book of 2015.”

Cheap ChicMilinaire, Caterine & Carol Troy. Cheap Chic: Hundreds of Money-Saving Hints To Create Your Own Great Look. Three Rivers: Crown Archetype. 2015. 224p. illus. index. ISBN 9781101903421. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101904558. DEC ARTS
Fashionistas of yore Milinaire (former Vogue editor, photographer, journalist) and Troy (Helmut Newton collaborator; editor, photographer) introduced readers to the then-unusual practice of thrift-store shopping in 1975. This 40th anniversary edition is a time capsule of Seventies junk shop glam and sass (models and commenters include still-recognized boldface names of the era such as Jerry Hall, Betsey Johnson, Diana Vreeland, and Norma Kamali). Even the unknowns and lesser knowns strut like legends in their own minds.This is not just a historical document, though: many of the book’s tips still hold up, although you’re not likely to find too many 1920s beaded dresses or pristine Hawaiian shirts at the local Goodwill these days. (Full disclosure: this reviewer owns an original edition of Cheap Chic, found at…a thrift store in the 1990s.) The guide was beloved by fashion editors and stylists; Project Runway fashion guru Tim Gunn discusses its impact in a new foreword. Bea Feitler’s groovy design incorporates 1970s graphics, photos, illustrations, and hand-lettered entries perfectly.

pawnbrokerWallant, Edward Lewis. The Pawnbroker. Fig Tree. Nov. 2015. 296p. ISBN 9781941493144. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781941493151. F
A National Book Award finalist, this 1961 novel also secured its author a Guggenheim fellowship. Tragically, Wallant died one year after writing it, cutting short a career that many say could have rivaled that of other postwar Jewish authors such as Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, and Saul Bellow. One of the first American novels to deal with the aftereffects of the Holocaust, The Pawnbroker possesses another strong theme, that of the uneasy relationship between Jews and other minority groups—in this case, African Americans who enter the Harlem pawnshop where the title character, a survivor of a Nazi extermination camp, works. Old-movie fans will recall Sidney Lumet’s 1964 film based on the novel starring Rod Steiger in the lead role.

Short Takes

Austen, Jane. Emma: 200th Anniversary Edition. Penguin Classics. 2015. 496p. maps. notes. ISBN 978143107712. pap. $16.95. LIT
Happy 200th birthday to Emma Woodhouse! With essays, notes, and introduction by Austen scholar Juliette Wells (English, Goucher Coll.; Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination).

Bonfiglioli, Kyril. The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery. Overloook. Nov. 2015. 176p. ISBN 9781468312218. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781468312935. M
The fourth Charlie Mortdecai novel, in which our art dealer antihero investigates the unusual death of an Oxford don. This book was published posthumously and completed by satirist Craig Brown.

Cervantes, Miguel de. Eight Interludes. Applause: Hal Leonard. 2015. 144p. ed. by Charles Patterson. tr. from Spanish by Charles Patterson. ISBN 9781495013034. $16.99. LIT
The Don Quixote novelist Cervantes (1547–1616) also wrote for the theater. These short comic plays written 400 years ago “examine the underbelly of Spanish Renaissance society.”

middlemarchEliot, George. Middlemarch. Penguin Classics. Nov. 2015. 800p. ISBN 9780143107729. pap. $16. LIT
This deluxe edition of “one of the greatest English novels ever written” has an introduction by My Life in MIddlemarch author and New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead. (Mead’s book was a 2014 LJ  “More of the Best” pick.)

I Ching: The Book of Change. Farrar. 2015. 160p. tr. from Chinese by David Hinton. illus. ISBN 9780374220907. $20. RELIGION
Esteemed translator and Chinese literature scholar Hinton presents a “radically different translation and interpretation of this ancient Chinese masterwork,” rendering the I Ching‘s original layers and omitting explanatory commentary added years later.

Nadar, Félix. When I Was a Photographer. MIT. Nov. 2015. 336p. tr. from French by Eduardo Cadava & Liana Theodoratou. ISBN 9780262029452. $24.95. MEMOIR
In this first complete English translation, a flamboyant 19th-century photographer, writer, actor, inventor, balloonist, etc., etc. reflects on his photographic life in 1900 at age 80.

Girls Will Be Boys

Benítez-Rojo, Antonio. Woman in Battle Dress. City Lights. 2015. 520p. tr. from Spanish by Jessica Powell. ISBN 9780872866768. pap. $19.95; ebk ISBN 9780872866850. F
Cuban-born author Benítez-Rojo’s (1931–2005) last published work is based on a real-life woman, Henriette Faber, who, in 1809, changed her name to Henri and enrolled in medical school in Paris. As Henri, she fought with Napoleon, moved to the Caribbean, set up a medical practice in remote Cuba, and married a woman. Three years into their marriage, her wife turned her in to the authorities and demanded an annulment. A trial followed, and Faber was stripped of her medical license, forced to dress as a woman, and sent into exile. The author embellishes these historical facts and writes a story of struggle and ultimate triumph.

hermaHarris, MacDonald. Herma. Overlook. 512p. ISBN 9781468311464. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781468312867. F
Harris, aka Donald Heiney (1921–93), wrote this novel of a willful young woman determined to make it as a singer in the 1880s through the early 1900s. The title character has more than a talent for singing and mimicry, though: she can also “force out a male organ.”  This proves very useful as she makes her way from Southern California church choirs to the Paris Opera. With Herma every step of the way is Fred Hite, her daredevil manager and “twin.” The publishers compare this exploration of gender and self-discovery during the Belle Époque to Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex, and in the foreword, novelist Michael Chabon fondly recalls studying with Heiney (he taught writing at University of California-Irvine and secretly submitted Chabon’s master’s thesis, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, to an agent—the rest is history).

 

 

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Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email: efrench@mediasourceinc.com, Twitter: @lizefrench