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Charles

Staff member photo: Charles

A State is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.

-Max Weber

Horror is the natural reaction to the last 5,000 years of history. Share this Quote Robert Anton Wilson
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/robert-anton-wilson-quotes
Book Recommendations: 
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Sot-Weed Factor By John Barth Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781628973945
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dalkey Archive Press - September 19th, 2023

A contemporary of, and influence on Pynchon, Barth is one of the great writers in the school of postmodern fiction. This novel (considered his best) however, doesn't display most of the trappings of that genre; instead it reads like an 18th century baudy romp a la Fieldings Tom Jones. In its execution Barth goes way beyond baudy and straight to perverse and radical with its very effective style of humor clearly riffing on the structure of an episode of tv's Three's Company (which was riffing on Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors). All in all, an excellent combination of low-brow humor and some serious literary chops.


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Conspiracist Manifesto By Anonymous, Robert Hurley (Translated by) Cover Image
By Anonymous, Robert Hurley (Translated by)
$16.95
ISBN: 9781635901795
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Semiotext(e) - June 13th, 2023

Semiotext(e) excels at publishing holy rants by anonymous French radicals and this one is no exception; an impassioned plea for the Left to take back speculative, paranoid analysis of world events from the clutches of the far Right and return it to its rightful place in the hands of wild-eyed Leftists!


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Withnail and I: From Cult to Classic By Toby Benjamin Cover Image
$50.00
ISBN: 9781803362397
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Titan Books - September 5th, 2023

In spite of its addition to the Criterion Collection, this is still a fairly obscure film. For devotees like myself, Withnail stands as a masterpiece of quotable humor and unflinching despair alongside the likes of any film by Monty Python.


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Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground: A Guide to Tabletop Roleplaying Games from D&D to Mothership By Stu Horvath Cover Image
$49.95
ISBN: 9780262048224
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: The MIT Press - October 10th, 2023

Ah, how times have changed. The MIT Press (!!) is publishing a guide book to my favorite, culturally obscure, and very niche guilty pleasure from my high school years. The Gen X nerds are well and truly vindicated!


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Sonic Life: A Memoir By Thurston Moore Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780385548656
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Doubleday - October 24th, 2023

Sonic Youth was the Rolling Stones for Gen X, and Thurston Moore, a flawed human being and a musical genius, was one of the founders of this, my favorite band. Mr. Moore is the only famous person I've ever met that I was so smitten with that I completely lost my shit.


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The Blade Itself (The First Law Trilogy #1) By Joe Abercrombie Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780316387316
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Orbit - September 8th, 2015

Abercrombie is one of the next gen Low Fantasy, Grimdark writers who seems to have been influenced by the likes of Robert E. Howard and George RR Martin; bloody, cynical swords & sorcery with any moral clarity being represented by its shear absence in the decision making of the characters within. so far, his work consists of a series of 10 volumes of loosely interconnected novels and stories that are well constructed and thoroughly enjoyable. the real prize to be found here, however, is the way each of the novels is designed as an homage and/or a parody of a particular literary template. the first three are a cynics version of Tolkien; the fourth is very much a Dumas novel; the fifth, Tim O'Brien; the sixth, a pastiche of John Ford and Eastwood Westerns; and one of his best short stories is clearly riffing on Donald Westlake. it sounds gimmicky, but they're actually rich in pathos and humor, well written, and leave me eager for more. probably my favorite contemporary fantasy writer.


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City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Essential Mike Davis) By Mike Davis, Robert Morrow (Photographs by) Cover Image
By Mike Davis, Robert Morrow (Photographs by)
$21.95
ISBN: 9781786635891
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Verso - July 17th, 2018

Shockingly relevant for a 30-some year old book, Davis’s masterpiece is required reading for any Angeleno or recent arrival that wants to have a grasp on the inner workings and history of the bizarre and unique land known as Los Angeles. This book almost singlehandedly created the desire for and the output of literature on the multiplicity of cultures and political influences that is LA. A Marxist scholar and native of SoCal, Davis brings a passionate style and perspective to his dissection of the city that, like most of us who spend any significant time here, he both loves and hates. Raising questions about LA that you probably never thought to ask, City of Quartz will permanently change the way you see the City of Angels.


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Under the Iron Heel: The Wobblies and the Capitalist War on Radical Workers By Ahmed White Cover Image
$34.95
ISBN: 9780520382404
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of California Press - October 25th, 2022

The relevance of the IWW and/or the Wobblies, the most radical of early twentieth century labor movements, has never been greater. The economic disparity today is greater than it was then (or ever), the fascists are on the rise again, the planet is dying, and exploitation and abuse based on race or sex still borders on genocidal to this day. And yet, labor is on the rise, we have BLM, Antifa, Extinction Rebellion, etc. If you really want to know where we stand and what can be done about it, a serious understanding of our history through movements like the Wobblies is essential.


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Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia By David Graeber Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780374610197
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Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - January 24th, 2023

Once again, David Graeber's work is at the peak of fascinating analysis and ideas that stand way outside the box while still in the service of a radical, democratic-socialist (anarchist) agenda. This is the first title on the subject of pirate history and its positive influence on the modern world that I've seen since the fascinating Pirate Utopias by Peter Lamborn Wilson (Hakim Bey) and that one was far less rigorous and is now over 25 years old. This posthumous release will definitely appeal to folks who read Dawn of Everything since it reads like a missing chapter from that book. I can never recommend Graeber highly enough and his early death is a huge loss for all critical thinkers.


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Genesis: Memory of Fire, Volume 1 By Eduardo Galeano Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781568584447
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Bold Type Books - August 24th, 2010

Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy (Genesis being the first volume) is a masterpiece of Latin American literature although it's actually a fully researched history of the 'New World' with a full bibliography. here at Skylight we shelve these books in the fiction section to highlight how the quality of the writing and structure make Memory... much more than just a dry documentation of historic incidents. Galeano's passion, sense of poetic synchronicity, and willingness to flirt with an almost magical-realist sensibility, makes this work beautiful and heartbreaking and reads as if Gabriel Garcia Marquez was being channeled by Howard Zinn. the ending of the first volume is one of very few passages i've ever read that brought me to tears; can't recommend these highly enough.


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The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity By David Graeber, David Wengrow Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781250858801
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador - April 4th, 2023

This book is an absolute game-changing history of humanity that wipes the slate clean when it comes to most everything we were taught about our origins in prehistory. Graeber—the author of Debt, who coined the phrase “'the 99%”—and Wengrow begin here by dismantling the deeply unscientific influence of Hobbes and Rousseau on our understanding of the human timeline and how their bad assumptions can still be found in the works of contemporaries like Jared Diamond and Steven Pinker. After, they move on to a jaw-dropping discussion of the actual evidence for the incredible variety of ways people actually lived before and during the rise of “civilization.” All this is done in service of an Activist point of view; clearing the way for a more sophisticated understanding of who we are, where we come from, and the rich possibilities for real change in our societies now.


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Sacred Hunger By Barry Unsworth Cover Image
$18.95
ISBN: 9780525434115
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor - August 22nd, 2017

Mr. Unsworth won the Booker Prize for this one. At the time I discovered it I had been reading a book on lost and forgotten utopian movements in American history and the subject of the novel dovetailed nicely. However, I didn't expect it to be so beautifully written and emotionally stirring. It has a compelling narrative, but for me it was a meditation on the free society, race, the psychology of authoritarianism, and the 'sacred' hunger for capital at the expense of everything else.


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Our Share of Night: A Novel By Mariana Enriquez, Megan McDowell (Translated by), Pablo Gerardo Camacho (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Mariana Enriquez, Megan McDowell (Translated by), Pablo Gerardo Camacho (Illustrator)
$28.99
Possibly out of print. Email or call to check availability and price.
ISBN: 9780451495143
Published: Hogarth - February 7th, 2023

The newest translation of this Argentinian author's latest. Our Share... is an impressive supernatural thriller that seamlessly mixes the Kafkaesque anxiety of living under the boot of a totalitarian dictatorship with the dread of Lovecraftian horror. in doing so, Enriquez shows how well the real experience of human evil mirrors our best attempts to explore that experience in horror fiction and does so without skimping on an ambitious literary structure that jumps through various timeframes and narrative perspectives. great stuff and a welcome addition to a number of great grimdark Spanish language novels that have been released in the past few years; aka Tender is the Flesh and Hurricane Season.


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The Capital Order: How Economists Invented Austerity and Paved the Way to Fascism By Clara E. Mattei Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780226818399
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of Chicago Press - November 17th, 2022

For those interested in the nature of the austerity policies of the neoliberal banking system and why they seem so cruel and damaging, this book will be a jaw-dropping confirmation of the worst suspicions of leftist analysis. Clara Mattei seems to have found the smoking gun, proving that not only do austerity programs contribute to the rise of neofascist movements, but were literally designed in the early twentieth century as a method of squelching the economic betterment and political power of the poor and working classes around the world. Apparently, even Keynes was involved in this agenda! This one is some serious food for thought.


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Eat Your Mind: The Radical Life and Work of Kathy Acker By Jason McBride Cover Image
$29.99
ISBN: 9781982117023
Availability: Not in Stock. Available to Order.
Published: Simon & Schuster - November 29th, 2022

Finally, a biography of one of the most woefully underappreciated experimental writers of the twentieth century. Kathy Acker was a full-fledged Gen X punk with the literary chops of a transgressive tradition that can be traced back through the Beats, Burroughs, Gertrude Stein, and Joyce. Truly one of the greats.


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Love and Rage: Autonomy in Mexico City's Punk Scene By Kelley Tatro Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780819580948
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Wesleyan University Press - November 8th, 2022

First English-language book about punk music and the punk scene in Mexico City. I bet it would have been awesome to be there…


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Red Mars (Mars Trilogy #1) By Kim Stanley Robinson Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780593358825
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Del Rey - November 23rd, 2021

For about six months after finishing these books, I seriously wanted to move to Mars. Robinson’s hard science makes the whole venture seem possible and his invocation of a classically American revolutionary and frontier spirit makes it painfully desirable. By the end of the third volume, Robinson has laid out three generations of complex, believable characters that I didn’t want to leave behind. More subtle are the allegorical aspects of the story and characters that quietly evoke Ray Bradbury’s efforts at dealing with the myth of Mars. This series ability to express our growing claustrophobia, anxiety, and guilt for the impending possible demise of life on earth only becomes more relevant with time. All in all, one of the best scifi epics I’ve ever read.


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A People's History of the United States By Howard Zinn Cover Image
$22.99
ISBN: 9780062397348
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - November 17th, 2015

The first, and still one of the best deconstructions of the lies that we're taught in school about what it means to be an 'American'.  Howard Zinn is the high school teacher I wish I’d had. In interviews he described himself as a self-taught historian even though he has a Ph.D. from Columbia. His point is that almost all of the material in his “People’s History…” had to be discovered and researched independently as none of it was ever part of his professional education. And that’s the point; this book covers history that is almost never part of the curriculum. From the first page, where he quotes Columbus advocating a policy of deception in order to enslave the natives, to one of the last chapters, where he documents Clinton’s quiet dismantling of the New Deal, habeas corpus, and the 1st amendment, Zinn is unrelenting in his condemnation of the myth of American History. It is, by turns, engrossing, depressing, and enraging, but it is never boring. This is the book that taught us the true meaning of American Ingenuity.


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Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) By James S. A. Corey Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780316129084
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Orbit - June 15th, 2011

On one hand a grand space opera about the colonizing of the solar system that is rooted in and influenced by the style of hard-scifi found in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, but on the other it is the swashbuckling adventures of a small crew of misfit ruanaways and criminals, a la Firefly. Corey is actually a pseudonym for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Franck is actually the reason I tried these out, knowing that he is a longtime protégé of George RR Martin and, I suspect, possible inheritor of finishing the Song of Ice and Fire series. So I wasn’t surprised to find The Expanse novels to be tightly constructed, imaginative, and riveting genre fiction with sophisticated politics and characters rich in pathos reminiscent of Iain Banks’s Culture series. Martin has obviously passed on his years of experience writing for TV to ’Corey’, as each chapter is shrewdly structured to end with subtle cliffhangers that beg for a ‘cut to commercial’.  As such, it’s no surprise that it actually has been turned into an impressive TV show on the Syfy network; probably the best thing of its kind since Ronald Moore’s Battlestar Galactica. TV aside, I adore this series and find each of these novels to be constructed with much more care than one would usually find in something so invested in the tropes of pulp fiction, each one subtly engaging in real world issues that are still completely believable and relevant even in a 23rd century setting.

 


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Occult Features of Anarchism: With Attention to the Conspiracy of Kings and the Conspiracy of the Peoples (KAIROS) By Erica Lagalisse, Barbara Ehrenreich (Foreword by) Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781629635798
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: PM Press - February 1st, 2019

It’s almost impossible to tell what this book is about by looking at the front or back cover. Lagalisse is an anthropologist from the London School of Economics. She has bravely decided to work against the grain of her peers here in order to deal directly with the history of prevalent conspiracy theories, the occult, Western radicalism, and how all these things are tied together through history and/or misinformation. Actually, her main agenda is to clarify these complex intersections in service to a strong feminist argument against the hidden patriarchal tendencies in Western culture and politics that she traces all the way back through St. Augustine to the ancient Hermetic tradition. Still, I know this is not conveying how fascinating this book is. It’s concise, easy to read, and packed with ideas and observations that are jaw dropping. In that sense, it’s the most exciting thing of its kind that I’ve found since I discovered Hakim Bey’s TAZ or David Graeber’s Fragments of…  If any of this seems vaguely tantalizing you should just trust me that this book is awesome.

 


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Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties By Tom O'Neill, Dan Piepenbring (With) Cover Image
$21.99
ISBN: 9780316477543
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Back Bay Books - June 23rd, 2020

This is probably the last major work that will be done on this subject. O’Neill spent twenty years working on this and is able to dig deeper and collect more actual data than I think anyone has before. His discovery of previously unseen documents and actual interviews with some of the major authority figures involved in the case is a game changer. This book convincingly suggests that there was more going on in this historical moment than we will probably ever know. But even with all speculation aside O’Neill seems to, at the least, have proven that Bugliosi manipulated the narrative and witnesses in the court and in his book, Helter Skelter, and should not be trusted as a reliable source. Depending on how you feel about the historic importance and resonance of these murders and the Family, Chaos either compellingly places these events in the archetypal realm of the Black Dahlia story as another example of probable cover-ups by the Powerful to protect the seedy underbelly of Tinseltown, or if you’re convinced by O’Neill’s speculations about the CIA, the Manson murders seem to rise to the same level of grand cultural debate as the Kennedy assassinations. Pretty mind blowing stuff either way.


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Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People By Kekla Magoon Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9781536214185
Availability: Not in Stock. Available to Order.
Published: Candlewick - November 8th, 2021

A long-overdue history directed at kids, this introduction to the woefully underappreciated Black Panther Party is easily one of the most important children’s books this year.


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Memory's Legion: The Complete Expanse Story Collection (The Expanse) By James S. A. Corey Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780316669191
Availability: Not in Stock. Available to Order.
Published: Orbit - March 15th, 2022

All the short stories and novellas in one place. Most of these were published in tandem with the release of each of the hardcover editions and serve as kind of prologue and/or backstory to each of the volumes. This is a must have for folks who know how great this series is.


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Against the Day By Thomas Pynchon Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780143112563
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - October 30th, 2007

The last great Pynchon novel. A massively dense quilt of turn-of-the-century literary and pulp fiction styled vignettes; a hilarious and heartbreaking deconstruction of the American dream in the age of Robber Barons and World Fairs. Against the Day seems unusual for his work in that instead of being obviously rich with vertically organized layers of subtext, this one seems more horizontally crushed with narrative; short story after short story with multiple recurring characters done in diverse writing styles that invoke Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and any number of dime store novels and penny dreadfuls. Also, for fans who’ve always suspected Pynchon of anarchist leanings, AtD seems to be a much more openly political and sometimes angry novel; more along the lines of Vineland’s bitter critique than the more oblique criticisms of Gravity’s Rainbow. A must read for the initiated.

 


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Leviathan Falls (The Expanse #9) By James S. A. Corey Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780316332910
Availability: Not in Stock. Available to Order.
Published: Orbit - November 30th, 2021

The last volume of The Expanse, one of the best sci-fi epics of the 21st century. This book will be followed quickly by the last season of The Expanse TV series, easily the best sci-fi show since Ronald Moore’s Battlestar Galactica. If you know what this is all about, you’ll definitely want this. If you don’t, I highly recommend the show and the first volume of the books, Leviathan Wakes. Fantastic stuff.


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Mutual Aid: An Illuminated Factor of Evolution (Kairos) By Peter Kropotkin, N. O. Bonzo (Illustrator), David Graeber (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Peter Kropotkin, N. O. Bonzo (Illustrator), David Graeber (Introduction by)
$30.00
ISBN: 9781629638744
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: PM Press - September 14th, 2021

Kropotkin’s most famous work, re-released here on the eve of its 100th anniversary. For those unfamiliar, Kropotkin was a Russian aristocrat who gave up his birthright and became one of the most important godfathers of modern anarchist thought. Mutual Aid was a direct attack on Social Darwinism by dismantling the cliche of “survival of the fittest” and replacing it with the much more accurate concept of “mutual aid as a factor in evolution.” To this day, Mutual Aid continues to be validated by each new breakthrough in our understanding of how the evolution of species actually works. This gifty volume is illustrated and includes an introduction by David Graeber.


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Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985 By Andrew Nette (Editor), Iain McIntyre (Editor) Cover Image
By Andrew Nette (Editor), Iain McIntyre (Editor)
$29.95
ISBN: 9781629638836
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: PM Press - November 16th, 2021

An exciting history/re-evaluation of literature’s disowned younger sibling: science fiction. Focusing on its radical shift to the Left in the 1960s, the essays here give long overdue credit to some of the sci fi greats that have only recently begun to find their way to acceptance within the pantheon. I’ve always found it to be teeth-grindingly frustrating how often the themes and tropes of sci fi are found in critically praised novels by “literary” authors without anyone ever giving props to how the same material has been dealt with for decades by very talented, but very ghettoized writers (I'm looking at you, The Road by McCarthy and you Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro, etc.). Our current apocalyptic trajectory as a society, for instance, has been predicted and discussed countless times over the decades in little pulp paperbacks with ridiculous cover art and found on spinner racks in grocery stores, only to be ignored by all the critics and award givers of literature. Meanwhile, the great themes of modern literature (alienation, transformation, absurdism, symbolism, the relativity of truth, etc.) are arguably dealt with just as well or better in the lesser known gems of sci fi. Anyway, this book will make the point better than I can ...


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Use of Weapons (Culture) By Iain M. Banks Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780316030571
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Orbit - July 28th, 2008

Speculative fiction: Post-scarcity/anarchism/cultural imperialism… More well known to readers of ‘straight’ fiction as the author of the ‘Wasp Factory’, Banks is also well known for his interconnected sci-fi novels. Most of these novels are set against the backdrop of a civilization known as ‘The Culture’. Made up of many different species, the Culture travels, nomad like, on giant, sentient ships and represent the very model of a post-scarcity anarchist society. They want for nothing and can basically do whatever they want. Banks creates conflict by structuring these novels from the point of view of a protagonist who is outside of, or resisting the Culture for religious or political reasons. This allows Banks’ work to be not only a meditation on the economic theory of post-scarcity, but also on the inherent conflicts caused by cultural imperialism. All these novels are excellent and Banks is a master of juxtaposing the macro-scaled elements of the story with the real wit and pathos found on the micro-scale of the characters' lives.


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Jerusalem By Alan Moore Cover Image
$24.95
Possibly out of print. Email or call to check availability and price.
ISBN: 9781631494727
Published: Liveright - September 25th, 2018

An ambitious, long, Joycean monster of a novel by the most influential godfather of the modern graphic novel. Very baroque yet full of pathos and a still unjaded sense of wonder, this beast even has an entire chapter written (successfully) in the style of Finnegan's Wake. i was extremely impressed with the quality and depth of this book in spite of my own skepticism about whether or not a highly successful career as a writer of comics could translate well into a straight prose novel of epic proportions. Even at this late date, Alan Moore continues to please and surprise as well as prove himself a true literary figure outside of his already monumental achievements in genre oriented graphic lit.

 


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Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties By Mike Davis, Jon Wiener Cover Image
$34.95
Possibly out of print. Email or call to check availability and price.
ISBN: 9781784780227
Published: Verso - April 14th, 2020

Brand new LA history by the great California scholar, Mike Davis. This time the author of City of Quartz works with Jon Wiener to document the almost entirely forgotten radical moments and people that made up the decade of the sixties in LA. With short chapters each devoted to a different aspect, year, or group of people, Set the Night... is a fast and easy read that is reminiscent of Howard Zinn and makes a strong case for a People's history of Los Angeles's horizontal resistance to American Imperialism and all its attendant classism, racism, and misogyny.
 


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Bullet Points and Punch Lines: The Most Important Commentary Ever Written on the Epic American Tragicomedy By Lee Camp, Jimmy Dore (Introduction by), Chris Hedges (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Lee Camp, Jimmy Dore (Introduction by), Chris Hedges (Foreword by)
$17.00
ISBN: 9781629637853
Availability: Not in Stock. Available to Order.
Published: PM Press - March 1st, 2020

Lee Camp is an accomplished comedian in the vein of George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, but who has been ghettoized into some more obscure corners of the politically factionalized internet due to his uncompromising Left radicalism. His internet show, Redacted Tonight, functions as a palette cleansing answer to and parody of the de-clawed liberalism of the Daily Show or Full Frontal (but with a much smaller budget). Camp’s newsworthy comedy is always based on the excellent, but almost completely ignored investigative journalism of sites like the Intercept, the Grayzone, and Empire Files which helps his comedic ‘news coverage’ to be way ahead of the pack; sometimes exposing and highlighting stories that the mainstream press won’t touch for months until they reach critical mass and can no longer be ignored. The fact that PMPress published this collection of essays should be recommendation enough since they have the same devotion to muckraking, Leftist journalism.

 


High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies By Erik Davis Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781907222870
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: The MIT Press - November 5th, 2019

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T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (Autonomedia New Autonomy Series) By Hakim Bey Cover Image
$11.95
ISBN: 9781570271519
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Autonomedia - January 1st, 2003

The title alone should be enough of an intrigue to get your attention. Hakim Bey is probably the most popular American writer that no one has ever heard of (check out how many websites are linked to him). For those in the know, Bey is easily the most cutting edge and controversial political philosopher at the end of this American Century. I would go so far as to say that he has the ability to approach common problems of 20th century politics with the same lateral-thinking genius that Einstein brought to 19th century physics; he sidesteps the implicit and invisible assumptions of most political dialogue, treating social change as a zen koan and anarchism as Western culture's crass attempt at something equivalent to Taoism. I promise that you've never read anything quite like this.

(ed.- i wrote this review before the turn of the century. i still stand behind most of what's said here, but these days, for 'cutting edge', i would refer you to the more recent work of anthropologist, David Graeber.)


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Conspiracy Culture: From the Kennedy Assassination to The X-Files By Peter Knight Cover Image
$48.95
ISBN: 9780415189781
Availability: Not in Stock. Available to Order.
Published: Routledge - November 23rd, 2000

A fascinating exploration of the effect conspiracy theory has had on American culture and discourse. Mr. Knight does an excellent job of clarifying the diverse phenomena and definitions which have become attached to the phrase "conspiracy theory", in the process building an impressive theory of conspiracy as the meta-narrative currently acting in our culture to help us process the overwhelming and contradictory information we are all exposed to daily. Includes some great lit-crit stuff about Delillo and Pynchon and an amazing chapter on popular Feminism as conspiracy theory that forces the reader to reevaluate the merits of conspiracy thinking.


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Story of the Eye By Georges Bataille, Dovid Bergelson (Translator) Cover Image
$9.95
ISBN: 9780872862098
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: City Lights Books - January 1st, 1987

This first work by the famous French philosopher was written when he was only 21 years old at the behest of his Freudian therapist. Although short enough to read in one sitting, this story embodies all the major themes that were to become his life's work: sex, death, violence, critique of Western dualist thought, and the search for enlightenment through extreme self-debasement. Its obsession with the harsh visceral nature of human existence is, paradoxically, intensely spiritual, inexplicably making this probably the most erotically charged novel I have ever read.


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Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back By Amy Goodman Cover Image
$21.99
ISBN: 9781401309145
Availability: Not in Stock. Available to Order.
Published: Hachette Books - September 4th, 2007

Goodman is the Edward R. Murrow, the Walter Cronkite of our generation. Ironically, her own investigative work makes it clear why people like herself have no voice in the mainstream media anymore. This book is a highly recommended antidote to Pravda...I mean Fox News.


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Underworld: A Novel By Don DeLillo Cover Image
$22.00
ISBN: 9780684848150
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - July 9th, 1998

This is easily Delillo's best work, combining the pathos of "Libra" with the cultural criticism of "White Noise"; a meditation on baseball, garbage, J. Edgar Hoover and the Bomb. "Underworld" may very well be the novel that captures the zeitgeist of the end of this American century.


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Use of Weapons (Culture) By Iain M. Banks Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780316030571
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Orbit - July 28th, 2008

Speculative fiction: Post-scarcity/anarchism/cultural imperialism… More well known to readers of ‘straight’ fiction as the author of the ‘Wasp Factory’, Banks is also well known for his interconnected sci-fi novels. Most of these novels are set against the backdrop of a civilization known as ‘The Culture’. Made up of many different species, the Culture travels, nomad like, on giant, sentient ships and represent the very model of a post-scarcity anarchist society. They want for nothing and can basically do whatever they want. Banks creates conflict by structuring these novels from the point of view of a protagonist who is outside of, or resisting the Culture for religious or political reasons. This allows Banks’ work to be not only a meditation on the economic theory of post-scarcity, but also on the inherent conflicts caused by cultural imperialism. All these novels are excellent and Banks is a master of juxtaposing the macro-scaled elements of the story with the real wit and pathos found on the micro-scale of the characters' lives.


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Gilligan's Wake: A Novel By Tom Carson Cover Image
$23.00
ISBN: 9780312311148
Availability: Not in Stock. Available to Order.
Published: Picador - February 1st, 2004

Most of the best that Pop Culture has to offer these days (X-Files, Simpsons, Hip-Hop, Buffy, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, etc.) exhibits a distinct interest in the same ideas, techniques and self-aware anxieties that were part of the high literary challenge of the great masters of the middle of the 20th century (Pynchon, Gaddis, Barth, Coover, etc.). The interesting, maybe ironic, thing now is how that post-modern sensibility has now returned to its original medium in the works of DFW, Eggers, Danielewski and now Carson, but with the distinctly user-friendly attitude we expect from Pop. In fact, Carson's new novel may be the most successful in bringing this heady tradition to the average reader. By examining the American century through the eyes of the characters from a bad 60's TV show, he has created a rich and layered text that is by turns hilarious, poignant and sharply critical without marginalizing itself with overwrought prose. I'm hoping this one will be big with the kids in '03.


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The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, Leviathan By Robert Shea Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9780440539810
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dell - December 1st, 1983

If you're wondering what possible connection there could be between UFOs, John Dillinger, Aleister Crowley, JFK, H.P. Lovecraft, Nazis, atlantis, Albert Einstein, quantum physics, freemasonry, LSD, the CIA, James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, George Washington, marijuana, the Knights Templar, Hassan I Sabbah, Karl Marx, numerology, the I Ching, the Rosicrucians, the Comte de St. Germain, Buckminster Fuller, Timothy Leary, Wilhelm Reich, Emperor Norton, Al Capone, Henry Ford, Stonehenge, and the Lost Continent of Mus... then this is the book for you. The pop culture classic that made 'conspiracy theory' a dirty word.


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A Song Called Youth: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, Eclipse Corona By John Shirley Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781607013303
Published: Prime Books - April 10th, 2012

Anyone who is a fan of the work of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson or Bruce Sterling should already be familiar with Mr. Shirley; if not, take heed. Both Gibson and Sterling have been known to sing his praises in interviews and both cite him as influential to their work. He is included in every cyberpunk anthology that I know of and is considered part of the pantheon. Unfortunately, most of his work has been out of print for years; it being the victim of the rise to power of the marketing dept. in publishing houses. Now that may be changing with the release of two collections of stories and the reissue of the "A Song Called Youth" (or "Eclipse" trilogy). The trilogy is considered one of the lost masterpieces of the cyberpunk genre. I personally spent almost five years tracking down all three volumes in used bookstores and am glad I did. Now's your chance.


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Joker By Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo (Illustrator)
$19.99
Possibly out of print. Email or call to check availability and price.
ISBN: 9781401215811
Published: DC Comics - November 4th, 2008

Easily the best psychological exploration of this most famous of villains since Alan Moore’s ‘The Killing Joke’. The choice of criminal protégé as narrator works brilliantly and the juxtaposition of the passionate, scenery chewing Joker with the omnipresent, but offstage and cold-as-ice Batman throws an almost sympathetic light on the ultimate nihilist. The finest moments are scenes that subtly and smartly suggest that rather than being a true sociopath, Joker actually cares very deeply about his place in the world and especially about the opinion of the Batman. Azzerello’s work here easily ranks alongside the other classic texts of these archetypal American myths and has the potential to be part of the pantheon of great stories that taught us not to be embarrassed about our love of comics.


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Neuromancer (Sprawl Trilogy #1) By William Gibson Cover Image
$19.00
ISBN: 9780441007462
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ace - July 1st, 2000

In 1984 William Gibson changed the face of Science Fiction when he published his first novel, "Neuromancer". Overnight serious SF abandoned its jingoistic-epic tradition and became a contemporary forum for dystopian social commentary. "Neuromancer" single-handedly created the sub-genre of Cyberpunk; a literary trend that dominates SF books and films to this day. Gibson's ability to extrapolate current social trends into the near future, and his concern for the classic existential elements of 20th century literature make him one of the few serious speculative fiction authors of the last twenty years. In that first book, Gibson coined phrases and invented concepts that we now take for granted in pop culture; and his handling of the potential of virtual reality raises disturbing philosophical issues that read very much like the mystical paranoia of Philip K. Dick. His work since "Neuromancer" has consistently dealt with these literary and philosophical themes.


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A People's Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution By Orlando Figes Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780140243642
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - March 1st, 1998

Orlando Figes is a middle of the road British social democrat; a trait that works to his advantage in his extensive new history of the Russian Revolution. It's very difficult to find a work on this subject that is not either a rabid rightwing tract (Richard Pipes), or an apology for the Bolshevik abuses (Edward Hallett Carr). Figes work, though, seems to reflect a more sophisticated post cold-war position that recognizes the legitimacy of the revolution without placing the credit and/or blame solely in the hands of Lenin and his cronies. By placing his sympathies with the faceless peasants and urban poor rather than the few well known urban intellectuals that most histories depend on, Figes position on the subject seems surprisingly close to the almost forgotten critiques of the Revolution offered by the anarchists of the day; Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman both praised what was happening early on as a great spontaneous uprising of the nation, and both condemned the Bolsheviks for what amounted to a Coup by a small group of controlling elitist intellectuals that, in a very short time, crushed the inherently democratizing nature of the uprising. On the other hand, Figes does not make the mistake of most polemicists by ignoring the brutal ignorance of the peasants and working poor; by closely following the life of Gorky, his early work with the peasantry and his later disillusionment with the revolution, Figes shows how the masses were constantly metaphorically shooting themselves in the foot, creating more than enough hysteria and fear to provoke even the mildest of authoritarian tendencies. The one glaring weakness I was able to find in this work was Figes laughable sympathy for the Romanov family. Only a British scholar could lament Russia's lost opportunity for a smooth transition to a British-Monarchist style democracy. Luckily, this stuff is only in the early chapters so it wasn't too difficult to get through. Solid reading for anyone interested in the event that truly set the standard for the 20th century.


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The Fortress of Solitude (Vintage Contemporaries) By Jonathan Lethem Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780375724886
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Published: Vintage - August 24th, 2004

A few years ago I came across an essay in an issue of the Village Voice Literary supplement by a more or less unknown author named Jonathan Lethem who was arguing that the science fiction community had betrayed its own potential when it refused, in 1974, to give the Hugo or Nebula award to a novel nominated that year by the name of 'Gravity's Rainbow'. Of course, this caught my attention and I've been watching Lethem's career ever since. Around the time of the essay in the VVLS, Lethem's work tended to be thought of as ambitious, but not very successful literary sci-fi. In 2000 he garnered a lot of praise and a National Book Critics award for his book Motherless Brooklyn; a formulaic mystery novel with the added wordplay created by a narrator with Tourett's syndrome. This started out very strong, but seemed to become bored with itself by the end. So, for me, Lethem's work always seemed to be on the verge, but never quite successful. Well, so, the point here obviously being that his new work, The Fortress of Solitude, is the novel which has finally placed him in the (very small) company of truly respectable American writers. Fortress is an ambitious work that paints a vivid portrait of urban America in the last half of the 20th century that resonates with the same awareness of time, place, and the unspoken and embarrassing truth about ourselves that I think is compelling in the work of early 20th century writers such as Edith Wharton, Ralph Ellison, and John Dos Passos. Some passages of Fortress are simply beautiful to read, exhibiting a control of the English language that I rarely find in many of the popular contemporary writers (Chabon and Eggers come to mind as failures here). Lethem's sensitive and expert handling of pop-culture history makes it shockingly apparent how little real, successful work has been done that can represent the truly poignant childhood memories of the gen-x for a world filled with Hannah-Barbera cartoons, comic books, and the great rock-funk-soul-punk era of music. The literature of the boomer generation has so saturated our awareness with that particular generation's pop-culture concerns that we tend to not even recognize it as such until a writer like Lethem points out the validity of a younger experience; not in a tongue in cheek way like Douglas Coupland, but with a humble seriousness that pays respect to his own generation. He even goes so far as to incorporate what might be called a "magical realism" element that is a direct and unapologetic homage to a generation raised on comic books. What is most impressive about Fortress, however, is the way Lethem is able to make these different elements revolve effortlessly around the true core of this novel: an unflinching meditation on the effects of race and class in a post civil-rights era world. As seen through the eyes of a young white boy growing up in an overwhelmingly African-American neighborhood in the 70s, the world of Fortress slowly unveils the last quarter of America's 20th century as a schizophrenic battle between the triumph of African-American culture even as it is buried under the yolk of poverty and Crack, and the love/hate relationship that white America has always had with the Other. Dylan, the young white protagonist, loves his black friend Mingus and wants to be accepted by his neighbors even as he fears their attention. And as the characters and the novel grow, the tragic shame of America's prison-industrial complex is mirrored by Dylan's withdrawal from his responsibilities to his friend and his past. With this novel Lethem has joined the small, but growing, ranks of great American gen-x writers such as William Vollman and David Foster Wallace. The Fortress of Solitude may turn out to be one of the representative novels of my generation. Charles.


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Special Topics in Calamity Physics By Marisha Pessl Cover Image
$19.00
ISBN: 9780143112129
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Published: Penguin Books - April 24th, 2007

With a baroque architecture built around the simple premise of a murder mystery, this is an ambitious work by first-time novelist, Pessl. Structured like a syllabus for a postmodern course in literature, the novel is narrated by a vaguely unlikable and precocious highschool student whose voice could be straight out of something by Nabokov. Hoping for great things from this young author.


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From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life By Jacques Barzun Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9780060928834
Availability: Not in Stock. Available to Order.
Published: Harper Perennial - May 15th, 2001

Barzun’s writing reminds me of an old library filled with antique furniture, a fireplace and soft lighting; it’s comfortable, erudite and friendly. Born in 1907, Barzun has written thirty books and has been working in his field since the 1920’s. Written with an ease that discourages any questioning of his authority, "From Dawn to Decadence" is an excellent introduction to all things Western. Although there were sections of opinion that I would tend to disagree with, he writes with such reasonable calm and empathy for his subjects that I found it impossible to become frustrated with him. In fact, the difference in his age and point of view became an unintentional bonus for me; giving me a glimpse into a brilliant mind that was developed during the height of Modernism in the early twentieth century and tempered through the dawn of a new millennium.


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House of Leaves: The Remastered Full-Color Edition By Mark Z. Danielewski Cover Image
$29.00
ISBN: 9780375703768
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon - March 7th, 2000

This author's first novel seems to aspire to the kind of artistic tightrope act that I've come to love; work that strikes a balance between the heights of the avant garde and the depths of pop culture not unlike Sonic Youth's music or Stanley Kubrick's filmmaking. Danielewski has tried to place the meaning and purpose of this novel, at least partly, in the typography and page layout itself; an ambitious piece of literary deconstruction. On the other hand, the core of the story is surprisingly simple; the kind of gothic horror tale you would find in any H.P. Lovecraft collection. This is well worth the reader's effort and if nothing else, the book itself is beautiful to look at.


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Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology By David Graeber Cover Image
$12.95
ISBN: 9780972819640
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Published: Prickly Paradigm Press - April 1st, 2004

For years i waited for a book to come along with the same exciting qualities as Hakim Bey's "T.A.Z"; terse, philosophically challenging, a synthesis of brilliant ideas, a manifesto for a new generation's resistance. Graeber's book actually met those requirements and confirmed my suspicions about the potential for radical analysis within the Anthropological discipline. Years later, Graeber would become famous for his book Debt and his involvement with Occupy Wall Street, but before all that this tiny book was a refreshing and accessible look at our culture's general inability to think outside the box and a clear explanation of some commonsense ideas that simply needed to be put into words. Within he discusses how subtle, anti-authoritarian systems and cultures are already existing in the world now, but are invisible to the average person who lives trapped by cliches like, "anarchist organization? Isn't that an oxymoron?" Ha Ha. This book is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the utopian project of envisioning the possibilities for a better world, or anyone who would like a template for understanding how 5,000 years of patriarchal, authoritarian history is actually just a pinprick on the human timeline that obscures better options for society that have existed before and still do now.


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The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher By Andrzej Sapkowski, Danusia Stok (Translated by) Cover Image
By Andrzej Sapkowski, Danusia Stok (Translated by)
$8.99
Possibly out of print. Email or call to check availability and price.
ISBN: 9780316029186
Published: Orbit - May 1st, 2008

Sapkowski, a beloved author in his native land, has been referred to as the Tolkien of Poland. His series of books following the adventures of Geralt the Witcher were the inspiration for the video games of the same name. Sapkowski's hero and his tales are such a cultural badge of honor for Poland that President Obama was gifted a copy of one of the games when he visited Poland in 2011. as a devotee of the games i decided to check out the source material and was very pleased to find Sapkowski's work to be a sincere, highly entertaining deconstruction of world folk and fairy tale tropes. Geralt the Witcher exists in a cynical and brutal alternate version of middle ages Europe that is filled with deadly wonders, pathos, and humor. the first volume of stories, The Last Wish, not only establishes the character and his world, but is a dark and hilarious send-up of such famous stories as Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. having begun this series in the 80's, Sapkowski's work actually precedes the creation of the now popular genre of 'grimdark' that is generally credited to George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, and would easily be part of that canon if it had first appeared in English. however, the Witcher stories' engagement with this kind of bloody cynicism feels far less self conscious to me than the work of his more famous peers. for me, what makes Sapkowski's work so successful, and sometimes heartbreaking, is that rather than purposefully trying to deconstruct the Tolkien tradition, his world building seems to flow very organically from his own Central European point of view; a way of storytelling that inherently filters any sparkly, Disneyfied fairy tale through the lens of real centuries of invasion, occupation, pogroms, and devastation. Both the books and the games are dear to me and highly recommended.

 


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Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs #1) By Richard K. Morgan Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780345457684
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Del Rey - March 4th, 2003

An excellent cyberpunk novel in the tradition of William Gibson, but with the bloody cynicism of George RR Martin. As well, Morgan’s work bears comparison with the great writers of the  Marxist-Scottish scifi tradition like Ken Macleod and Iain Banks.  At heart, Altered Carbon is based on the template of a Raymond Chandler noir, but a couple of simple scifi conceits and a hyper awareness of class struggle make this novel greater than the sum of it’s parts.


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Antkind: A Novel By Charlie Kaufman Cover Image
$30.00
Possibly out of print. Email or call to check availability and price.
ISBN: 9780399589683
Published: Random House - July 7th, 2020

The first novel by the brilliant screenwriter of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
In true Kaufman fashion, this novel is extremely 'meta' and breaks the 5th and 6th walls
as well as the fourth and is painfully engaged with the inner turmoil and existential angst of
its very unlikeable narrator. hilarious and rich stuff for fans of this very odd writer.