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Out of Sheer Rage
by Geoff Dyer

This is a one of a kind book that, if it must be categorized, might be considered as being related to the hyper-self-aware literary genre now often associated with the McSweeney’s crowd, but written a bit earlier, and possessing a distinct British flavour.  Originally published in England in 1997, it is, first and foremost, a book about writing a book, about D.H. Lawrence, that is also a literary biography, of D.H. Lawrence, as well as a book of literary criticism, focused on the writings of D.H. Lawrence, which includes a criticism of D.H. Lawrence’s  literary criticism.  Parts of it serve as a travelogue, in the tradition of D.H. Lawrence’s travel writings, and also -- but I think you get the idea:  it's a book that can't seem to get around to doing what it's supposed to be doing yet is constantly at work rationalizing that this inability is actually a blessing in disguise.  In other words, it's an ode to procrastination.  Amazingly, it’s also a real page turner, the kind of book that's hard to put down.  AND:  it's funny.   It also sports one of the cleverest book jackets of all time.  Need we say more?

Hardcover
retail price - $24.95
copacetic price - $10.00
 

Next up:  two classics by the greatest living American prose stylist.

In the Penny Arcade
by Steven Millhauser

This collection of works from the early 1980s by Millhauser starts off with August Eschenburg, a prototypical tale which serves as the template for several later Millhauser works, most notably Martin Dressler (see below).  The middle section is composed of three stylistically linked forays into the classic short story mode, each of which stages an elaborate wedding of location with season to produce an exquisite evocation of an exact yet unnameable emotion, and each of which manages to pull it off.  The stories that will really having you reaching for the champagne to celebrate their success, however, are the three that close out the volume, and most especially the titular tale, In the Penny Arcade.  This story reacheds the summit where so many others have fallen short in capturing that oh-so-elusive scene in which childhood ends.  It distills this instant in an essence that is as momentous as it is bittersweet.  This story is bracketed by a pair of equally successful distillations, first of childhood, and the other of tradition.  This book is a treasure.

import softcover
copacetic price - $3.95
 

Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer
by Steven Millhauser

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel represents the apotheosis of Millhauser’s obsession with obsessives.  In the character of Martin Dressler, Millhauser has found a character that fulfills both his personal needs as a writer and the novel’s needs for justification.  Dressler serves as a synecdoche for both the American Way and the American Dream, or, perhaps, more properly, how these two overlap and even, at times -- such as during the 1990s, when this novel appeared, merge into an organic whole in which each are indistinguishable from one another.  Millhauser’s inimitable style carries the reader through the life-cycle of Dressler’s dream of life that seems so real that at times its hard to believe that it’s only a dream; but then, the best of dreams are always like that, aren’t they?

Import softcover
copacetic price - $4.95
 
 

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