Book Reviews | February 2024 | Alex Johnson

Literary Fist-Fighting, Rare Book Economics, and Carson McCullers: February Books Roundup

Bodleian Libraries

Write Cut Rewrite: The Cutting Room Floor of Modern Literature

Our regular look at new books that have recently caught the eye of our print and online editors this month.

The Economics of the Manuscript and Rare Book Trade, ca. 1890–1939, edited by Federico Botana and Laura Cleaver

A look at the operation of the rare book trade, including how books were priced, profit margins, accounting practices, and books as investments, from the perspectives of both dealers and collectors. Chapters on Valuing Rare Books in 1920s Germany: Prices in Jacques Rosenthal’s Bibliotheca medii aevi manuscripta, Leo S. Olschki’s Card Index and Potential Profits, Stock-books and Ledgers: J. & J. Leighton and Édouard Rahir and Company ca. 1897–1904 and E. P. Goldschmid and Company ca. 1925–1933, Léopold Delisle, Henri Omont and the Price of National Collecting: The Medieval Manuscript Acquisitions of the Bibliothèque nationale ca. 1900–1910, and "Herschel V. Jones: Public Collections and Private Investments". From the Arc Humanities Press

The Fine Art of Literary Fist-Fighting: How a Bunch of Rabble-Rousers, Outsiders, and Ne’er-do-wells Concocted Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind. 

An account of the emergence of creative nonfiction from Yale University Press, for both readers and writers, looking at the life and works of the likes of Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Rachel Carson, Upton Sinclair, Janet Malcolm, and Vivian Gornick. 

Write Cut Rewrite: The Cutting Room Floor of Modern Literature by Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon 

Accompanying the Bodleian Libraries exhibition opening later this month in Oxford, this well illustrated book uses the library's archives to document what would Frankenstein have looked like if Mary and Percy Shelley had not collaborated on the draft, whether we would view The Wind in the Willows differently if its title had remained The Mole & the Water Rat, and look into the drafting techniques of writers including Jane Austen, Christina Rossetti, Raymond Chandler, Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, John le Carré, Alan Bennett, Barbara Pym, Philip Pullman and Alice Oswald.

A Bookshop of One’s Own: How a group of women set out to change the world by Jane Cholmeley

An insider's account of the establishment of the Silver Moon feminist bookshop in Thatcher’s 1980s Britain, founded against a backdrop of homophobia and misogyny, and becoming Europe’s biggest women’s bookshop. From HarperCollins's Mudlark imprint.

The Oxford Handbook of Robert Burns, edited by Gerard Carruthers, and The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Race, edited by Patricia Akhimie

The two latest entries in the Oxford University Press's Oxford Handbooks series. The first is a comprehensive study of Scotland's national poet, his career, and his posthumous fame, including a look at Burns in the context 
of debates about Abolition in the US. The second has a wide remit, looking at critical race studies, trans studies, book history, animal, repertory, disability, and performance studies. It analyses Shakespeare plays and poems not often associated with race and draws on interviews with leading artists, actors, and directors including Fred Wilson, Adjoa Andoh, Carl Colfield, Raúl Esparza, Iqbal Khan, and John Leguizamo.

The Pursuit of Happiness: How Classical Writers on Virtue Inspired the Lives of the Founders and Defined America by Jeffrey Rosen

An examination of what “the pursuit of happiness” meant to the nation’s Founders, concentrating on Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, and the effect reading the classical Greek and Roman moral philosophers had on their actions. Published by Simon & Schuster 

Bibliotheca Fictiva: A Collection of Books &. Manuscripts Relating to Literary Forgery, 400 BC–AD 2000 

This is a full revision from Bernard Quaritch of its 2014 title which described and catalogued 1676 entries with an accompanying overview of the material covered, from pre-Classical to the present day.

How Russian Literature Became Great by Rolf Helleburst

Helleburst explores the cultural and political aspects of the country's modern national literature, and its effect beyond its borders, from German Romanticism and French Enlightenment to Czech Structuralism. From Cornell University Press.

On Books by Susan Allix: the creative work of book artist Susan Allix, featuring a catalogue raisonné by Simon Shorvon.

From The Old School Press, a profile of the work of Susan Allix has been making artists' books for five decades and has produced 77 titles. It includes 60 coloured and black-and-white illustrations of her work.  
Double Click: Twin Photographers in the Golden Age of Magazines by Carol Kino

A dual biography of the McLaughlins, identical twin sisters who became photographers in New York during the the 1930s and 40s but have since been pretty much forgotten. From Scribner.

Carson McCullers: A Life by Mary V Dearborn

The first major biography in more than 20 years, and making use of newly available letters and journals. Published by Knopf