John Peck

"I love unreliable narrators, cross-genre experiments, and all things speculative. I'm particularly interested in books on typography and the history of printing."


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Type Image Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781584234425
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Gingko Press - June 7th, 2011

*** August 2011 Newsletter Pick ***

While creating art out of typographic characters is nothing new -- Sufi scribes sidestepped a ban on pictures by creating images out of scripture, and concrete poetry helped usher in early 20th century Modernism -- its popularity has increased exponentially in the past few decades. Word processing programs have made amateur typographers of us all; every computer-literate person can talk fonts to some degree, and nearly everyone has a favorite font (or, at the very least, a serif-versus-sans preference). Type Image is a gorgeous survey, presenting historical examples of typographic art alongside ultra-modern takes on the form, with a range from the comic to the profoundly moving. The book approaches the subject with enough gravity to make it a worthy addition to any study of typography, but is attractive enough to make it a stand-alone collection of art, placing the reader in the beautiful gray area between text and art.

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The Abyss of Human Illusion Cover Image
ISBN: 9781566892339
Availability: Special Order - Please call to confirm availability
Published: Coffee House Press - February 1st, 2010

***May 2010 Newsletter Pick***

Novelist, essayist, and poet Gilbert Sorrentino, who died in 2006, was one of the great under-appreciated American writers of the last century. His work has a consistently pitch-black humor that is particularly Irish in pedigree, placing him in the tradition of writers like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Flann O'Brien. Many of his books, including this one, combine meticulously experimental prose structures with vivid, all-too-real narratives of the mundanities and small horrors of working-class American life. Sorrentino achieved most of his notoriety from novels he wrote in the 70s (among them Mulligan Stew and Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things), but his later books - such as Gold Fools, a novel written entirely in questions - are my personal favorites, and are, if anything, even more dark and uncompromising than his earlier work.

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Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities. Cover Image
ISBN: 9780810984233
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harry N. Abrams - March 1st, 2010

This amazing book, previously only available in extremely limited hand-assembled versions, is finally out in a beautiful hardcover edition. While the original "Choose Your Own Adventure" books from decades past provide some context for Shiga's masterwork, this book goes leaps and bounds past those source texts, in both subject matter and format. Multicolored tubes travel three-dimensionally through the book, via tabs at the outer edges of each page. The result is beautiful, brilliant, confounding, and utterly unique - and, despite its generally whimsical artwork, probably not suitable for children.

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2666: A Novel Cover Image
By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780312429218
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - September 1st, 2009

It's not just this book's 900 page heft that makes it a modern epic - it's Bolano's use of multiple perspectives, each of which contains a fully realized narrative arc, and which together fill out a dense, tragic, and incredibly captivating story. Dense and challenging, but very worthwhile.

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The Braindead Megaphone Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594482564
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - September 4th, 2007

Collections of essays need not be the reading equivalent of broccoli. In his essays, as in his fiction, George Saunders seems incapable of writing an uninteresting sentence. Highly recommended.

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Black Hole (Pantheon Graphic Library) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375714726
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon - January 8th, 2008

Charles Burns has always had an obsession with biological anomaly, but this book is his masterpiece. It's not for the squeamish (the films of David Cronenberg are a good comparison), but it's an amazing read, with moments of real beauty.

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Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America, The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, and In Watermelon Sugar Cover Image
ISBN: 9780395500767
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - March 1st, 1989

Although Brautigan is inextricably linked to the counterculture of the 1960's, I've always found his books to be surprisingly modern in tone and language. While TFIA is brisk and often funny, its absurdist approach, like all great absurdist art, hints at the sadness beneath the surface. A great novel of the American West.