Volume Two of the Lit Geek Gift Guide focuses on the New Weird Guy. He doesn’t look like this. No cape (um, probably), and no pilgrim-ish hat. But he thinks like this.
I know. Some of you say that guys have always been weird and there’s nothing new about it. Some of you say that I have always been weird. This, at least, is true. Especially considering that all the books I’m listing in these guides, for different kinds of people? All these books are books I myself love. Because apparently, I contain multitudes.
This guy. He’s probably got crazy hair of some kind, whether head or beard, though in the absence of hair, he’s got some sort of piercing. Ear. Nose. Etcetera. He probably wears a great deal of black, and possibly glasses, because since sometime in the early 80’s, he’s had his face in a book and can’t be bothered to turn on lights. He listens to music you’ve never heard, and whether it is brainy storytelling one-man-band music (Ahem: I remind you in gifting terms of the tunes of Sxip Shirey, whose music fits perfectly into this category) or witchhouse, it tends to be the sort of thing that you’re always wishing someone would give you on a mix tape. Is he cooler than you? Yeah, but he doesn’t care. Does he have tattoos like the aforementioned New Weird Girl? Also yes. Also, they might be of Cthulhu.
This guy? On a bookwheel? Again. Maybe your giftee doesn’t look like this, but this is how he thinks. (PS: I so want that book wheel.)
This is what he wants. Yes, it’s an assortment. Not all of it would fall into the “new weird” lit category, and I simply don’t care. It is meant to appeal to people who like things a little odd and a lot glorious. (And again: this list also would suit a woman with similar tastes. Obviously.)
This book is so gorgeously written it hurts me to look at it. Every sentence is stunning. And then there’s the story itself, which kills, a love story, involving abject longing, fairyland, and a house and family that keep getting stranger. All of Crowley’s books are magnificent, actually, but this one is the first I read, and it’s masterpiece stuff.
Unless he’s crazy well read – and by crazy well read, I mean dude is a scholar – he probably hasn’t read this. It’s hard as hell to get your hands on in any kind of reasonable English translation, and you have to get it used. It is generally agreed, however, that Kepler’s Dream is the first sci-fi novel. It was written in the early 1600’s. Journey to the moon, carried in the arms of a demon. Witches. And, oh yeah, the whole thing was written as an astronomical allegory by Kepler, who was so smart and so well read that no one understood it was allegorical. (His mother was arrested for witchcraft, because people assumed that the witch in the story was based on her.) Kepler, frustrated, then footnoted the fuckall out of it. There are whole pages that are entirely footnotes on obscure details of astronomy, explaining what the novel meant. Need I say that this book is SO FUCKING AMAZING AND WEIRD? This is the edition I have. There are a couple others. The introduction in this one is very good, though.
My friend Jay Kirk wrote this book – an outlier in this grouping, because it’s nonfiction – and it is no-holds-barred fantastic. He spins a novel-worthy narrative, the story of Carl Akeley, the taxidermist who shot and stuffed not only a large section of the Museum of Natural History’s African Wing, but also Jumbo the Elephant (a totally heartrending story, by the way). Jay’s a terrific writer, and the book is spellbinding – and utterly peculiar too. We’re talking teenage taxidermist brides and wrestling with leopards.
Alright, alright, if he has any credibility as said New Weird lit geek, he’s already read this. But if he hasn’t, he damn well should. It’s fantastic, and it’s all about the power of language and words. So, it’s prime reader reading. It’s also science fiction, though to my mind, which doesn’t give a shit about which genre things live in, there’s nothing inaccessibly other about it. That’s a strange thing to say, given that this book is full of aliens and interplanetary travel, but what can I tell you? China Miéville has written a story about the struggle we all constantly engage in: trying to be sure that our loved ones, our enemies, the people we encounter in our lives, are actually understanding what we’re saying to them. Right now, as has been true throughout human history, the subtleties of meaning are a big issue. We’re all speaking to one another from our various corners of the universe(s), and there are constant errors in translation. Cultural misunderstandings. Metaphor and expression misunderstandings. Embassytown is amazing in this regard, making the lack of understanding not only literal, but physical, with language in this book acting as a complex addictive drug. I can’t recommend this enough. Even if someone (irritatingly) claims they don’t read science fiction, this should speak to anyone with a brain. It’s a good, good book.
Black Sheep and Prodigal Sons makes some killer men’s jewelry (being a girl who steals men’s clothing, I am here to tell you that their jewelry would also look good on women, and that most women I know would be down to receive a piece of same) involving scrimshaw on mammoth bones, old piano keys, thorns and splinters, whales…um, yeah. It is kind of the coolest shit ever. I like this necklace, a one-legged skeleton on fossilized tusk. It isn’t cheap, but it’s made of 30,000 year old tusk, yo.
And they make smaller and less expensive bits of cool too, such as this little horned owl pin. The picture shows the gold one (spendy) but there is also a great oxidized silver version for much less.