CCLaP Rare: Eat Pray Love (2006), by Elizabeth Gilbert (1st Edition, 1st Printing)

Eat Pray Love
By Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
First Edition, First Printing

DESCRIPTION: So why should a serious book collector pay any attention to a volume that’s less than ten years old, by an author who has otherwise not proven that she has any lasting power within the literary industry? Because Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love may in fact turn out to be the absolute perfect book to chronicle for future historians exactly what it was like to be a middle-class white suburban American female in the years following 9/11, a period that is bound to become a point of obsession for those in the future studying the US’s rise and fall as a global superpower. A reluctant suburbanite who had just gone through a bitter divorce, the mid-thirties Gilbert found herself in the early 2000s mentally adrift, a confessed “self-help junkie” who was trying every gimmicky piece of advice that landed her way, being force-fed a diet of anti-depressive medication against her wishes but too afraid of the alternative to stop them. Within such a moment of mid-life crisis, then, she made the radical decision to sell all her things, get rid of her New York apartment, and spend a year doing nothing but traveling to what she called the “three I’s” — Italy (to indulge a random desire to learn the language), India (to delve more seriously into her recent conversion to Hinduism), and Indonesia (specifically to Bali, to spend four months as the personal assistant to a “village elder” she previously met during her job as a globe-trotting magazine journalist).

The results of this year-long trek are charming and infectious, and it’s no surprise that the book remained on the NYT bestseller list for a whopping 187 weeks straight, later made into a high-profile movie produced by Brad Pitt and starring Julia Roberts. And that’s because Gilbert cuts through the usual “chick-lit” filler here, having the courage to take a cruelly hard look at her mistakes and her weaknesses, and showing how spending a year letting go of every expectation she had had about life was ironically the best thing she could’ve ever done for that life. It’s a call for simplicity, spirituality and anti-materialism that resonated profoundly with tens of millions of women in the same position as her, which says a lot about the point of runaway consumerism and moral bankruptcy the US had reached by the beginning of the 21st century; and it doesn’t hurt that the book is also laugh-out-loud funny at points, moving sometimes to the point of tears, and just so happens to hit all the usual beats of a typical romantic comedy but this time in real life. A perfect gift for a fan of the book who wants to have a closer relationship with the original text, this first printing in flawless condition is being offered at a price specifically for young beginning collectors, those looking to add important titles to their library now when no one else is thinking of them, to ripen and age like a fine wine into the valuable commodities they’ll one day be.

CONDITION: Text and dust jacket: Like New. No noticeable difference between this copy and a brand-new one being sold at a bookstore. As confirmed by the McBride Guide to First Editions, the inclusion on the copyright page of the text “First published in 2006,” plus the inclusion of the number “1” in its printing history, marks this as a true first edition, first printing.

PROVENANCE: Acquired by CCLaP at Delphine Street Books, New Orleans, May 2017.

Buy now at eBay
Buy now at eBay

MINIMUM BID: US$40 / BUY THIS MOMENT FOR $40
(If coming across this in the future, see CCLaP’s main page at eBay for the relisted auction URL)

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd
Book Review: Based On A True Story, by Delphine de Vigan
Based On A True Story, by Delphine de Vigan
Based On A True Story
By Delphine de Vigan
Bloomsbury
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

In a way it’s easy to describe to American audiences the plot of celebrated French author Delphine de Vigan’s new book, Based On A True Story; it’s essentially an intellectual version of the old B-pic thriller Single White Female, in which a public artist meets and gets along with one of her fans, the fan turns obsessive, and the fan eventually attempts to take over the artist’s life, moving into her house and gaining access to her email and eventually even showing up to public events dressed and acting like her. But this gets a lot more complicated and metafictional when it comes to de Vigan’s book; for the artist being stalked is her herself, the whole thing written as a true memoir even though it clearly is not, the project inspired by the fact that the last novel de Vigan published, 2011’s Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit (Nothing Holds Back the Night), was a semi-autobiographical novel about coping with her real-life mother’s bipolar disorder, which made her a mainstream celebrity in France but also garnered her passionate hatred among certain circles for “exploiting” the real-life mental illness of another person for her own personal gain.

#DelphineDeVigan's #BasedOnATrueStory is essentially an intellectual version of #SingleWhiteFemale Click To Tweet

What True Story is, then, is a meditation on where exactly the slippery line lays between real-life events and made-up details when it comes to the act of a novelist writing a fictional novel, the same subject famously explored in John Irving’s The World According to Garp; but instead of doing this the usual dry academic way of writers her type, here she presents it as a supermarket pulp, clearly taking a cue off Paul Auster by weaving herself into this story of fandom gone wrong, even while cleverly presenting the details in a way so that it might turn out that the mysterious “L.” is in fact a figment of de Vigan’s stressed, overly exhausted, nearly burnt-out imagination. (None of de Vigan’s friends ever meet L; she always rents pre-furnished apartments so to leave no trace of herself after leaving; the fake emails she sends out to de Vigan’s friends are always in de Vigan’s name; the details she tells de Vigan about her personal life turn out to have all been culled from the books in de Vigan’s library, etc.)

It’s a very clever and thought-provoking book, not just an astute examination of the creative process but also a commentary on the times we currently live in, when reality TV and edgy documentaries are all the rage, and more and more of those reality-fans are complaining about “why should they care” about a “bunch of stuff that never happened” when it comes to contemporary fiction. De Vigan clearly has some complicated issues regarding the public reaction to her last book, and also clearly struggled with the question of what to write next, of how one could ever return to fiction after having suffered such a maelstrom of public reaction from a book based mostly on real-life events. This is one of the smartest and most entertaining ways she could’ve addressed these issues, and should satisfy even her harshest critics that she can still write compelling and dramatic stories even when not relying on the crutch of real life, even while proving that there’s still a vital and necessary place in our society for stories about a “bunch of stuff that never happened,” that fiction at its best is as moving and teaches as much about the world as any snotty serialized documentary. It comes strongly recommended today for these reasons, and will likely also be making CCLaP’s “best of the year” list come this December.

Out of 10: 9.6

Read even more about Based On A True Story: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Wikipedia

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd
Book Review: Tacky Goblin, by T. Sean Steele
Tacky Goblin, by T. Sean Steele
Tacky Goblin
By T. Sean Steele
Curbside Splendor
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

It says a lot that in just the few weeks between finishing T. Sean Steele’s Tacky Goblin and sitting down to write this review, I had already forgotten nearly everything about it, and had to dig the book back out to remind myself even what it was about; as I’ve said here before many times, that unfortunately is just the nature of the bizarro genre in which Steele is writing here, which for those who don’t know is essentially the act of taking a cartoon and writing it out in literary form. That certainly lets bizarro tales be “original, hilarious and inventive,” as author Joe Meno raves about this book in the dust jacket’s blurbs; but that also completely obliterates any sense of stakes a bizarro tale might have, with no one ever in danger or peril because you never know when a spaceship full of talking dogs might show up to save everyone, making it nearly impossible to give a damn about any of the characters, what happens to them, or what the ultimate resolution of the story may or may not turn out to be. Even with this attitude, though, for some reason I get sent bizarro novels literally on a weekly basis, so I suppose here I’ll sum up the way I always sum up with such books — not too bad, not too good, definitely clever, but a story you’ll forget literally a day after you finish it. Buyer beware.

Out of 10: 7.5

#TSeanSteele's #TackyGoblin is a story you'll forget literally a day after you finish it Click To Tweet

Read even more about Tacky Goblin: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd
Book Review: Unreliable, by Lee Irby
Unreliable, by Lee Irby
Unreliable
By Lee Irby
Doubleday
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

The central premise at the heart of Lee Irby’s Unreliable is a fascinating one, and led me to believe that this would be one of the few crime thrillers I would actually like, a genre I usually find intolerably formulaic; namely, a failed mystery author and current college professor announces to us on page one that he recently killed his ex-wife, but then immediately follows that up with the confession that he might actually be kidding, promising a metafictional meditation on the act of genre writing and the nature of unreliable narrators, a taut psychological thriller in which we never know whether this guy is messing with us or not until the very end. Unfortunately, though, Irby pulls a pretty big switcheroo as the book continues; for the more we read, the more we realize that this “did he or didn’t he kill her” shtick is simply a cheap gimmick designed to draw readers in, but that the story itself is nothing more than a character-based literary dramedy about a deeply flawed middle-aged son visiting his family and old hometown, and all the wacky foibles that happen within such a milieu, having nothing to do with murder whatsoever.

Once you get past the premise, #LeeIrby's #Unreliable reads much like a witty #MichaelChabon tale Click To Tweet

That unto itself is not necessarily a terrible thing — once you get past the premise, the rest reads much like a smart and witty Richard Russo or Michael Chabon tale, benefiting from its deep look at the town of Richmond, Virginia right at a point when it is internally debating the future of the Dixiecrat-era Confederate statues still dotting the city — but when you were expecting a serious and dramatic crime thriller that doubles as a Postmodernist statement on the act of writing crime thrillers, as its dust jacket unambiguously promises (“Irby plays with the thriller trope in unimaginably clever ways”), the bait-and-switch on display here can’t help but to be a big disappointment, not the fault of the author but a problem clearly resting on the shoulders of the Doubleday marketing staff. Now that you know the situation, you’ll be able to approach this book with the right mindset and enjoy it a lot more than I did; but do yourself a favor and shed any assumptions you might have about this being an actual crime novel.

Out of 10: 6.0, but 8.0 if you ignore the dust jacket

Read even more about Unreliable: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Wikipedia

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd
Welcome to the new and improved CCLaP website!

New and improved CCLaP website

After five months of development, I’m excited to announce that the new version of the CCLaP website is finally up and running online, the version you’re seeing here if you’re visiting the site itself, or one you can see at cclapcenter.com if you’re reading this via our RSS feed. As you can see, the entire look and feel of the site has changed since the last version, first created ten years ago, including a new responsive layout that will finally let the site look great on mobile devices; but the much more important development is that we’ve completely swapped out the back-end software that makes the website work and have started over from scratch, from the outdated MovableType to the current hot WordPress. This is going to give the site a crazy amount of new functionalities, some of which are available now and some that will be slowly rolled out over the rest of this year…

  • Book reviews now come with a lot more metadata information attached, including descriptive tags to make it easier to find books with similar themes, genres, character types and settings;
  • The archives page has been overhauled, including a new “tag cloud” that gives you a snapshot look at the subjects we’re finding most interesting these days;
  • We now offer not only our usual RSS feed for subscribing to the latest posts, but also a trendy new JSON feed for those making the switch to a more modern feed reader;
  • For the first time in years, we are once again giving all of you an opportunity to comment on book reviews and offer up your own opinion (run this time through the third-party commenting service Disqus, which means you’ll need to create an account with them before you can comment; but the good news is that this now also gives you an opportunity to “upvote” and “downvote” other people’s comments, ensuring that only the most interesting and intelligent ones appear at the top of the page);
  • Coming later this summer, we’ll be releasing a “single page application” (think Twitter) that will let you hunt and browse your way through our thousand old book reviews in a much more powerful way than ever before, including the ability to sort those reviews by whatever multiple criteria you wish;
  • And coming this September, we’re unveiling a brand-new online store for all our merchandise, a one-stop destination that finally brings together our original books, our t-shirts and other physical merchandise, the blank notebooks we sell through Etsy, and the rare books we sell through eBay, including such new features as a shopping-cart system, automatic delivery of digital content, coupons, one-day sales, and permanent discounts via an annual membership (but more on that this autumn).

This is all being planned to coincide with the long-awaited return this autumn of our original publications and live events; but for now, I hope you’ll have a chance to stop by all this summer for daily book reviews and featured “photos of the day.” We’re also re-activating our weekly email newsletter; sent every Friday morning, it recaps all the content we’ve published at the blog that week, and lets you know the latest about our publications, merchandise and live events, including store coupons starting this fall that will be exclusive to the newsletter and not found anywhere else. It’s the easiest way to stay informed of the busy re-activation schedule we have this year, so I encourage you to join it by signing up below. (Your email address is never sold or shared, and we absolutely guarantee no more than one email a week.)

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd
Photo of the day: “Reclam,” by Georg

Reclam
Today’s photo of the day is entitled “Reclam,” and is by German photographer Georg (Flickr). To nominate a photo of the day yourself, drop us a line at cclapcenter@gmail.com; or see our Flickr favorites page and Instagram account for all the online images we’ve recently liked.

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd
Photo of the day: “Mystic forest,” by Mher Karapetyan

Mystic forest
Today’s photo of the day is entitled “Mystic forest,” and is by Armenian photographer Mher Karapetyan (Flickr | Facebook). To nominate a photo of the day yourself, drop us a line at cclapcenter@gmail.com; or see our Flickr favorites page and Instagram account for all the online images we’ve recently liked.

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd
Tales From the Completist: The “Parker” novels, by “Richard Stark” (Donald E. Westlake)
The Hunter, by Richard Stark
The Hunter
By “Richard Stark” (Donald E. Westlake)
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

The best compliment I can give the “Parker” novels by Donald E. Westlake is to admit that they’ve completely hijacked my usual schedule of reading and reviewing contemporary novels for the CCLaP website; originally planned to be a fun airplane diversion when I flew from Chicago to New Orleans and back about three weeks ago, I ended up reading the first book in the series, 1962’s The Hunter, from start to finish in just half a day, and have since been greedily devouring the rest at a rate of a book or two every week, blowing off all my other reading commitments no matter how much I realize I shouldn’t. (Sorry, all you authors who are patiently waiting for your book to be reviewed at CCLaP.)

That’s high praise indeed from someone who usually doesn’t like crime novels that much, with the key being that the main character is just so utterly fascinating, who like Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark is less a real human being and more an example of the “theoretically perfect” version of the philosophy the author is trying to espouse (Stoicism here in the case of Westlake, versus Objectivism in the case of Rand). A professional thief who only pulls off one heist a year (netting him in today’s terms somewhere between a quarter-million and a half-million dollars each time), so that he can spend the other 51 weeks lounging poolside at resort hotels and having rough sex with trust-fund blue-bloods with a taste for danger, Parker doesn’t give even the tiniest little fuck about anything or anyone that falls outside of this monomaniacal routine, never negotiates nor compromises when it comes to his take or who he’ll work with, doesn’t have even the slightest hesitation about torturing or killing people who get in his way (yet avoids doing it anyway, simply because physical abuse is the “lazy” way to get what one wants, and being lazy is the first step towards getting caught), and possesses a psychotic distaste for such banal activities like “talking” and “having friends” or “acknowledging the inherent worth of the human race.” (A true misanthrope, these pre-PC novels are not for the linguistically faint at heart, filled on every page with dismissive contempt for women, homosexuals, and people of color; although in Parker’s “defense,” such as it is, he also displays such contempt for most of the straight white males he meets too.)

The Man With the Getaway Face, by Richard Stark
The Man With the Getaway Face
By “Richard Stark” (Donald E. Westlake)
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

There are 24 novels in the Parker series (which Westlake published under the pen-name “Richard Stark”), most from the ’60s and early ’70s, the series then activated again in the late ’90s and up until Westlake’s death in 2008; but the first three form a trilogy of sorts, in that they all concern one overarching storyline that spans from one book to the next, and so make a tidy reading experience for those who are curious about the series but don’t want to make a 24-book commitment. (Most of the others are franchise-style standalone stories that each follow a similar blueprint — Parker decides on his heist for that year, Parker obsessively plans out his heist for that year, then everything goes to hell when Parker actually tries pulling off his heist for that year.) The first, The Hunter, will seem familiar to many because it’s been made into a movie so many times (including 1967’s Point Blank with Lee Marvin, 1999’s Payback with Mel Gibson, and 2013’s Parker with Jason Statham); in it, we pick up a year after a heist that went bad because of a duplicitous partner, who needed both his share and Parker’s in order to pay back the Mafia for an old job gone bad, the novel itself consisting of Parker basically crisscrossing the country and getting his revenge on every person who had been involved, eventually provoking the ire of the Mafia when he insists that they pay him back the money that had been stolen from him, even though they had nothing to do with the actual theft. The second book, then, 1963’s The Man With the Getaway Face, sees Parker get plastic surgery in order to stay out of the glare of the Mafia’s nationwide murder contract they now have out on him, just to have his new face divulged to the Mafia at the very end; so then in the third novel, The Outfit from later that same year, Parker decides to get the Mafia off his tail once and for all, enlisting his buddies-in-crime to pull off Mafia-victim heists across the country to the modern tune of ten million dollars in a single month, while he tracks down and kills the head of the entire organization by breaking into a mansion that’s been weaponized like a fortress, after affecting a promise from the number-two in charge that he’ll end the persecution if Parker does him this “favor.”

The Outfit, by Richard Stark
The Outfit
By “Richard Stark” (Donald E. Westlake)
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

Like Parker himself, these novels are quick and lean, part of what makes them so obsessively readable; Westlake had a real talent for stripping narratives down to just their bare essentials, then cleverly invented a character for whom this fast-paced minimalism works perfectly, a true human monster but one you can’t help but root for anyway, if for no other reason than because he has zero tolerance for the chatty bullshit and regards for acquaintances’ feelings that you as a non-psychotic are forced to deal with in your own schmucky non-bank-robbing life. (Stupid schmucky non-bank-robbing life!) Unfortunately my obsessive focus on these books must come to an end soon — I simply have to get back to the novels I’m “supposed” to be reading, plus I can already tell by the fifth book that this series gets a lot more formulaic as it continues, which I bet will dampen my enthusiasm on its own — but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by to mention how unexpectedly thrilled I was by at least the first few books in the lineup, picked up on a whim completely randomly but that have turned out to be some of my favorite reading experiences of the entire last year. They come strongly recommended whenever you have some downtime soon, especially to those like me who aren’t natural fans of this genre to begin with.

Read even more about The Hunter: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Wikipedia

Read even more about The Man With the Getaway Face: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Wikipedia

Read even more about The Outfit: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Wikipedia

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd
Photo of the day: “Interchange highway in tokyo at night,” by Kévin WildSnap

Interchange highway in tokyo at night / Japan
Today’s photo of the day is entitled “Interchange highway in tokyo at night,” and is by photographer Kévin WildSnap (Flickr | YouTube). To nominate a photo of the day yourself, drop us a line at cclapcenter@gmail.com; or see our Flickr favorites page and Instagram account for all the online images we’ve recently liked.

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd
Book Review: Death Metal Epic, Book 2, by Dean Swinford
Death Metal Epic, Book 2, by Dean Swinford
Death Metal Epic, Book 2: Goat Song Sacrifice
By Dean Swinford
Atlatl Press
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

It’s interesting that I should be dealing with two different sequels this week to two different first novels I also reviewed in the past, because they provide a tidy lesson on the good and bad ways to go about writing such sequels in the first place. For while ST Gulik’s Sex, reviewed yesterday, felt as if he had gotten to the last page of its predecessor, Birth, and had just kept on writing the exact same story while his publisher went about the business of printing and releasing the first 200 pages, leading to a book that was hard to get excited about and difficult to write a compelling review for, Dean Swinford’s Death Metal Epic Book Two: Goat Song Sacrifice is a sequel much more in the style of how we think of them, transporting our hero into an entirely different location and milieu than in book 1, and raising the stakes as far as both his troubles and the level of success that’s in his grasp.

To remind you, the first volume is a clever blend of coming-of-age tale and historical record of the death metal scene of the early 1990s, in which we watch our hapless twentysomething hero Azrael stumble through a series of indignities concerning several metal bands in his south Florida hometown, culminating in a poorly funded and ill-fated tour of northern Europe organized by his fly-by-night record company, the novel ending with him running out of money, getting stuck in Belgium, but having become friends with several local death-metal figures who are internationally known and revered among the tiny niche community of fans around the planet (but for more on the real people and events that Swinford is fictionalizing here, see the 1998 journalism book Lords of Chaos by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind). That’s essentially where volume 2 picks up, as “Azrael” (now simply going by his birth name of David Fosberg) decides to stick around Belgium for the time being, joining a new band with worshipped icon (and mom-couch-surfing, possibly autistic) Svart, getting ingratiated into “ground zero” of the international death metal community while struggling with women, learning the local language, and wondering when they’ll stop being a band that exists only on paper and actually write their first song.

That’s really the saving grace of these books, is that they’re not just detail-perfect looks back at the ’90s death-metal scene but also sneakily grander tales about arrested-development twentysomethings finally maturing into adults (kicking and screaming the entire way, mind you, but still). And that’s why book 2 here is a worthy sequel to book 1, because Swinford goes to the trouble of showing David actually growing a little bit and learning something from the endless disasters of the previous volume, becoming a wiser and more skeptical musician who is simultaneously traversing the minefields of DSL (Dutch as a Second Language), dating again after a bad breakup, and renting his first-ever EU apartment. The results are engaging and charming, and inspires you to root strongly for our hero’s success; and that makes the book’s surprise climax all the more gripping, setting us up for a coming book 3 that I’m highly looking forward to. I’ll of course be reviewing that one too when the time arrives; but for now, I strongly recommend getting caught up with these first two quickly readable volumes. Remember, you don’t have to know anything about death metal to enjoy these universal stories about the underground arts and growing up; but if you do, your enjoyment of these well-researched books will be even that much fuller.

Out of 10: 9.3

Read even more about Death Metal Epic, Book 2: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd