• Streetcar and Salesman

  • Gatsby Gala

  • Pulitzer Row

  • McCarthy's Poetic Violence

  • Pynchonian Paranoia

  • The Kid and the Judge

  • Holly Tiffany

01 December, 2019

Trust Exercise

BY Susan Choi
Book Information1/1/0/US/HH/2019/?  •  242x161x24  •  442+18  •  NBA'19

Susan Choi's "Trust Exercise" won 2019's National Book Award, beating finalists Kali Fajardo-Anstine's "Sabrina and Corina", Marlon James' "Black Leopard, Red Wolf", Laila Lalami's "The Other Americans", and Julia Phillips' "Disappearing Earth". I haven't had the chance to read the book, but I read, continually, Choi's better half's restaurant reviews on the Times. 

I believe what I have is the first printing. Unfortunately I don't have information of the first printing publication size, but based on the recent eBay activities, it is not at all difficult to get a great copy at a decent price. Interestingly, the first printing copies I've seen all seem to suffer from offset binding. Consequently, the spine's letterings are pulled towards the right, and the front board is slightly longer than the back board. See the pictures below.
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Loot of the Month - Nov 2019

This month's purchase mainly comprised acclaimed publications this year, all first printing, some signed,  along with a 98 years old veteran, Booth Tarkington's "Alice Adams", likely a 3rd edition.

Amongst the books are 2019 National Book Award winner, Susan Choi's "Trust Exercise", and finalist, Laila Lalami's "The Other Americans". Ocean Vuong's "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" was longlisted for NBA as well. Then there are three acclaimed novels: Ben Lerner's "The Topeka School", Ann Pachett's "The Dutch House" and Namwali Serpell's "The Old Drift". One of these books must surely be on the upcoming NBCCA and Pulitzer.

Finally, there's Booth Tarkington's "Alice Adams", published in 1921 by Doubleday. The book came with a very nice dust jacket that says 3rd edition on the spine. The book does not have the usual transposed error of the first printing, but reflects 1921 as the printing year on the title page. Based on my research, I believe this to be the 3rd edition published on the same year as the true first edition. Third editions are generally worth very little, but the dust jacket is so pretty, and the lot, along with two other Tarkington's books, was selling at $50, and I just couldn't resist. 
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10 November, 2019

The Catcher in The Rye

BY JD Salinger
Book Information1/1/0/US/LB/1951/?  •  202x142x30  •  430 (with dj) 

The first post since a long time, and what a great way to return with the first edition, first printing of JD Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye"! Salinger's first and only novel - the other three publications were short story collections - placed Holden Caulfield in the rarified realm of literary icons as Jay Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn. The title is a reference to Robert Burn's sexually-themed poem, "Comin' Thro' the Rye", that Caulfield initially misinterpreted as referring to a guardian of callow innocence. 

This book is one of the few indisputable American classics that never won an important literary prize. It did make the list of ten non-winning NBA finalists in the year when James Jones' "From Here to Eternity" took the prize. Herman Wouk won the Pulitzer with "The Caine Mutiny", and whilst Salinger did not make the shortlist, the book did receive an honorable mention from one of the two juries. How the tides turned.

Shields and Salerno's "Salinger" detailed some well known facts about the book's publishing history, including its rejections first by The New Yorker and then by Harcourt, Brace despite Robert Giroux desire to publish it (he was overruled by the boss, Eugene Reynal. Salinger took the book to Little, Brown, who published it on July 16, 1951 and the rest was history. The book must have sold well for it was the Book-of-the-Month Club's midsummer selection, and was reprinted 11 times in the same year (five times in July, thrice in August and twice in September). Lesser known were the facts that Salinger wrote the flap copy - the short narrative of the book on the front flap - and that Salinger expressly requested Little, Brown to remove his portrait on the back of the dust jacket after the third printing. 

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06 August, 2019

Farewell, Toni Morrison


"Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things
To yield with a grace to reason
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season"
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19 May, 2019

Loot of the Month - May 2019


Three first editions this month. The 2019 Pulitzer was announced in April, and Richard Ford's Overstory won the fiction prize. I've been looking out for a copy but have decided to wait and see for now. So Pulitzers get obscenely cheap over the years, and I'm not sure about Overstory, or 2018's winner Less for that matter.

Chris Rush's The Light Years is a non-fiction selected by the A Capella First Edition club. I don't collect non-fiction first edition, but am willing to tolerate the odd few astrays from a subscription book club, but will bow out if the selection gets annoying. This is not a judgement on the book, which I'm sure is very good (an assumption since I haven't read it). It is more of an indictment against the book club.

Then there is Neil Gaiman's American Gods. This is a deliberate deviation from my literary collection, but when a copy of the limited signed first edition came up at auction, I couldn't help snap up this acclaimed fantasy novel. Gaiman is a British, so the question of which is the true first edition - the UK release by Headline, or US one by William Morrow - comes relevant. I chose to go with the US first edition. After all, it is American Gods. There is a separate slipcased deluxe limited signed edition issued, aka the author's preferred text with 12,000 additional words, by Hill Point in 2003 that should be distinguished from the true first edition.

Finally, a lamentable delight, which is the first edition of Flannery O'Connor's 1972 Complete Stories. O'Connor passed away in 1964, and this posthumous publication won the National Book Award for its gifted author who was sort of overlooked in her lifetime. I bought this from an eBay auction, on which the seller claimed that the book was Near Fine with a sunned spine as the only major problem. The auction was not well received, received 3 bids in total, and I got the book for $27.51, a bargain for 555 pages of crafted stories. Except that when the book arrived, there is a deep closed tear at the joint of the back flap that the seller conveniently omitted in the description and skillfully avoided in the 5 pictures provided. Sure, the book is still a bargain regardless, except that this is not the point for a book collector. I'm perfectly happy to pay a premium for pristine copy of a first edition, and expects book sellers to be accurate in their description. The fact that the price is so low is fortuitous and in no way absolves the seller's mispresentation, whether deliberate or negligent. This is the collector's lament. It is never about refunds. I expressed by displeasure with a bad rating for the seller on eBay.
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09 April, 2019

Loot of the Month April 2019


This month's loot comprises the usual signed first edition club selections: Powell Indiespensable's Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli, and A Capella's Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken.

And then there are the two British first editions and Booker prize winners. The first is Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings that was the 2015 Booker, beating Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life, Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread, Tom McCarthy's Satin Island, Chigozie Obioma's The Fishermen, and Sunjeev Sahota's The Year of the Runaways. It was also a National Book Critics' Circle Award (NBCCA) finalist, losing to Marilynne Robinson's Lila. The second is Anna Burns' Milkman, the critically acclaimed novel of 2018 that won both the Booker and NBCCA.

The great things about these books are that they are signed, and that the authors also inscribed the first or last phrases of their respective work. Pretty cool. Only let down is Seven Killings' price-clipped dust jacket.    
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04 April, 2019

1938 Pulitzer Winner and Finalists


2019's Pulitzer winners will be announced in just over a week. As a build-up, we have the first editions of the 1938 Pulitzer Fiction winner and finalists.

The winner is John P. Marquand's "The Late George Apley". Marquand is pretty much forgotten today, and his books are rarely, if ever, seen in today's bookstores. But in his days, Marquand was a best-selling author, of formulaic and facile stories like the "Mr Moto" series, and of literary novels like Apley, who graced the covers of Life and Times magazine, and received a honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Harvard. Apley is a satirical novel written in epistolary form, ostensibly to eulogized a Bostonian scion but really to poke fun at anachronistic values and traits. The Pulitzer juries, who unanimously recommended this book for the prize, wrote that it highlighted "those traits of the subject's character which a contemporary would have admired but which appear in a different light to a later generation". Upton Sinclair said that "it is very subtle and clever, and I am not sure that Boston will get it". I was lucky to have gotten a copy of this book with NF dust jacket, covering the age.


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19 March, 2019

Loot of the month March 2019


The Loot of the Week series is now renamed Loot of the Month to better reflect the purchase frequency. I'll like to think of this as a sort of maturity in my collection program: the books worth adding to the program diminishes was the collection size increases, and the pernicious inclination to do impulsive purchase mellows.

This month, we have 4 books. Tessa Hadley's "Late in the Day" is Powell's 78 Indiespensable selection, and "The Snakes"is a free ARC that came along with it. I also subscribed to a new signed first edition club with A Cappella Books, and the first book I received is Marlon James' "Black Leopard, Red Wolf", the first of his planned trilogy that earned a rather interesting review from Michiko Kakutani. The book is signed, and the store throws in an autographed photo of the author as well.

Then there are two beautiful first editions of Saul Bellow's later work, both in paperbacks. I'm a fan of Bellow, and these books were offered at such ridiculously low prices that I just had to buy them. I also bought an exciting Pulitzer winner from the recently concluded Heritage auction, and am still waiting for its arrival. Soon.
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