09 December, 2017

The Field of Vision

BY Wright Morris
Book Information1/1/0/US/HB/1956/?  •  210x144x24  •  440  •  NBA'57

Wright Morris was a prolific writer and an accomplished photographer, a unique combination not seen in modern American literary landscape. His novels were often about Nebraska and the plains, and quite possibly that explained why he was constantly on the brink of literary stardom: Critics and fellow writers appreciated his sophisticated and tight writing but not so much about his subject matters. New York Times, in Morris' obituary, noted that "in the end, Mr. Morris took literature more seriously than it took him."

To be sure, Morris' work won prizes and were often shortlisted, mostly for the National Book Award. He was first shortlisted for the NBA in 1955 for "The Huge Season" (the prize went to Faulkner for "A Fable"), again in 1958 for "Love Among the Cannibals" (Cheever won with "The Wapshot Chronicle"), and then in 1961 for "Ceremony in Lone Tree" (Richter won with "The Waters of Kronos"). Morris's "The Deep Sleep" was also shortlisted by one juror for the 1954 Pulitzer, where it was decided no prize would be awarded for that year. Morris won his first NBA with "The Field of Vision" in 1957 (beating heavy weights like Bellow, Algren, Baldwin, Guthrie, Hersey and O'Connor, amongst others), and then a second with "Plains Song: For Female Voices" in 1981 (beating Shirley Hazzard's "The Transit of Venus" and William Maxwell's "So Long, See You Tomorrow" amongst others).

Of these work, "The Field of Vision" has the most intriguing bibliography, mostly for its different dust jacket designs and their precedence. The most common dust jacket, believed to be the second issue, is one depicting a bull-fight scene. I acquired one advance copy with that dust jacket. In the accompanied book seller ticket, it was noted that that "a plain jacket -- blue with black printing has been generally thought to have been used on early copies...", and this plain jacket is generally taken to be the first issue. An auction house sold one such copy in 2017 in this "uncommon first-issued jacket". I was lucky to have acquired a copy of this book with he first-issued jacket as well, at a fraction of the auctioned price. What a delight. To be sure, the books are identical. Only the dust jackets differ.
























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