25 April, 2020

Pultizer Finalists (mostly) from the 1980s and 1990s


Where better to find solace from the Covid-19 malice than some first printings, especially Pulitzer Finalists, as we await 2020's winner. So we have 10 books delivered this week and 7 were great, 1 flawed but forgivable and 2 just outright disappointing that I've decided to boycott the sellers.

Diane Johnson's Persian Nights has a beautiful dust jacket partly affected by mold-like spots that invaded the book as well. The seller did not declare these flaws in the description, but considering the price and book's age, it is a forgivable misdemeanor. McCann's Apeirogon and McBride's Deacon King Kong were purchased from a professional bookseller who runs a signed first edition program. Apeirogon was all fine, but Deacon King Kong is a signed 3rd printing. Not even a 2nd! Not that it matters because anything other than signed 1st printing is not collectible, and I wouldn't buy a signed copy just to read it but I guess that's what I'll do now. This is the first boycott. 

Thomas Berger's The Feud looks beautiful, which is often too good to be true. So I asked the eBay seller, who, in retrospect, sent me more strategically-taken pictures to affirm the book's condition. Except that he deliberately avoided all signs or mention that this is an ex-library book. That's heinous crime in book business. I wouldn't take an ex-library book for free as a matter of principle, and for bookseller to not disclosed, and likely disguise, that his merchandise is one is disgusting. Shame on you, pulplife13 of eBay! I'll never buy another book from you, ever.

Fortunately, everything else's quite perfect with the usual imperfections from age. And the Pulitzer finalists are well worth pursuing. Sometimes, the Fiction Jury's most regarded book didn't end up winning for extraneous reasons. For example, the 1986 Fiction Jury - comprising N. Scott Momaday (who won 1969's Pulitzer for House Made of Dawn), Michiko Kakutani (who was an influential NYT book critic across the millennium), and Philip F O'Connor (who was a writer) - gave Russell Banks' Continental Drift the "very highest recommendation", but Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" took the prize. Despite a rather prodigious and well-regarded literary output, I'm not sure if Banks' work is still well read today, and might that not be the case if Continental Drift or Cloudsplitter, his other Pulitzer finalist in 1999, had won?

For now, I'm just mesmerized by Fred Marcellino's breath-taking jacket design for Persian Nights. He was a prolific illustrator - Berger's The Feud being his other work here - who often won the jacket design prize when American (National) Book Award gave it out for 4 years from 1980 to 1984.



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