Modern Literature from Peter Harrington
- by Michael Stillman
Modern Literature from Peter Harrington
Peter Harrington has issued a catalogue of Modern Literature A-K. The “A-K” indicates the initials of the authors' last names, the implication being that we shall see at least one more catalogue in this vein. What we have here is 20th century literature, heavy in first editions, many copies signed or inscribed. With a few exceptions, the books are in the English language. Certain authors are represented by many books, such as Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner. You need to be an active writer to so qualify. Others are represented by few or only one, including those authors who did not write many books. In all, 255 books are offered, something, undoubtedly, for everyone who collects modern literature. Here, now, are a few examples.
Item 51 is Breakfast at Tiffany's, a novella accompanied by three short stories from Truman Capote. This 1958 book likely would have remained somewhat obscure were it not for the movie adapted from it a few years later. It is hard to picture the lead character as anyone other than Audrey Hepburn. This copy has been inscribed by Capote, which Harrington notes is quite uncommon. It was inscribed to Martha Hunt Robertson, an art teacher from Alabama (like Capote) who married another Alabaman, journalist and novelist William Bradford Huie, who was a friend of the author. Priced at $18,800.
Here is another inscribed copy of a book made even more famous by the film of the same name. Catch-22 is not only the book and film title, but has become an expression for any sort of situation where conflicting rules make it impossible to achieve a desired goal. Author Joseph Heller inscribed this 1961 book within a few weeks of publication to Everett Hoffman. He writes, “With all good wishes from a copywriter at McCall's to a copywriter at Cunningham & Walsh...” Item 194. $14,600.
Here is a book that was not made into a movie – Some Like It Hot. Wait a minute! Isn't that one of Marilyn Monroe's best known films? Yes it is, but not this Some Like It Hot. This is a steamy novel, written by Dorothy Herzog and published in 1930. Ironically, that is the time setting of the other Some Like It Hot. Dorothy Herzog was a newspaper columnist who gave novel writing a try, and wasn't particularly successful at it. However, this risqué novel did get the attention of officials in her hometown of Memphis. They censored her book. This copy has been inscribed by the author to the Danish-born actor Jean Pierre Hersholt. Item 204. $700.
This next book comes from an extremely prolific writer, but no ever thinks of him as a novelist. Rather, he was one of the great historians of the 20th century, a great historian because he was also one of the century's most important leaders. Winston Churchill led Britain through the dark days of the Second World War and then wrote a thorough account of it. He also wrote histories of numerous other events, both historical and of events in which he participated. However, he only wrote one novel. He wrote it as a young man, on his way to do battle in India. He finished it later and the book was published in 1900. The title is Savrola, that also being the name of the lead character. He is involved with a revolution in a fictional Mediterranean country. He ends up with the wife of the dictator who is finally overthrown, though the pair is forced to flee. The book was no more than a modest success, but it made Churchill some money on his way to much bigger things. Item 78. $1,900.
Item 127 is an obscurity by a very famous author – William Faulkner. The title is The Marble Faun, not to be confused with the book of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is actually a book of poetry, and those who have read it tend to describe it as rather amateurish, the work of a young man destined to be a great novelist, not a poet. It is quite rare. Only around 500 of a projected print run of 1,000 were printed, and most of them appear to have been either discarded or destroyed in a fire. Published in 1924, this was Faulkner's first book. He has inscribed it “To Dink from Bill Faulkner.” There is a mystery to that one as the bookseller has been unable to identify who “Dink,” was, though obviously they must have been on familiar terms. Faulkner later used a character named “Dink” in The Town. $101,300.
Item 38 is a first edition of Jorge Luis Borges' short stories and essays entitled Labyrinths. Published in 1962, it is Borges at his unusual best, stories of situations one might think of as Alice in Wonderland for adults. This is imagination and intellect intertwined, insanity that somehow sounds reasonable. $500.