James Cummins Bookseller and Between the Covers Rare Books is offering their second catalogue of Selections from Waiting for Godot Books. This one features Literature. Waiting for Godot Books was the bookshop of Gary Oleson and Francine Ness, both of whom died recently. Their books were put up for sale by sealed bids and the winner was Cummins and Between the Covers. Along with shop inventory, Oleson had a personal collection, or perhaps two. There was one collection on the shelves and the other, most valuable books, were locked away. They were all in the collection purchased. The inventory and collections covered a wide variety of material, so while this catalogue offers literature, there was much more in the inventory of Waiting for Godot Books and the owners' personal books. Here are a few from the category of literature.
The logical place to start is with Waiting for Godot Books' copy of Waiting for Godot. This is the first edition in English, translated by the author, Samuel Beckett, and inscribed by him “for Dan Pope from Sam Beckett.” Pope is likely the author and bookseller. It is also signed by Grove Books' publisher Barney Rosset. The booksellers note that this book is “decidedly uncommon signed.” This play was highly acclaimed, with some saying it is the most important play of the 20th century, even though it isn't about anything. Naturally enough, that led to all sorts of speculation as to its meaning, all of which Beckett has denied, essentially agreeing that it isn't about much of anything. That has the benefit of allowing readers to interpret it as they will. While the obvious guess is that it is God who never shows, Beckett said no, it was originally written in French where the word for God is “Dieu.” Item 11. Published in 1954. Priced at $25,000.
Cummins and Between the Covers also have the first edition of the book, published in French in 1952, En Attendant Godot. Item 10. $8,000.
Next we have the corrected typescript of Truman Capote's short story, The House of Flowers. It first appeared in Mademoiselle in 1952, later collected in Breakfast at Tiffany's published in 1958. It is the story of a Haitian prostitute who faces choices in life, neither of which is very good. It comes with a note from Capote's agent, Marian Ives, to “Rita,” Margarita G. Smith, fiction editor of Mademoiselle. Ives concedes, “Although I don't think this is for MLLE, nor did T think so, yet it is honestly the best story he's done recently and I wanted you to take a look at it anyway...” There are back and forth comments from reviewers as to whether this is appropriate for the magazine, but ultimately Smith writes, “I think we should buy it. M.G.S.” There is a note of payment for $750. Wise choice. Item 22. $40,000.
This book is important to the environmental movement, at least to its most radical proponents. The book is The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey, published in 1975. Abbey was something of an atypical environmentalist. He didn't much like government interfering with anyone's freedom, but then again, he was angered by big business or anyone who despoiled the natural environment. This book represents a radical response, a gang of environmentalist who engage in what today would be called “eco-terrorism,” such as destroying equipment used to destroy the environment. He attacked the construction of Lake Powell, an issue at the time. A dam was built to create a reservoir in southern Utah, but it buried the spectacular landscapes of Glen Canyon. There is an irony to this today as there is no longer enough rain in the West to fill Lake Powell. Lake Meade below it, which Powell was meant to supplement, is sufficient by itself. This copy is inscribed “To Cynthia Farah from her friend Edward Abbey / Tucson 1984.” Item 2. $1,750.
You can also get a photograph of Edward Abbey. This is a black and white portrait of Abbey standing in front of the bookshelves in a bookstore. It has been signed by Abbey. Item 1. $1,500.
James Joyce began to achieve success as a writer in the second decade of the twentieth century, and published his most notable work, Ulysses, in the next decade. However, Joyce first appeared in print much earlier. That first composition came in the April 1, 1900, issue of The Fortnightly Review. It was a review of Ibsen's New Drama (“When We Dead Awaken”). It appears at pages 575-590. Joyce was all of 18 years old at the time. While a small run of his review was published later, this original issue of the Review is very rare. This copy is complete with the advertisements, including a tipped-in promotion for Royal typewriter. The booksellers note that they have never seen another copy nor heard of one for sale. Item 55. $85,000
Next is a photograph of poets Sylvia Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes. It was taken in 1958 when the couple were living in Boston. They look like the perfect, happy smiling pair. On the back is a lengthy, chatty note to Edith and William Hughes, Plath's in-laws. She writes, “Dear ted's mom & dad – Hello! I hope these two snapshots reach you in time for new years – they are extras left over from an article about ted & me which is coming out in the January issue of Mademoiselle magazine here – an article with one picture of us, a little poem by each of us, and a bit of talk about how we live – we'll send you the clippings when it comes out.” After a few more comments, she concludes “Happy New Year to you all – Sylvia.” Despite the apparent happiness, and one hopes she truly was happy at the time, Plath suffered from bouts of severe depression. She attempted suicide several times. In 1962, she discovered Hughes cheating and the two separated. The following year, Plath took her own life. Item 78. $25,000.
James Cummins Bookseller may be reached at 212-688-6441 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.jamescumminsbookseller.com.