Rare Book Monthly
Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2007 Issue
Modern Literature From Ken Lopez Bookseller
By Michael Stillman
Ken Lopez Bookseller has issued his 145th catalogue of Modern Literature. Most works are from the second half of the 20th century, though dates range from 1899 to the very modern 2007. That lone 19th century listing is Kate Chopin's The Awakening, an early example of what is seen as a modern feminist novel. In all, 240 items are offered. A great many are first editions, often first books by a noted author. Here are a few samples of what is in store for those who collect modern literature.
Item 240 is an unusual advance reading copy of Harper Lee's only novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. This look at racial discrimination in the South in the early days of the civil rights movement provided the nation with serious issues it needed to confront. However, this advance copy for the sales force describes the book as more fun than serious. The publisher says it is rushing this copy to its salesmen so they "may share with us the rare fun and lift in the discovery of a new, fresh talent." Truman Capote chips in, "...a writer with the liveliest sense of life, and the warmest, most authentic humor. A touching book, and so funny, so likeable." That's an odd description for this book. However, the publishers were dead on when they said, "It will...furnish a jackpot of bestseller sales for you during the summer." Priced at $7,500.
The Satanic Verses is one of the most known works of the past few decades, though not for the reasons author Salmon Rushdie might have hoped. This was the book that put Rushdie under a death threat from the fanatic Ayatollahs of Iran. Rushdie spent many years in hiding as a result. Before the Ayatollahs got their copy of his book, about twenty copies of a photocopied typescript, complete with author's corrections, were put together for Viking's staff. This is one such prepublication copy, inscribed by Rushdie to a member of the sales staff. Item 185. $3,500.
Item 34 is the first Ballantine paperback edition (from 1965) of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange. This look at a violent and authoritarian future would become better known after the Stanley Kubrick film of the same name was released in 1971. This copy is inscribed by Burgess on the title page and signed by William Burroughs, who provided a blurb, on the rear cover. $375.
Speaking of Burroughs, item 35 is a copy of his first book, Junkie. Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict. Burroughs published this book in 1953 under the pseudonym "William Lee." Publisher Ace decided to promote this as an anti-drug book, so they bound it together with Maurice Helbrant's memoir Narcotic Agent. $1,750.