The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck’s Love for China

August 18th, 2013

The Good Earth. First edition, signed and dated.

The Good Earth, scholars agree, created sympathy for China in the oncoming war with Japan: “If China had not captured the American imagination, it might just have been possible to work out a more satisfactory Far Eastern policy,” but such works as The Good Earth, “infused with an understandable compassion for the suffering Chinese, did little to inform Americans about their limited options in Asia” (O’Neil, 1997). While The Good Earth did not inform the American population enough to proactively change their foreign policy, it did garner understanding for China’s oppression. Buck portrayed the lives of the Chinese poor, and she opposed “religious fundamentalism, racial prejudice, gender oppression, sexual repression, and discrimination against the disabled” (Spurling, 2010).

Pearl S. Buck

This provided rare cultural insight into revolutionary China and its interaction with the U.S., which most Chinese writers in the twentieth century chose not to record. They were concerned more with China’s political fate, and their writing is didactic rather than realistic. Buck however was committed to describing her experiences in China and the people and places she knew to an inexperienced American audience. The details she captures would be omitted by a Chinese author who may not realize the difference from what Westerners are accustomed to. Buck’s sensitivity to detail is not as much a literary style as it is a loving concern for China. She continued her prolific writing career when she returned to the U.S. in 1935, but she also became a prominent advocate of social rights. She advocated the rights of women and minority groups, and she wrote widely on Asian cultures, becoming well known for her advocacy for mixed race adoption.

Author spotlight – Ernest Hemingway

July 19th, 2013
Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

Every year in July, the Florida Keys have a unique celebration of  author Ernest Hemingway, who lived and left a powerful legacy in the region. Its called “Hemingway Days” and according to the Florida Keys website, “scheduled events include a look-alike contest for stocky white-bearded men resembling Hemingway, readings and book signings, an awards ceremony for the renowned literary competition directed by author and Hemingway granddaughter Lorian Hemingway, a commemoration of the 114th anniversary of Ernest’s July 21 birth, a museum exhibit of rare Hemingway memorabilia, a zany “Running of the Bulls” and a three-day marlin tournament recalling Hemingway’s devotion to the deep-sea sport. During his Key West residence, Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his most enduring works and spent his leisure hours fishing and socializing with local and literary cohorts. Each year, fans of his writing and exuberant lifestyle come together for Hemingway Days.”

Ernest Hemingway’s fiction is biographically inspired, and his writing style is a minimalistic understatement that reflects this same authenticity. For example, The Sun Also Rises was based on Hemingway’s 1925 trip to Spain to see the running of the bulls and the bullfights. Although it received mixed reviews when it was first published, Hemingway’s biographer Jeffrey Meyers states that it is “recognized as Hemingway’s greatest work”, and Hemingway scholar Linda Wagner-Martin calls it his most important novel. In this book, his first real novel following the novella, The Torrents of Spring, he really begins to show his unique and sparing writing style, which came to be known as the “Iceberg Theory” or the “Theory of Omission”.

The Sun Also Rises First Edition

The Sun Also Rises First Edition

As another example, A Farewell to Arms, fictionalizes the difficult birth of Hemingway’s son. In the late spring Hemingway and his wife Pauline traveled to Kansas City, where their son Patrick was born on June 28, 1928, from which Pauline endured a painful recovery. Further inspiration drew from Hemingway’s own experiences serving in the Italian campaigns during the First World War. The character Catherine Barkley is based on Agnes von Kurowsky, a real nurse who cared for Hemingway in a hospital in Milan after he had been wounded. He had planned to marry her, but she spurned his love when he returned to America (Nagel, 1996). Inspiration for For Whom the Bell Tolls drew from his friend, the journalist and writer Martha Gellhorn. Hemingway wrote it while traveling in Cuba, Wyoming, and Sun Valley (Meyers, 1985). The novel is also based on his experiences during the Spanish Civil War, with an American protagonist named Robert Jordan who fights with Spanish soldiers for the Republicans.

A Farewell to Arms. Signed, first edition.

Criticism also served as a source of inspiration. When Hemingway received criticism of his Across the River and Into the Trees, he wrote the draft of The Old Man and the Sea in eight weeks, saying that it was “the best I can write ever for all of my life” (Desnoyers, 1992). It made Hemingway an international celebrity and won the Pulitzer Prize in May 1952. The Old Man and the Sea served to reinvigorate Hemingway’s literary reputation and prompted a reexamination of his entire body of work. Two years later, Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature. He modestly told the press that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen, and Bernard Berenson deserved the prize, but the prize money, he said, would be welcome (Lynn, 1987).

The Old Man and the Sea. First edition.

Chess Champions: Grandmaster Larry Evans’s influence on Bobby Fischer

June 24th, 2013
Bobby Fischer and Larry Evans

Evans (right) helping Fischer prepare for his World Championship match

Bobby Fischer is perhaps the most celebrated American chess player of the Twentieth Century. His latent talent is of no question, but understanding his success suggests going beyond his acumen and studying also those who influenced him. His friend and mentor Larry Evans is one such figure, and their long-standing friendship contributed to Fischer’s career. Fischer’s first considerable success was winning the U.S. Junior Chess Championship in July 1956. He scored 8½/10 at Philadelphia to become the youngest-ever Junior Champion at age 13, a record that still stands. Later that year in the first Canadian Open Chess Championship at Montreal, he scored 7/10 to tie for 8–12th places, with Larry Evans winning. Unfortunately Fischer would move on in 1960-61 to experience the only significant failure of his competitive career at the Buenos Aires tournament, finishing with 8½/19 (won by Viktor Korchnoi and Samuel Reshevsky).  Evans explained that Fischer was distracted. Evans had introduced him to a girl, and after Fischer’s first sexual experience and resultant distraction from chess, Fischer realized his mistake and vowed not to mix chess and women again. Eight years later, Fischer was writing his My 60 Memorable Games, and his friend Larry Evans assisted him.

Signed, First Edition of Fischer's My Memorable 60 Games

The book was an immediate best-seller. Fischer would later write to Evans, in a letter published in Chess Life in 1974, that  the usual system (24 games with the first player to get 12½ points winning, or the champion retaining his title in the event of a 12–12 tie) was bad for chess. It encouraged the player in the lead to draw games. Not counting draws, he thought, would be a more accurate test to determine the world’s best player. After Evans decided not to enter the world championship cycle ever again, he focused his efforts on assisting Fischer, as a fellow American, in his quest for the world title. Fischer chose Evans as his second for the Candidates matches leading up to the World Chess Championship 1972 against Boris Spassky. Unfortunately, the two had a disagreement, and Fischer did not choose him for the championship match itself. Evans would comment to Time magazine and ABC’s Wide World of Sports that this was one of the most important matches.

Author Spotlight – Maurice Sendak

June 10th, 2013

Have you seen the Maurice Sendak Google Doodle that is up today? It celebrates what would have been his 85th Birthday. He passed away last year, but he will live on forever through his amazing illustrations and the legacy that he gave the world.

Maurice_Sendak

Maurice Sendak

Sendak’s love of books began when he was a child. He had some health problems that confined him to his bed, but these unfortunate circumstances turned out to be a blessing to the rest of the world, as it created a vivid imagination within the young boy’s mind. Watching Disney’s Fantasia is also cited to be among the inspirations of him deciding to become an illustrator at the age of twelve. At first he would draw illustrations for other people’s stories, but later began writing the stories himself. His first book of acclaim was Where the Wild Things Are, which has won numerous awards, has been made into an animated short in 1973, a full feature film in 2009 and, more importantly, is read by nearly every child in the western world.

When he died, the New York Times obituary called Sendak “the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century. He personally wrote over twenty books and illustrated over sixty. His unique and magical style is unmistakable and we are happy that Google was able to capture those illustrations today in its doodle.

Here are a few Sendak books that we currently have in stock:

Where the Wild Things Are Signed First Edition

Where the Wild Things Are Signed First Edition

In The Night Kitchen Signed First Edition Maurice Sendak

In The Night Kitchen Signed First Edition by Maurice Sendak

The Nutcracker Signed First Edition Maurice Sendak

The Nutcracker Signed First Edition by Maurice Sendak

See all books by Maurice Sendak

Author Spotlight – F. Scott Fitzgerald

June 7th, 2013

F. Scott and Zelada Fitzgerald

With all the buzz of the recent movie, The Great Gatsby, we thought we should spotlight F. Scott Fitzgerald this month so that you can learn a little bit about the man behind the story.

After the success of his first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda became celebrities. The newspapers of New York portrayed them as Jazz Age embodiments of the Roaring Twenties: young, seemingly wealthy, and beautiful. Their wedding was a gothic version of their wishful fairytale life as the publicly perceived “golden” couple, but their reality was a continual and futile battle against alcoholism, infidelity, literary rivalry, and a marriage that their friend Ring Lardner described as, “Mr. Fitzgerald is a novelist and Mrs. Fitzgerald is a novelty” (Cline, 2004). Oheka Castle on the Gold Coast of Long Island was a partial inspiration for Gatsby’s estate. Paris in the 1920s proved the most influential decade of Fitzgerald’s development. His masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, was published in 1925. The inspiration for Gatsby’s estate and setting came after the birth of the Fitzgerald’s first son and their move to Great Neck, Long Island in 1922, where F. Scott witnessed the grand Oheka Castle built by Otto Kahn (Bruccoli, 2000). He had told his editor Maxwell Perkins that the novel was a “consciously artistic achievement” and a “purely creative work — not trashy imaginings as in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere and yet radiant world”. He latter added that he felt “an enormous power in me now, more than I’ve ever had” (Leader, 2000). After the publication and success of The Great Gatsby, the Fitzgerald’s made several excursions to Europe, mostly Paris, and befriended many American expatriate figures in Paris, notably Ernest Hemingway. Fitzgerald’s relationship with Hemingway was immediate and lively, but Hemingway disapproved of Zelda. He described her as “insane” and claimed that she “encouraged her husband to drink so as to distract Scott from his work on his novel” (Canterbury & Birch, 2006). Hemingway is but one instance of the many charged relationships Fitzgerald maintained. The publication of The Great Gatsby prompted a discussion with poet T.S. Eliot, and she to wrote in a letter to him, “[I]t seems to me to be the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James….” (Wilson, 1993). The cover art was entitled “Celestial Eyes” and was designed by artist Francis Cugat.

The first edition Great Gatsby in dust jacket

The first edition Great Gatsby in dust jacket

Tender is the Night inscribed first edition

Tender is the Night inscribed first edition

Taps at Reveille inscribed first edition F. Scott Fitzgerald

Taps at Reveille inscribed first edition

Purchase these books: The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, Taps at Reveille

See all books in our inventory by F. Scott Fitzerald

Sigmund Freud – Civilization and its Discontents

May 3rd, 2013

Sigmund Freud

Civilization and Discontents is considered one of Freud’s most important and widely read works (Gay, 1989). While it can be seen as political philosophy or anthropology, it is also a psychoanalytic explanation of religion. The main theme of the work is “the irremediable antagonism between the demands of instinct and the restrictions of civilization” (Strachey, 1963). Freud enumerates what he sees as the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual. The tension, he argues, stems from the individual’s need for instinctual freedom, such as unbridled sexual gratification, and civilization’s contrary demand for conformity using laws and punishments. This inherent process of civilization instills perpetual feelings of discontent in its citizens. Civilization and Discontent should be understood in context of its contemporary events. World War I influenced Freud and had an impact on his central observation about the tension between the individual and civilization.
Freud’s magnum opus also incorporates his previous work. For example, Freud explains a possible source of religious feeling that his previous publication, The Future of an Illusion, overlooked: the oceanic feeling of wholeness, limitlessness, and eternity. Here Freud quotes his friend French dramatist Romain Rolland who described religion as an “oceanic sensation,” but says he never experienced this feeling (Rubin, 2003). Ultimately, Freud sees religion and belief in God as an unreconciled instinct, such as that result from society’s tensions. It is an emotional need for a powerful, supernatural pater familias (Armstrong, 1993). Civilization and Discontent can be seen therefore as a culmination of previous thought, but it’s also a novel perspective assumed in his subsequent publications that expand his pessimism about the future of civilization.

Civilization and Its Discontents

Civilization and Its Discontents Inscribed by Sigmund Freud

F. A. Hayek – Father of Neoliberalism

April 19th, 2013

F. A. Hayek

Road to Serfdom was first published in Britain by Routledge in March 1944, during World War II, and due to the book’s popularity during this time of paper rationing, Hayek jokingly called it “that unobtainable book” (Ebenstein, 2003). Consequently, the first British copy, as here pictured, is quite rare. The title for Road to Serfdom was inspired by the writings of the French classical liberal thinker Alexis de Tocqueville and his idea of the “road to servitude.” Hayek argues that Western democracies, including the U.K. and U.S.A, have “progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed in the past.” Society has tried to ensure prosperity by centralized planning, a mistake, Hayek argues, that leads to totalitarianism.  These ideas have had a significant impact on twentieth century conservative and libertarian economic and political discourse, and they serve as a lucid exposition of market libertarianism.

The Road to Serfdom First Edition by Friedrich Hayek

The Road to Serfdom First Edition

Road to Serfdom exemplifies the tenure of Hayek’s thought. He disagreed with the contemporary British academy that saw fascism as a capitalist reaction against socialism, arguing instead that fascism and socialism result from central economic planning and the power of the state over the individual. Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973) further develops these philosophical principles that Hayek also discusses in The Constitution of Liberty. It’s more abstract than Hayek’s earlier work, and it focuses on the conflicting views of society as either a design, a made order, or an emergent system. These ideas are connected to law proper and coincide with the traditional concept of natural law, an emergent property of social interaction. The consequences of these and the rest of Hayek’s corpus have had such import that Hayek can be seen as a counter-part of equal popularity to John Maynard Keynes.

Law, Legislation and Liberty. First edition, Volumes 1 & 2 signed.

Collecting Children’s Books

April 2nd, 2013

First Editions of the First and Second Jungle Book each year we celebrate International Children's Book Day.

April 2nd is the birthday of author Hans Christian Anderson and each year, people around the world celebrate International Children’s Book Day in his honor. We would like to take a moment to talk about collecting children’s books in light of this special day.

Children’s books are highly collectible. They’re immensely nostalgic for collectors, pleasantly reminding us of the magic simplicity of childhood. But they’re also difficult to find in good condition. By nature of being handled and appreciated by children, their pages are torn and marred. Condition is therefore the chief determinant of value, and dust covers are perhaps the scarcest aspect of children’s book to be found in good condition. Parents often discard them immediately to fulfill their inevitable destruction on the child’s behalf.

The earliest children’s books date back to the 17th century, but they were neither well-written nor illustrated until the 1920s when literacy was near universal and color printing available. Millions of Cats is perhaps the first modern children’s book. It was published in 1928 and it the oldest children’s book still in print. Its author, Wanda Gag, was the first to pioneer to book’s unique double-page spread.

Signed, First Edition of Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

Ten years later the illustrator Georges Duplaix created the novel idea of a series of books written and illustrated for very young readers. The books would be bound in pictorial boards (hardcovers with color pictures on the front and back) and sold for cheap. Duplaix’s series, Little Golden Books, became a trend amongst publishers that is responsible for the concept of children’s series. Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House contributed further to the presentation and format of children’s books. She meticulously adjusted each page of The Little House to achieve a balance between text and image that would maximize the child-reader’s interest and education (Burton, 1943).

The Little House Virginia Lee Burton

The Little House first edition

The Story of Ferdinand. First edition, warmly inscribed.

Some children’s books focus less on format and more on content. The Story of Ferdinand (1936) abandoned  factual accuracy to facilitate children’s understanding. Author Robert Lawson depicted Spain’s geography loosely, focusing more on the sense of fun the landscape provided. In similar fashion, Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat advanced the efforts made by the genre to educate children. Its publisher, Random House, created for it upon its immense success its own publication house: Beginner Books, for which Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) was made president. Beginner Books dominated the children’s books market of the 1960′s, and it contributed to the blurring of the distinction between education and entertainment books (Zielinksi, 2006).

The Cat in the Hat. First edition, inscribed.

Signed, Fist Edition of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are

Other children’s books derive their novelty from their source of inspiration. For Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (1969), Virginia Le Burton ingeniously spoke to children for inspiration for the plot. The idea for the steam shovel becoming a source of heat for the house came directly from a friend’s twelve-year-old son (Sullivan, 2006). The modern series Olivia is similar. The author, Ian Falconer, began the series as a present for his amusing niece, but the specific personality of the character was inspired by an accidental encounter Falconer had with another Olivia of about the same age.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel First Edition

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel First Edition

Olivia first edition set

Olivia first edition set

Gone with the Wind

March 31st, 2013

Vivien Leigh from the film.

Gone with the wind which had swept through Georgia,” says Scarlett O’Hara in Chapter 24 of the romantic historical novel. She uses the title phrase as she wonders whether her home plantation “Tara” still stands or is gone. The title reflects the loss of a lifestyle that existed in the American South before the Civil War. It is taken from the poem Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson; therefore, it also alludes to lost passion for the old way of life. Gone with the Wind is set in Clayton County, Georgia and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. It depicts the experiences of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to come out of the poverty she finds herself in after Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Scarlett’s character is befitting of romance, but she also illustrates cultural themes. For example, she is a southern belle, the archetype for a young, upper class woman of the old American South. The southern belle’s attractiveness lies not in her physical beauty but her charm as a correct code of female behavior aimed at finding a male spouse (Seidel, 1985). Nonetheless, Scarlett also has bad belle traits – deceitfulness, manipulativeness, and superficiality – by which author Margret Mitchell suggests the unnaturalness of the South belle ideal (Entzminger, 2002).

Cultural insight aside, Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Gone with the Wind in 1937, the only book she ever published, and two years later it was adapted into the classic American film. Its enduring legacy is indisputable. People worldwide have come to accept it as an accurate account of the reformation of the Old South by the American Civil War and Reconstruction, for which the film only “amplified this effect” (Williamson, 1993).

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind Signed First Edition

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

March 21st, 2013

First edition, first printing with the date on the title page of the author's first novel and masterpiece.

Carson McCullers published The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) when she was twenty-three. It follows deaf John Singer and the people he encounters in a 1930s mill town in the US state of Georgia. The narrative primarily centers around John’s acquaintances, and McCullers enriches it through a limited-omniscient tone that is highly episodic. Chapters focus on individual characters and access his or her thoughts, yet the tone is limited to one character’s inner dialogue at a time. The effect is gossipy, and it contributes to the sense of ruralness that McCullers portrays. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter also exemplifies the Southern gothic genre. It mixes traditional gothic elements — mystery, suspense, the grotesque, the supernatural — and locates them in the American South. This genre was very popular when the novel was written, with contemporaries like William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor writing in a comparable style.The Southern gothic craze extended to film as well. Faulkner and Tennessee Williams acquired movie adaptations in the 1950′s and ’60s.

Carson McCuller

When the Heart is a Lonely Hunter was adapted for film in 1968 it was nominated numerously, including Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture. Befittingly, the novel is a classic. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter seventeenth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.