I looked through last week's Book Review and found several things of interest. I usually scan the best sellers - print hardcover of course, not the e-stuff. There are two titles on the list for May 27 - June 3 that have very long runs as best sellers.
George R.R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons is at #9 on the Fiction list and has been on the list for 43 weeks. This is his fifth book in a fantasy series - Song of Ice and Fire - that was inspired by England's War of the Roses. I searched Biblio ( http://www.biblio.com/ ) for signed, first printings and found 8 copies offered at prices from $65 to $135. I do have to admit that I'm not a reader of fantasy.
Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken is at #3 on the Nonfiction list and has been on the list for 81 weeks. This is Hillenbrand's second book, following her also long running best seller Seabiscuit. This time her focus is on a human runner - Olympic runner Louie Zamperini. After competing in the 1939 Olympics in Berlin he ended up in WWII as an Army Air Force bombardier in the Pacific. Hillenbrand writes of his survival of several years of savage abuse in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. Signed first printings are very scarce - I found only one offered at $395. There are actually several copies offered that have been signed by Zamperini, who is still around at 94.
Finally, Bauman Rare Books is offering Shakespeare's Fourth Folio of Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies published in 1685. The folios were printed in very small runs of a few hundred copies and most are now in institutional collections. This very rare volume can be yours for $235,000.
Monday, June 11, 2012
The last couple of months I've been reading Kurt Vonnegut's later novels. For some reason, I had stopped reading Vonnegut after "Welcome to the Monkey House." I'm currently reading "Bluebeard" - dust jacket shown above. While it is not up to his earlier work, it is nevertheless an interesting read. I found the start to Chapter 10 quite relevant to today's current affairs (messes), even though it was written in 1987:
"Back in 1933: ... The Great Depression was going on, so that the station [New York's Grand Central Station] and the streets teemed with homeless people, just as they do today. The newspapers were full of stories of worker layoffs and farm foreclosures and bank failures, just as they are today. All that has changed, in my opinion, is that, thanks to television, we can hide a Great Depression. We may even be hiding a Third World War."
Photo below is of Vonnegut in 1987, taken by his wife Jill Krementz. I'll do some brief reviews of Vonnegut's later novels in the coming weeks.
Friday, June 8, 2012
Ray Bradbury passed away on Tuesday, June 5th, this week. He was the last of what some would call the big three US writers of Science Fiction - Asimov, Bradbury, and Heinlein. The photo above was taken at the park named in his honor by Waukegan, Illinois, his birthplace.
Eventually he and family settled in Los Angeles. Remarkably, especially given California's car culture, he never drove a car, but was a familiar sight pedaling his bicycle to and from bookstores. As a teenager, I read all of his early books and still remember details of some of the stories. I recently read "The Illustrated Man" again and felt that it had stood the test of time quite well.
Above and below are the jacket covers of four of his most famous, and very collectible, titles (from top to bottom 1947, 1950, 1951, and 1953)
Bradbury's first book (top above) was published by Arkham House in 1947 in a printing of about 3000 copies. August Derleth's small press was (still is) located in Sauk City, Wisconsin, northwest of Madison.
In an ironic twist of fate, Bradbury was presented the National Medal of Arts (2004) by one of our most non-literary presidents - ceremony shown below. Kurt Vonnegut would say: "So it goes."