Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cormac McCarthy - The Road

I remember when this book came out. I saw it on a shelf in Barnes and Noble around Halloween - and I thought the cover, as you can see to the left, has a very Halloween like color scheme. None the less, if you remember back in May of 2006, the New York Times asked 200 prominent members of the literary world "
What is the best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years? The winner was Toni Morrison's Beloved. But in third place, was McCarthy's novel, Blood Meridian.

Having never read anything by McCarthy, I picked up the book, and read the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. While McCarthy has written very great books - this one really grabbed my attention because it was thought provoking, and left me wondering exactly what happened in the novel. So I bought it - and in three days, I was done.

The Road was published in the US on September 26, 2006, and was released to much fan-fare in expectation on a change of pace for McCarthy. While he is known as more of a literary author, I (personally) wouldn't categorize this in the same arena as his prior novels such as "All The Pretty Horses." I find that if you are going to start reading a McCarthy novel, The Road, would be the best choice to start with. It's fairly easy but at the same time quite profound.

In June 2007, Oprah Winfrey gave McCarthy the first interview of his professional career to tie in with her selection of "The Road" as her book-of-the-month-club. The interview was quite interesting because until that moment, I had no idea what to think of McCarthy - his voice, his mannerisms. But he seemed quite...friendly. He opened up to Oprah and gave an insight, albeit a short one, into his thought process and his personal history.

The collectible market for McCarthy is very iffy. There is a premium for McCarthy's signature when authentic. I, personally, won't be buying any trade editions of his books on eBay just because of his highly reclusive nature...who knows how authentic they are. But there are a few signed limited editions out there that go between $200-$450 but there is no limited edition for "The Road" yet. I'm sure that would be the one to go for a great price.

The proof for The Road recently sold for $600+ dollars on eBay - so it's clear that his books are maintaining their value, even after what I call their "demand period" which is the time when a book reaches its heightened popularity. After that, books tend to lose their demand, if only temporarily, and that is the perfect time for collectors to swoop in and make their grab.

Either way, if you haven't picked up this book, it's very good, very touching. Worth every moment...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Barack Obama

So let me start this topic with the preface that I am in absolute adoration of Senator Barack Obama. Listening to his speeches and watching him on TV has only increased my love and appreciation for this man and what his future holds. With that said, other than the Democratic convention in 2004, I am still waiting for more.

In this issue of TIME magazine, journalist Joe Klein writes a decent yet critical article of the Senator; but with good reason. Obama is the leading favorite amongst Democrats - but with little to go on. Nonetheless, he is the Democratic rockstar and continues to electrify crowds with his deep rumbling voice that demands attention. His beautiful wife and children only improve the picture that Obama frames for the public.

If you havent yet, read the article. Its very interesting. Republican or Democrat - there is something in there for all of us!

In 1995, before Obama became anything really - nevermind a Senator or Presidential hopeful - he published a book called Dreams For My Father. In it, Obama describes the memory of his father and the life they dreamed for him. The book sold modestly and was issued out of print. I am not sure if, after the publication of the 1st edition hardcover, there was a subsiquent paperback release.

After that, Obama made some changes, became more political, and won the senate seat in Illinois. In late July of 2004, he gave the most passionate and moving speaches of a lifetime. Saying:

Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?... I'm talking about something more substantial.
It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!

Look for him in the future. Buy his books now.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ragtime - E.L. Doctorow

E.L. Doctorow has been defined as one of the best writers of his time. His novels include The Book of Daniel, The March, and his most famous work, Ragtime.

Published in 1975, Ragtime was received well by critics. The book sold very well in its initial month – and is widely known as Doctorow’s most famous work to date. Doctorow won the National Book Critics Circle award for this novel, and it was made into a film in 1981 and a Tony award winning musical in 1988.

Signed first editions of this title are the most desirable from this author. The only book that can compare is Doctorow’s first publication, Welcome To Hard Times, which was published 15 years prior. The major defect that might plague first printings is the dust cover. Printed with a white cover, the jacket is prone to yellowing around the edges and being frail or brittle at the folds.

Prior to publication, Random House produced a signed limited edition of 150 copies that were available for private sale. Originally, the title sold for less than $50. Today, the book sells for anywhere between $400 and $1,100 depending on the seller. Since there were only 150 copies, this is an extremely small limited print run for any book. Since this is Doctorow’s most famous title, it makes it even more valuable.

Rarely are these copies found for sale. The book is over 30 years old, and as Doctorow continues to write, he gets better and better. His latest novel, The March, was nominated for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize.

If you are a Doctorow fan and a collector – this is a title you cannot pass up.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Toni Morrison

Born in 1931, Toni Morrison’s contributions to American literature have been profound.

In 1993, Morrison won the coveted Nobel Prize in Literature. That was secured with her novel, Beloved which was published in 1988 (which also won Morrison the Pulitzer Prize). Her novels are richly detailed novels about African Americans and their quest for life.

Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, published in 1970 (at the age of 39), started Morrison out on the right foot of writing. Then, the book was regarded as controversial and was not the most remembered novel of the year. Today, the book is a modern classic taught at universities around the United States.

After The Bluest Eye, Morrison went on to publish Sula, Song of Soloman, Tar Baby, Beloved, and Jazz. With those novels, Morrison became one of the most important American writers as well as a voice for African and African Americans. From her novels she has won National Book Critics Circle Award and been nominated for The National Book Award as well as winning the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes.

In more recent years, Morrison has published a series of children’s books with her son, Slade. She has also published two novels titled, Paradise and Love. Both novels are not regarded as highly as Morrison’s writing that took place in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, but they are still respected books by any means.

Morrison’s value to a collector is disputable. Some, myself included, find that books signed by Morrison are not as sought after as they should be. Sometimes you can find signed copies of Morrison books for under $50. That is truly unheard of for a Nobel Prize winning author. She does hold the bar when it comes to earlier titles and signed copies of Beloved.

With The Bluest Eye, first printings, unsigned, can sell for close to $3,000. Signed copies have sold for close to $10,000. The main reason being that Morrison was unheard of in 1970. Most of the first printings went to libraries and subsequently destroyed after sometime. Morrison didn’t really make a huge impact on the literature world until 1977 with the publication of Song of Soloman, so by then, all of her earlier titles were not in the best of condition. Even today, a signed first printing of Sula can demand close to $2,000.

Beloved is the favorite title to have signed by Morrison. The caveat to that is that there are many out there. The value can depend on the current market demand. I have seen a signed copy sell for $100 as well as $860. She does not do many book signings, and when she does, the rules are very strict that Morrison will only sign the current title that she is promoting. I have known once instance in the past 7 years where she has signed back titles.

To me, Morrison’s signature is indisputably recognizable. There have been many frauds floating around eBay and other online selling forums…but for the most part, since Morrison’s recent titles are fairly cheap when signed, it’s not worth the effort. But even worse, the back titles are so expensive unsigned that the risk is also not worth the effort.

In May of 2006, a group selected by the New York Times decided that Morrison’s Beloved is the best book published in the last 25 years. Keep that in mind when buying.

Friday, June 30, 2006

To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee is one of those American authors that has, and always will have, the word “Great” associated with their name. Miss Lee only has one book to her resume; the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Of course, if one wanted to be picky, they could also count her assistance on the novel “In Cold Blood” as a major writing contribution. But somehow, I think that childhood friend Truman Capote would want that credit removed.

Published on July 11th, 1960, “Mockingbird” was accepted, automatically, as the greatest novel of its time. It was critically acclaimed and won the literatures highest prize, the Pulitzer. During this time, her relationship with lifelong friend, Capote, was thinning. This is attributed to Capote’s substance abuse and it is long rumored that Capote was extremely jealous of Lee’s new found fame because it was actually He that wrote “Mockingbird.”

Several times, Capote made reference that he wrote large portions of “Mockingbird” and Lee’s failure to produce another novel adds fuel to the flame. Another person, probably the only other person to step forward, is Pearl Kazin Bell, an editor at Harper’s magazine. While there is no documented proof of this, the only people who can verify are Capote (died in 1984), and Lee herself.

The book, “To Kill A Mockingbird” holds quite some weight in the collectible world. A first printing, first edition, with just a good dustcover can get over a thousand dollars on the market. Should the dustcover be in better condition, the price rises considerably. Since publication, the dust jacket was prone to damage and tear, and this shows on many editions for sale.

It is quite a rarity to find an early inscribed edition of “Mockingbird” because the collectible value is quite substantial. Lee did not do many book signings at the books initial release, and even today, Lee remains to be highly reclusive and refuses to attend lectures and award ceremonies in her honor. At the publication of the 30th/35th/40th anniversary, Lee pre-signed copies of the reissue, and this was sold to subscribers of the publisher. You can get these editions on the secondary market for much cheaper than a first edition.

The one thing that makes me hesitate with a signed Harper Lee anything – is that her signature is very simple. An easy forge. The book pictured to the right shows a private inscription. Something that Lee would not do for a stranger, and more so, since it has more of Lee’s handwriting, it’s easily identifiable as an authentic signature.

With Lee – the only real valuable is a first printing of “Mockingbird” or any galley’s (uncorrected proofs) of the novel. These, of course, are substantially higher in value.

My advice when collecting Harper Lee material is:

• Understand that a first printing of “Mockingbird” is no longer just a book. This is a lifetime collectible that can be passed down to many generations.
• Be sure you feel comfortable with the signature. I would never buy a flatsigned book by Harper Lee due to the simplicity of her signature. Always seek advice from others. You are better safe than sorry.
• Be sure this is something you care about. Lots of times people collect just to own it. You have to love this book and its history to pay the price – but once you have – you will never regret it.

Just a heads up of what to look for – there are several collectible versions of “Mockingbird.” I am listing those that I am familiar with. This is, in no way a definitive listing:

• First edition, first printing.
• 30th Anniversary, first printing (signed or unsigned)
• 35th Anniversary, first printing (signed or unsigned), the rarest of all reprints.
• 40th Anniversary, first printing (signed or unsigned), most common of all reprints.
• Easton Press leather bound edition (unsigned)
• First Edition Library facsimile

Friday, June 16, 2006

Starter Packs FOR SALE!

I received the following press release from a gentleman in the UK with a pretty good idea:

Collecting rare books can be daunting for newcomers to the trade. Often it is difficult to know where to start, and building a coherent collection can be pricey. Even seasoned veterans in the trade find that building a collection with the right angle and with longer term investment value can be challenging. With this in mind, a well-known rare book trader in London has started putting together small starter packs of rare collectible books. These collections present a package of books that follow a particular theme and are selected with the new collector in mind. The concept was initially thought up by Ilka Rauch, the head of the Modern Literature department at Bernard J Shapero Rare Books.

With a keen eye for the beginnings of a modern rare book collection and years of experience helping her customers source books for their particular collections, she felt that newcomers to the book collecting world were often put off by the complexities of the trade. One of the most difficult starting points is building a themed collection and knowing which items are likely to build the collection's overall value. Many beginners start out simply wanting to adorn a shelf with a colorful collection of rare books that symbolize their status and that capture their own life philosophies.

The hardest part about building a collection like this is that it requires individually sourcing a number of books that tie up a theme. Bernard J Shapero has provided already sourced and themed collections with an eye to catching a growing market of new book collectors starting out and trying to build their collections with as little effort as possible. PDF catalogues of the items in each collection are currently available on their website at Current starter collections include a Mountaineering collection, Science-Fiction collection, a Modern Women collection and selected works illustrated by renowned 1940's artist John Minton.

Kindest Regards
Rowan Puttergill

I think the general idea of the concept is great. I remember when I first started collecting books; I would collect paperbacks with different covers, different editions, etc. I have learned just how fast you can spend money on things you don't really need. With this program, you have experts who will take your information and help you along the way. Great. Simply great!

My advice to new collectors: Collect what you love. Ultimately this is your book shelf. Collect books that you enjoyed reading; don’t collect the books that look better or books you might not appreciate later. And the best advice I can give - books are NOT the stock market. Do not think that because a book sells for a lot of money now, that it will only gain in the future. There are several instances where that is true, but not ALL instances.

In the future, I will post a topic on the dependency of rising prices. But until then, take a look at that site, and feel free to contact them with any questions.

Happy reading -

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Uncorrected Proofs, Bound Manuscripts, & Advanced Readers Copies

Before the publication of novels, publishing houses bind several paperback copies of the book and distribute them internally, to booksellers, and executive producers. These bound editions have several names depending on the time they are released. These books are distributed, for free, as a sort of "early announcment" for booksellers, and they are used to garner interest from Hollywood for those interested in buying the film rights to movies.

To the left is the uncorrected proof to Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. Its fairly easy to distinguish an uncorrected proof from a bound manuscript or advanced readers copy because the proof is usually very basic in appearance. The cover is most likely a solid color with the title of the book and the author’s name. Usually on the front or back of the book, it can have information such as date of publication, first print run, and the formal announcement of the forthcoming book.

Depending on the buyer, this is the most desirable state of proof. It's too early for the book to have any art work, and there can be some significant changes in the text of the story. For the most part, proofs differ only slightly from the actual first printing of the book. I have never heard of a proof that has a total different story conclusion from the first printing; just minor changes in facts and possible word omissions to make the story flow easier.

Since these proofs are made for mainly in house viewing, there are few made and the quality is not the greatest. The binding usually breaks easy since the glue is cheap; and the paper covers damage very easily since they are not protected in any way from damage.

In this photograph, this shows two early editions of Janet Fitch's White Oleander. On the right is the bound manuscript - the left, an advanced readers copy. The bound manuscript is the rarest of all early editions. Basically, it is a photocopy of the authors actual manuscript - before editing, before any corrections. These types of proofs are rarely made, and when they are, they are made in such limited quantity that they rarely show up for sale on the secondary market. This is, in my opinion, the most desirable of any proof. It has the type setting of the authors typewriter/computer and is, in no way changed by editors or publishers.

To the right of the Fitch photo (and to the right of the screen) is the Advanced Readers Copy. This is the more common of all proofs and more available to buyers. This is basically what the paperback will look like once it is published. ARC's are the books have if you want to read the book early. I remember when Stephen King's The Dark Tower 7 book was due out, there was a bookstore near me selling the proof copy for well over $1,000. Not only did they sell it, but people were calling them for weeks to ask if they were getting another. The downfall is that the proof isnt worth 1/3 of the $1,000 initially paid. So basically the $1,000 is what you pay to read the book before everyone else. To some collectors – the price is cheap to read the ending to a book before anyone else.

John Hanic, one of the leading collectors in Stephen King proofs/ARC's/manuscripts says:

"I liked the idea of being one of the very few people in the world to have read his newest work before it was officially published. All these items are issued before the initial trade printing, making them the true first printing of the book."

The flip side to collecting books is that once you have the proof from the United then have to buy the United Kingdom proof (the photo above is the UK ARC to A Million Little Pieces). For the most part, collecting the UK proof can be harder if you live in the US because it’s not a common occurrence for the UK proof to show up on the market. In addition, once you are familiar with the UK proofs - you then find different variations from all over the world.

"I decided to enhance my collection by trying to get all of King’s works in their proof form. I wanted both US and UK versions. I didn’t realize just how many and varied the items are, and how scarce information is regarding these. I am continually learning of new proofs that I didn’t know existed from numerous sources," says Hanic.

I would not suggest for a beginner to start collecting proofs right away. Proofs can cost a lot of money and isn’t the wisest choice to start a collection with. Get the first edition, and if its a book you love, look for the proof. It’s a great addition to any collection and is - in fact - the rarest form of your favorite book.