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Saturday, December 01, 2018

Book Blogger Hop: On First Editions

This week’s Book Blogger Hop asks you if you could time travel to pick up a first edition, what would it be?

Actually, I already have one, Mark Twain’s A Yankee At The Court Of King Arthur (first British edition, published the same year). If Twain was still around, judging by this book, and others, he’d be sending up the current admin on Twitter and keeping a blog. 

But if I could have a first edition of choice, here is what it would be. 

I do have several  copies, including an ebook with an intro by the author, but this one, for me, would be very special. Why? Because it was not easy to get into print. This was the US during the McCarthy era witch hunts. The author was a Communist- in fact, he wrote it from his prison cell. Of course, like many other writers and artists of the time he was blacklisted. So no US publisher would take it, or dared to, though when the film was made several years later, another blacklisted author, screenplay writer, Dalton Trumbo, got his name in the credits for the first time in years. By the way, the Party hated it too, because he had the nerve to write a sympathetic Roman character who was rich. Fast says in his autobiography The Naked God, that he had wanted to show this character, Gracchus, as “the great American politician” who had never lost touch with the people. 

It was published in the UK soon enough, but meanwhile, what did this artist do? He turned to his fans and got it crowdfunded. It’s not that this was new even then; people had been “subscribing” to produce new books for yonks. But think about how easy it is now compared to then. Now? You just go on Kickstarter or GoFundMe and when you’ve met your commitments, you still have books to sell, or a film to show, or whatever. And then ebooks. Not so easy in those days well before the Internet, but he did it. As you’ll know, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, it has sold millions of copies and been translated into many languages and was made into a classic film. 

So, that would be my first edition. What’s yours? 

PS His granddaughter, Molly Jong Fast, is on Twitter having a go at the administration right as we speak! 


Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sue - Thank you for stopping by my blog. I have been reading some of your posts. I think that your blog is excellent. This is a great question that you addressed here. I love the film Spartacus but I did not know much about the books or about Fast, What a fascinating story! I can see the appeal of a first edition of this book.

I agree I think that of Twain was alive today hr would certainly be parodying Trump.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Brian! Thanks, and welcome to my blog. I’ve been enjoying your posts on Maria’s blog. I do recommend the novels of Howard Fast. He did a lot of American-themed novels, but also historical fiction like Spartacus, which is available in ebook both in iBooks and Kindle, though the Kindle edition is much cheaper and you can get the audiobook with it. He also wrote science fiction, plus crime fiction under a pen name.

If you have a look around this blog, I also posted about his novel My Glorious Brothers, about the Maccabees, in a post about Chanukah and, to my delight, got a comment from his widow, Mimi.