April 9th, 2012
In the course of unpacking — a slow and reflective process in our house — I have come across a number of books I forgot I had. Some are mementos of childhood, my own and others’; some have been carefully saved up in hopes I’d eventually find time to read them. But my favorites by far are those old friends whose scarred spines and tattered covers, the results of being carried around in pockets and bags to be enjoyed in odd moments, bespeak many happy re-readings.
Some in fact are so battered as to be unfit for further use. The pair of paperbacks pictured here were in such terrible condition that keeping them at all seemed futile. But still I couldn’t quite bear to part with them completely. So I removed the crumbling pages and kept their covers (I do so love pulp cover art).
The Night of the Hunter, published in 1953, is perhaps even better known as a film — the only one Sir Charles Laughton ever directed — starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and the divine Lillian Gish. This copy belonged to my husband, who also used to own the soundtrack record.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover is in a different class altogether (sorry Mr. Grubb). It was banned in the US for many years on grounds of obscenity. Ha! Today Connie’s exploits would be considered tame by comparison with your average family-oriented television sit-com script. But at the time it was shocking.
Barney Rosset’s Grove Press, crusader against literary censorship, eventually won the right to publish Lawrence’s 1928 novel in its original form. This gorgeous edition was a gift from my husband before we were even engaged. I drove my mother crazy by carrying it around in my purse and reading it conspicuously in public. I’ve always been something of a literary exhibitionist…