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By Booth Tarkington (1914)
First Edition, First Printing
DESCRIPTION: Booth Tarkington is of course no stranger to CCLaP's readers; an Indianapolis native who was once the biggest selling author in the entire United States, he is part of that group that the center holds a special candle of vigilance for, which for lack of a better term might be called "Former Midwestern Titans of Early Modernist Literature Who Have Now Been Nearly Completely Forgotten By Mainstream Society At Large." (See also from this club: Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, Arthur Meeker, Harold Bell Wright, and more.) Here in the 21st century, Tarkington is remembered for only two books from his long and popular career, when he is remembered at all -- the Pulitzer-winning The Magnificent Ambersons (which like Anderson's Winesburg Ohio or Meeker's Prairie Avenue tells the history of a Midwestern's city's transition during the early 20th century from a sleepy rural town to an industrial powerhouse); and today's book up for auction, the massively popular childhood-hijinks tale Penrod, so popular in fact that it spawned two equally bestselling sequels and a whole host of blockbuster movie adaptations (including a musical version in 1951 that helped launch the film career of Doris Day). Essentially a ripoff -- or, er, I mean "loving homage" -- of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, and a book series that actually outsold Twain among Tarkington's contemporary audiences, Penrod is basically a series of genteel, humorous vignettes about the preteen scamp of the book's title, many of them centered around his ongoing complications and peer humility over being chosen as Lancelot for his school's coming stage production of the King Arthur legend. Now, granted, Tarkington's actual writing style here leaves a lot to be desired among 21st-century readers (among other troubling details, this book is filled with casual racism, thrown out so offhandedly that it ironically becomes an important teaching lesson in why racist stereotypes were so endemically accepted back then); but the book itself remains a hugely important historical document from the transitional time between Victorianism and Modernism, a title celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and one of the most popular books of its entire times. Being sold today at the premium price it deserves (copies in better condition and with the dust jacket sell for literally ten times as much), this is sure to be one of the jewels in the library of any collector of early 20th century American literature, a seminal title from a time in history when the American arts was still trying to decide what exactly it was going to be.
CONDITION: Text: Good Plus (G+). Although the binding of this copy is still in good, strong shape, there are unfortunately several issues with the fabric cover -- including wear and tear on all edges, several stains, and a spine that is starting to lose its color -- with a price today that reflects this. Dust jacket: Missing. Includes an ex-libris sticker on the inside front cover from "Franklin W. Kohler, Number 3T-1." (Interestingly, public census records show that Kohler was thirteen when acquiring this book, and lived in the Chicago-area town of New Trier.) As confirmed by the McBride Guide to the Identification of First Editions, an agreement date of 1914 on the title page and copyright page, as well as a lack of any additional printing notices, makes this a true first edition, first printing.
PROVENANCE: Acquired by CCLaP at the Hyde Park Book Fair, Chicago, October 2014.