November 4, 2015

CCLaP Rare: "Humboldt's Gift" by Saul Bellow (1975), 1st Edition 1st Printing

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow, 1st Edition 1st Printing

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow, 1st Edition 1st Printing

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow, 1st Edition 1st Printing

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow, 1st Edition 1st Printing

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow, 1st Edition 1st Printing

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow, 1st Edition 1st Printing

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow, 1st Edition 1st Printing

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Humboldt's Gift (1975)
By Saul Bellow
First Edition, First Printing

DESCRIPTION: The 1975/76 school year was a big one for writer Saul Bellow: after stints in Minnesota, Paris, Puerto Rico and New York, he was now back at his childhood home of Chicago, teaching at his old alma mater at the University of Chicago; and after twenty years of hardscrabble blue-collar odes in his literary career, 1975 saw the release of the exquisite academic novel Humboldt's Gift, winner of that year's Pulitzer Prize, and followed up the next year by Bellow's win of the Nobel Prize (to say nothing of the three National Book Awards he won over the course of his life, still to this day the only writer in history to do so). Ostensibly a lightly fictionalized tribute to his old mentor, cranky Modernist poet Delmore Schwartz (turned here into the "Von Humboldt Fleisher" of this book's title), in reality this book is a dense, culturally loaded look at far-left liberal intellectuals from the 1930s through '70s, and the various fates that awaited them based on the decade in question -- from their embrace by the mainstream during the Rooseveltian New Deal years, to the Red Scare villainy of the 1950s, to their re-embrace during the '60s countercultural era, and their subsequent irrelevance during the culturally commodifying '70s. (BONUS: See CCLaP's more analytical look at Humboldt's Gift from 2010.) Considered one of the major highlights of Bellow's career, this is also one of the most important novels of the entire Postmodernist era, a book that gets chosen over and over as one of the best of the 20th century, and a must-have for any collector of so-called "hypermodern" (less than 50 years old) first editions.

CONDITION: Text: Very Good Plus (VG+). Nearly identical to how the book appeared when brand new. Dust jacket: Very Good (VG). Mostly in fantastic shape for its 40-year age, with an unclipped price tag, except for a few small crinkles along the edges and a couple of scuff marks on the front cover. As confirmed by the McBride Guide to First Editions, text on the copyright page stating "First Published in 1975," along with a lack of other printing notices, makes this a true first edition, first printing.

PROVENANCE: Acquired by CCLaP at the Regenstein Library Book Sale on the University of Chicago campus, November 2015.

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Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, November 4, 2015. Filed under: CCLaP Rare | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Profiles | Reviews |