suggested heads/subheads: Take My First Editions -- Please: Crimes and Misdemeanors of the Literati True Fictions!

Depraved Depictions! Scorching Inscriptions! The Gift That Keeps on Giving: Autographed Books, Like Herpes, Gain New Lives BY BYRON KERMAN The ad appeared in a recent issue of Firsts: The Magazine for Book Collectors: “Books from the Library of Neil Simon: Brooks, Mel and Carl Reiner. THE 2000 YEAR OLD MAN. A fine first [edition] in dj [dust jacket]. Warmly signed by both...$200.00.” Neil Simon, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright/schmaltz vendor, was having a fire sale on autographed books -- or was he? Simon, explains the LA-area bookseller who brokered the sale, was moving from LA back to the scene of his scenes, New York. The sentimental playwright was unsentimentally unloading a cache of books to lighten the relocation. It’s common, says the bookseller (who asked not to be identified in this story), for folks to get rid of books before a big move. In Simon’s treasure trove: a first-edition Gravity’s Rainbow, a signed book of photographs by the late Roddy McDowell, and humor in hardback “warmly inscribed” to Simon by Brooks, Reiner, Steve Martin and possibly others. Okay, here’s the thing: some of those dudes are still alive. Mightn’t it be considered a bit...unseemly for a big macher like Simon to sell off his autographed books while the authors are still kicking? Sort of a “Hey, thanks for the book -- how much do you think I can get for it?” Among book collectors, “association copies,” signed from one noted compadre to another, are highly prized. The Simon sale was, in fact, advertised in a national publication, and the Brooks/Reiner, Martin and McDowell association copies flew off the shelves, reports the seller, before they could gather a mote of dust. In 1996, just that sort of premature sale of a Paul Theroux book inscribed to thenfriend V.S. Naipaul lead the former to blow off the latter for good. (Theroux’s salty book recounting the whole sour affair, it should be noted, is easily the most passionate thing the wordy Brit has ever penned.) An informal poll of prominent book dealers reveals that Simon’s faux pas is open to interpretation. Tom Congalton, of New Jersey’s Between the Covers, says that association copies are sold when both parties are still among the living “all the time,” sometimes for the considerable money to be made. Hadley, Ma., bookseller Ken Lopez tells a sad story about Tim O’Brien, novelist of the Vietnam War experience (The Things They Carried). At one point, O’Brien was so strapped for cash that he convinced his parents to give back a career’s-worth of limited-edition works he’d inscribed to them; the subsequent sale of these collector’s rarities kept the author out of the poorhouse. Lopez tells a similar tale about short-story writer Andre Dubus, who once saved his bacon by

” As far as Simon’s moving sale goes. somebody picked it up and gave it to Cindy Adams.” adds Wilson. and also felt the world owed him something. “and it should come back to haunt them. we get rid of it.” If you’ve got a monkey on your back. John Updike couldn’t possibly read every book sent his way by publishers and young authors eager to be anointed by the deified plodder -. it got on the shelves down here. paradoxically. Sanders recalls that Abbey would defend his deception by crowing that “it just means those goddamn publishers didn’t print enough of my first editions. “I never sell books signed to me -. So when the second copy came in. we should .” Collectors would think they were getting the original.” Selling a book with “association” of the carnal variety may come back to haunt one noted writer.” At the other end of the spectrum. “At some point someone told him that books signed in the first year of publication were more valuable. she didn’t even look at it. recently sold her 1978 advance reading copy of The World According to Garp to Lopez.selling rare. to dealers. and never even looked at it.I always think that’s a bad thing to do.When we get the ugly gift from Aunt Edna. I gave Liz Smith a better inscription than I gave most of my friends. but continued to buy the inscribed Allen Ginsberg first editions that Corso would bring in to sell “before the ink was dry. A certain lit chick. Liz Smith’s arch enemy. spines uncracked. Boston bookseller Peter Stern muses that “intrinsically.” Even the seller of the autographed books from the Simon collection admits. you got me in a lot of trouble.. and read the book. Cindy Adams then wrote a column about how fast Liz Smith couldn’t wait to sell Ivana Trump’s book. “Gregory was totally conscienceless and always in need of money to support his drug habit.” explains friend of the deceased naturalist. In a more prosaic affair. whose identity is being kept secret at the request of the book broker. By accident. Selling association copies is one thing.. I guess. is a less venial sin. “He (Abbey) would absolutely ridicule this whole concept of book collecting. in memory of ‘that’ night. Lopez explains.’” One good veiled insult deserves another. “[These were] legitimate poems and writing by him. and she said to me ‘Oh. early novels inscribed to him by his first cousin. the jury is still out. The inscription reads “For ___. Fred Bass of NYC’s venerable Strand Book Store recalls what happened when “Ivana Trump sent Liz Smith a copy of her book with a nice inscription in it.” so Abbey became known for slyly offering to sign his books with false dates of inscription. fierce bibliophile and author of A Gentle Madness Nicholas Basbanes calls down a curse on the heads of premature sellers of association copies: “personally I think it’s very rude. threw it in a box with some junk she was gonna sell us. but the reason she never looked at it was she had already got a copy. mystery writer James Lee Burke.that’s why. but forging inscriptions. And Liz Smith. former owner of Greenwich Village’s defunct Phoenix Booksop.. forging entire manuscripts is no big deal.” he says. he’s been known to thin out his library of “warmly inscribed” novels by selling them.. as cantankerous cactus-lover Edward Abbey was fond of doing. The book dealer soon got wise to the trick.” recalls Robert Wilson. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Then I ran into Ivana Trump at a party and introduced myself as the man who caused all this fuss by selling her book. Beat poet Gregory Corso “would bring in a whole batch of notebooks in his own handwriting. Salt Lake City bookseller Ken Sanders. but quite often he would write the same manuscript over again several times.

000. John Irving.” For a mere $2. you may still be able to purchase a token of a highly literary one-night stand. and learn who gave up the goods.never be ashamed. Love. .

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