Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nabokov's Butterfly

I really enjoyed this book. Book collecting is an area of collecting that has its differences from other types of collecting. Rick Gekoski explores the reasons that certain editions of famous authors are highly sought after and offers a unique look into the realm of high-end book collecting.

Gekoski deals in high-end books. Although Gekoski was born in St. Louis, he went to school, worked and lives in England. This in itself provides a different perspective to collecting. Mostly, though, it is the fact that Gekoski has established himself as a friend to many authors, even publishing limited edition tomes of their works through two presses he started himself, that sets him apart. The books you read about aren't ones that most people are going to try and acquire. They are too rare, too unique, and too expensive. Just as many of us are fascinated by those more famous or well-to-do, this book appeals to those who appreciate the existence of these books, even if acquisition is difficult.

Gekoski looks at books by famous authors such as Tolkien, Nabokov, Golding, Joyce, Toole and on and on. Some of the books are well-known ones, others are more obscure. Every one of them is fascinating, though. Gekoski tells why these books are sought after and what makes them worthwhile. In some cases he talks about his own personal encounters with these books.

The downside to this book is threefold. One, there is a lack of humility on Gekoski's part. He's not quite arrogant but the smugness that he is in an exalted position in the bookselling world definitely comes across. Two, you really have to appreciate books to like this book. Ed Rendell isn't going to like this. Kindle users probably won't appreciate it. You don't necessarily have to collect books, but you do need to appreciate them.

The last downside is bit humorous to me. Nabokov's Butterfly is the American edition of the book Tolkien's Gown which was printed in England. In the book, Gekoski complains about poor editing. He has two presses, it makes sense. All except for the fact that the introduction was not corrected when Nabokov's Butterfly was released. The introduction talks about Tolkien's Gown. Oops. That's not going to knock my appreciation of the book down, really, but I thought it was funny that Mr. Smug Editor erred on the very first few pages.

If you like books, though, check this one out. It's a fun and informative book.

1 comment:

Mark's Ephemera said...

Okay, this is one I'm going to have to track down and read. Thanks for the review.