In honor of Banned Books Awareness Week 2015, we present a couple of classic literary works that not only are among the most sought-after first editions but also among the books most often considered dangerous and offensive.
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
First Printing, Little, Brown & Co., 1951
J.D. Salinger’s first book has remained a popular and critical favorite since it was published, appearing near the top of the “greatest American literature” lists of Time, Modern Library, and many other listmakers. Many school districts and libraries have restricted or banned it for profanity, sexual references, and other reasons. It’s been a particular favorite of high-schoolers, which is why it so often has been the center of censorship attempts.
Our St. Paul, Minnesota store has this treasure. It is a first edition, so stated on the copyright page. It is a very nice copy, priced at $4,000, with minor chipping to the dust jacket, minimal browning at the edges, and an owner’s signature on the front free endpaper.
Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade, by Kurt Vonnegut
First Printing, Delacorte, 1969
Kurt Vonnegut based his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five on his own experiences in Germany as a soldier in World War II. It’s been banned many times and has once even been burned (in Drake, ND, in 1973).
This book resides at our Northtown store in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. It is a first printing, and the original price of $5.95 is present on the unclipped dust jacket. Northtown’s price, $450, takes into account some minor flaws, primarily the slightly scuffed and browned dust jacket. But you can see from the photos that the dust jacket is overall in Very Good condition, with no tears or chips. The book is solid and tight.
Our Minnesota district was lucky enough to land these two first editions in a collection they bought—an exceptional assortment of modern first editions that included a roll call of oft-banned classics: Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead; Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls; Wright’s Native Son; Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath; Heller’s Catch-22; Nabokov’s Lolita; Burroughs’ Naked Lunch; and Tropic of Cancer and several other Henry Miller firsts. It was certainly an outstanding acquisition!
Another Caulfield—It is believed that Salinger named Catcher’s main character Holden Caulfield after favorite actress Joan Caulfield.
First Book—Our stores occasionally see copies of The Kit Book for Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, which includes Salinger’s first appearance in a book, his story “The Hang of It.” The Kit Book was issued to military personnel in 1942 and 1943.
Peacenik?—Although some Vonnegut novels, including Slaughterhouse-Five, feature the horrors of war as a theme, Vonnegut has admitted to some ambivalence about pacifism. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in WWII.
If you’re interested in buying either of these rarest of rare collectibles, visit HPB.com/buyguy and contact me, the HPB Buy Guy.