Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cool surprises in "The Moon is Down"

On a recent trip to Portland, Oregon I paid a visit to Powell's Books. I picked up a 1942 version of John Steinbeck's novella The Moon is Down. The book is no first edition or anything; the dustjacket lists its publication price as $5, and I bought it for $8.95. That's not much of a markup for 66 years. I just love Steinbeck, and enjoy having some vintage copies of his books around.

There are a couple of interesting things about this particular tome. First, tucked into the front cover is a reprint of a review from Book-of-the-Month-Club-News which, according to its last page, was printed about the size of the book at the suggestion of book club members "so that it can be pasted, if desired, to the flyleaf." This one isn't pasted, it's in there loose. The review, written by Dorothy Canfield, notes at one point that

Steinbeck's hastily written story is probably not first-rate literature, will probably not go down in literary history as one of the masterpieces of the art.

To which I ask, "Who the blazes is Dorothy Canfield to pick at John Steinbeck?" Sure, she may have invented Montessori and served on the BOMC committee for a quarter century (according to Wikipedia), but please.

The other interesting item is a note on the back of the dustjacket, pictured at right. The note suggests that, once you're finished reading the book, you should mail it to Atlanta, location of the "Army Libraries," because the men in the services could use some good reading. That's ironic; the story of The Moon is Down is clearly war propaganda and everyone takes the invaders to be Germans, but Steinbeck doesn't actually name the town that's invaded or the invading country. At its core, the story is about the futility of invading and occupying another country. I wonder if anyone mailed their copy in, and if Army Libraries passed it along to the front.

One last observation from the same note: it says that book postage is 1 1/2 cents per pound. The Moon is Down can't weigh much more than a pound, as it's a hardcover but only 188 pages. I've half a mind to mail it in and see if it gets there for two cents! In the same way, I'm always tempted to grab subscription cards from old magazines and see if I can still get them for just 32 cents per week.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I love Steinbeck too. I'll have to read that one. I love the look of your blog, by the way. It's so comfortable!