Friday, June 08, 2012

Book-less Jackets



A long time ago, I think in the pages of a 1970s edition of the Bookman magazine, I read an article in which a book dealer told how he had been invited to Brighton to help hoover up the stock of a shop going out of business. Among the detritus apparently were hundreds of book-less dust jackets. Instantly, he was excited, grabbed armfuls of them, thinking obviously, to make his jacket-less books back at home, that much more valuable by the addition of a jacket. The moral of his article was that this turned out to be hubris, that the matching of a jacket to exactly the right and proper book is almost impossible in most cases.

So, when I wandered into a bookshop not a million miles from here the other day and discovered a huge pile of jackets, I had this article ringing at the back of my mind. Perhaps that's why I only came home with four. Two were for books that I already have, jacketed. These were the Rodney Garland books The Troubled Midnight and Heart in Exile. Garland, which was a pseudonym for Adam Martin de Hedegus, wrote these haunting and depressing gay novels in the 1960s and they are milestone works of the period. The third jacket seems to be for a book no one has ever heard of, let alone has for sale in a jacket-less state: Hell & High Water. The perils of matching were brought home to me, however, with The Troubled Midnight jacket. Until I bought the spare I hadn't even noticed that there is a note on the jacket of my own copy that says 'fifth impression', but there's nothing inside denoting it as such. Strangely, my new jacket has exactly the same impression noted on it. The fourth jacket, I couldn't remember, standing in the bookshop if I had a copy of Brooke's Conventional Weapons or not. It turns out I do but only as an Advanced Reading Copy, for which the jacket it useless.

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