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Literary Ephemera


Several years ago, my brother-in-law Al passed along a large collection of books that had belonged to his parents. The idea at the time is that I would sell them on eBay on his behalf, and take a commission for my efforts. Well, I quickly discovered that most of the books - a lot of popular fiction from the 1950s and 1960s - have little market value these days, so the books have mostly languished in the basement of our former and current houses. I hauled some of them out yesterday to try to sell at our garage sale, with no takers, and our local charity thrift store wouldn't take them either. So while I try to figure out their next possible destination (which very well might be our alley), I've been enjoying digging into some of these old relics.

The books themselves are fascinating in themselves, in a kind of time capsule sort of way, but inside one of them I was pleasantly surprised to find a Literary Guild book club circular ("Wings") from September 1960. It's been great fun to page through this, not just for the throwback illustrations, but also to read the promotional flack that the Literary Guild used back then.

The feature title for that month was Diana, by R.F. Delderfield. That image shown above is presumably the fair Diana herself. Here's the first paragraph of hype on the book: "This is a love story in the old-fashioned style. It is sentimental and it is simple - a poor boy meets a rich girl, they fall in love. Will they marry? Compared to all the sordid stories that have been published lately, Diana is refreshing and very touching." I'll say one thing about Literary Guild: they sure knew their audience - suburban housewives like my brother-in-law's sweet but extremely straight-laced mom.

There's a short profile of the author, who is quoted as saying: "My real aim in writing Diana was to protest against the cheapening and exploitation of young love in current fiction and entertainment. I wrote it in the spirit of the Pre-Raphaelites in the mid-nineteenth century - a plea for the return of the Romantic Age - or reaction, if you like, against the squalor of our Angry Young Men's approach to Romance - and that of your Beatniks." Ah yes, those sordid and squalid Angry Young Men and Beatniks. How our society ever survived such tawdry, non-Romantic filth is simply beyond me.

And here's a photo of the author, looking quite starched, erudite and thoughtful, in a manner you simply don't see in author photos these days of anyone other than Tom Wolfe:


One other book of note is The View From the Fortieth Floor, by Theodore H. White, "The Dramatic Story of the Collapse of a Great Magazine Empire!" The image below is presumably that of the protagonist, John Warren, and his estranged wife whom he's trying to win back while simultaneously struggling to "rebuild Trumpet and Gentlewoman, national magazines which had once helped to shape America's dreams and thoughts."


Given the mindset of Delderfield (to whom Literary Guild presumably was sympathetic enough to make him their featured writer for the month) that was cited above, I'm guessing the dashing Mr. Warren saved both the magazines and his marriage, and the story didn't end with Warren as a bitter and solitary alcoholic suicide candidate, both magazines in bankruptcy, hundreds of employees out of work and, most importantly, America's dreams and thoughts hopelessly adrift.

I've uploaded pdf files of the pages for each of these books, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Download wings_diana.pdf
Download wings_diana2.pdf
Download wings_diana3.pdf
Download wings_white_teenage.pdf

September 28, 2008 in Books, Ephemera | Permalink


I understand that as part of his art, Andy Warhol would collect just this kind of ephemera and put it in boxes that he would seal. There are apparently hundreds of these boxes, and the curators of his estate periodically open one of them and catalog the contents. I remember seeing a novel along this line called "The Old Goat" about a lecherous older gentleman. It came from one of the boxes.

When I am finished with a book, I generally donate it to a certain small-town library in rural Missouri. They do one of three things with it. They add it to their collection (gratifying to me); they sell it at their fund-raiser book sale (also nice); or they give it to the local used book store (every small town should have one). You might consider that option.

Posted by: Paul Lamb at Sep 29, 2008 7:18:01 AM

Hello and how do you do . . .

Diana has long been one of my favourite novels. I was very pleased by your quotations with respect to R F. Delderfield. Many years ago I drove around the Bristol Channel area of Devon looking at the ground where the novel was presumed to have taken place. All the best.
David Gudlaugson / Seoul ROK

Posted by: David Gudlaugson at Mar 21, 2009 12:06:17 PM