Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pocket Books Edition - 1971

I was absentmindedly surfing through eBay, when I got the ides to look for "new" editions of The Razor's Edge, reasonably sure I wasn't going to find one. And yet...

I guess this edition's cover would rank the most laughably wrongheaded, trying so hard as it does to make the novel and its characters seem contemporary. Remove the text and it kind of reminds me of those "bumper cards" you'd see on The Tonight Show coming back from commercials.

Now I have an excuse to read the book again!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Screen Romances #210 - November 1946

Now here's an unusual version of The Razor's Edge!

Screen Romances was not your standard movie/gossip mag of the 1940s, which usually were a series of commercials for different movies, with some articles on the stars giving the reader some tiny glimpse into their "real" lives.

No, Screen Romances surprised me, and here's why: on page 37, there's an article on The Razor's Edge movie.

What's odd about this magazine's movie articles is that they're not about the movies, exactly: they're more novel-like summations of the plot, written in prose style. So in the couple of pages on The Razor's Edge, you've got a prose version of a movie adaptation of an original novel. Weird!

I love that I found this very obscure piece of Razor's Edge arcana; and for only a few bucks. I wonder what other movie magazines with RE content might be out there...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Armed Services Edition - 1944

This is my all-time favorite edition of The Razor's Edge: one made especially for the Armed Services!

For anyone not familiar with these, Armed Services Editions were specially-made books for servicemen in WW II, reformatted so they could be more easily carried in a G.I.'s back pocket.

As the cover indicates, these are the complete books, not abridgments. Dozens, if not hundreds, of titles were produced. The first forty titles are listed on the inside back cover, and a quick glance at the titles tells me The Razor's Edge was by far the most famous book so chosen for this series.

I was stunned when I saw this for sale on eBay; I had no idea this existed and couldn't believe its survived all these decades. But while this copy is pretty weather beaten, its still complete and readable. I can't imagine what it must have been like, reading about Larry Darrell and his quest for The Absolute while sitting in some filthy foxhole, wondering if you were going to live through the day.

This is the last copy of The Razor's Edge I have in my collection (I wanted to save the best for last), but I have other versions of the story in other formats I still plan to talk about, so keep an eye out for future posts coming soon!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hebrew Language Edition - 1940s

This is probably hands down the strangest version of The Razor's Edge in my collection, a version of the book printed in Palestine and entirely in Hebrew!

I found this on eBay for just a few bucks, and I couldn't resist buying it. This was certainly the moment my collecting of this book kicked into another gear, because I wasn't able to read this one--I simply wanted to own it.

Except for the words "Printed in Palestine" on page three, there is no other English in this edition, so I have no idea when it was printed. Considering what a huge hit the book was when it first came out, I'm betting this edition hails from the late 1940s. But of course I can't be sure...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Penguin Books Edition - 1984

Another edition with a fairly generic cover, though the subject seems more Larry Darrell-ish to me than some of the others.

The back cover description mentions more of the book's characters than any other edition: Gray and Suzanne Rouvier, for instance.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pan Books Edition - 1976

An interesting take for the cover this time around; it gives the reader a vague sense of the theme of the book without being too explicit. I wonder if this was shot for the book or was a piece of stock photography?

Interesting on the back cover that the book is described as being about three characters--Isabel, Elliott, and Larry--making it sound like they are of equal importance to the story. Sure, Isabel and Elliott probably get just as much (if not more) "screen time" as Larry, but anyone who's read The Razor's Edge knows this is the story of Larry Darrell.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Penguin Books Edition - 1963

Another paperback Penguin edition of The Razor's Edge, this time with a generic cover but one that nevertheless is fairly handsome--I especially like the distressed effect.

The back cover features one of the less flattering author portraits I've seen, but since most of the photos of Mr. Maugham seem to make him look like a total sourpuss, I guess this artist's rendering shouldn't be too big of a surprise.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Blaikston Book Club Edition - 1945

This 1945 edition of The Razor's Edge is virtually identical the the original 1944 Book Club Edition released by Doubleday. The only differences are on the front, where "The Story of A Man Who Found A Faith" has been replaced by the quote from Time seen above, and on the spine, where the company name Blaikston has been added at the very bottom. The back cover is exactly the same.

Blaikston was a publishing house based in Philadelphia, which must be how it ended up in the collection of my girlfriend's mother, who affixed a personalized sticker to its inside front cover (with the admonishment, "Ahoy! Don't sail away with this book!"). After she passed away, we had to go through her massive collection of books, and here was an edition of The Razor's Edge I didn't yet own. What were the odds?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pocket Books Edition - 1955

This 1955 edition of The Razor's Edge takes a moment right from the book (when Isabel visits Larry in his tiny apartment in France) for the cover. Its a fine painting, but isn't all that representative of the book's themes.

In addition, the Larry Darrell seen here looks way older than the character in the book. For most of the novel, Larry is in his twenties; here he looks much older--even older than Tyrone Power, who was 32 when played Larry in the 1946 film version.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Penguin Movie Tie-In Edition - 1984

Since The Razor's Edge was re-released as a movie tie-in on the occasion of the 1946 film, it only makes sense that it would be published again to mark the release of the 1984 film version, this time with star Bill Murray on the cover.

The back features a pretty decent description of the book's plot, with the emphasis being on the film, of course.

I never knew this edition existed until, while on a short trip to Maine, I saw it on the bookshelf in the childhood home of a friend of mine. From that point on, my #1 goal for when I got back was to go on eBay and get a copy for myself, which I did almost immediately.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Penguin Books Edition - 1983

This version of The Razor's Edge probably earns the award for most inscrutable cover--I have no idea what any of the objects pictured are supposed to mean, or how they relate the story.

What is very spot-on about this edition is the brief summary on the back cover--unlike other editions that have tended to miss the mark, the back cover here gives you the main thrust of the novel, its characters, and the book's place in literature history.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pocket Books Edition - 1946

This Pocket Books edition is clearly taking its cue from the then-new movie adaptation, since this cover makes the book look like a weepy melodrama.

The romance angle is played up on the description of the book's plot on the back cover, as well. Add in the cartoony Pocket Books logo, and you have a book that's hard to recognize as The Razor's Edge.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Triangle Books Movie Tie-In - 1946

Like a lot of books made into movies during this time, a new version of The Razor's Edge was released with a movie-centric cover--in this case, a still featuring Tyrone Power as Larry and Gene Tierney as Isabel.

This version must have sold like gangbusters as well, since its relatively easily found on eBay for not a lot of money, which is unusual for one of these movie tie-in books with the dustcover included.

I'm utterly charmed by these movie tie-in editions; if I had a lot of money to burn I'd make an effort to collect them (I have a similar movie tie-in edition for Lost Horizon, my second favorite book of all time). I'm not sure how many of them there were; but the inside flap lists this book as #81 in the series!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pocket Books Edition - 1964

Yet another paperback edition, again from Pocket Books. This one features a very simple, elegant cover, with a re-use of the motif on the back cover as well.

At some point during this book's existence, the first page must have fallen out or been torn out--then someone made a copy of the first page from another edition and taped it into this book's binding.

Page two ends midway through with the word "people" (from the sentence "It is very difficult to know people") and then picks up on page three. Kinda odd, but its nice someone went to all that effort to keep this book complete.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pocket Books "Giant Cardinal" Edition - 1960

Another paperback edition, again from Pocket Books. This one is unusual in that the cover features a specific scene from the book (in this case, when Larry, Isabel, and everyone else run into Sophie at the bar), not the usual metaphorical covers you find on The Razor's Edge. The cover art is uncredited--too bad; its a nice painting!

I like the use of text, with the slanted axis of both the lettering and the overall orientation. It reflects the "edge" part of the title of course, but it doesn't hit you over the head with it.

I have to say, I think the description of the book's plot on the back cover is a tad misleading--Larry has virtually no effect on Elliott, let alone it being "miraculous."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pocket Books Edition - 1974

This is the "newest" edition of The Razor's Edge I have bought--I was in the mood to read it again so I went looking on eBay and found this, an edition I'd never seen before. I dig that pseudo-hippie cover (which I first thought was a painting; upon further inspection I see its some sort of sculpture photographed close up).

I noticed that page 278, where Maugham and Larry have a meal after viewing Sophie's body, features a typo--it says, "knowing Larry seldom at meat", instead of "ate meat." I think that's the first time I've seen an error like that, in all the versions of the book I've read.

The indicia lists this edition as the book's "24th printing." Could that possibly mean there are that many different editions out there? If so, back to eBay...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Penguin Classics Edition - 1992

Up until the 2003 edition (part of a whole series of Maugham updates), this 1992 Penguin "Twentieth-Century Classics" edition of The Razor's Edge was probably the most frequently seen version of the book: for many years, it was the only edition that was still in print.

A rarity for The Razor's Edge, this edition features an introduction by Anthony Curtis, which is interesting in its own right (although I can't get on board with his view that the 1946 film adaptation was "pretty much a disaster"). Indeed, since I feel The Razor's Edge only gets more interesting with time, I wish every iteration of the book had an intro such as this; I'd love to read what people thought about the story as the decades passed.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Doubleday Book Club Edition - 1944

There seems to be conflicting information as to just how many copies The Razor's Edge first sold when it was published in 1944. Some sources say around a million copies; other put it around three times that. In either case, it was a huge hit.

If you search for the book on eBay, its this edition--the 1944 Doubleday Book Club Edition--that you'll find the most copies of, even with its dustjacket, a fairly rare occurrence for a book over 65 years old. That would seem to indicate to me that the book sold closer to three million copies; and that's why you can still find this on sale for a fairly cheap price.

I love that author photo of Maugham on the back--in the book, he's a jaunty, good-humored fellow; but in this picture he looks like a total sourpuss.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I never started a blog with more misgiving.

This blog, unlike all the others I have created, has no discernible reason for existence, since there is already a superb site on the web devoted to W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge. Any bit of information you might want about the two film adaptations of the book, you will find there.

At the same time, I lack the cranial capacity (as well as writing skills) to examine all the issues the book deals with in any sort of meaningful way. Indeed, the book's central concern--the very meaning of existence--has been debated for virtually all the years humans have walked the Earth. Me, I'm good at Aquaman.

But, like Aquaman, I do love The Razor's Edge--its my all-time favorite book, a story I return to every year or so and never tire of. As I get older, the book's central mysteries only grow more fascinating (and frustrating) to me.

I can't exactly remember when I first read the book. I do know it was part of a several-years-long process, right after I graduated from art school. Perhaps feeling a bit insecure about my lack of exposure to Great Books (having read mostly comic books to that point), I went on an orgy of reading, finally exposing myself to the works of Melville, Dickens, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Conrad, Twain, and more.

I'm a little ashamed to admit, most of it didn't make much of an impression on me. I appreciated them for the classics they were, but hardly any of them had any sort of impact on me--except for a handful, and The Razor's Edge was tops on that list.

I would read The Razor's Edge every couple of years, understanding more and more of it and coming away feeling a little different about the book's themes each time.

Then, a few years later, I was at a friend's house and I saw she had a collection of her favorite book, Lolita. She told me loved the book so much she would keep buying different editions of it, whenever she was in the mood to read it again. Having that collector bug in me, I thought that was a marvelous idea (later, I would read about Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J. Ackerman having a similar collection of Frankenstein).

So, with the help of eBay, I started looking for other editions of The Razor's Edge. Because the book was massively popular when it debuted in 1944 (selling something like three million copies), it has remained in print over the decades, leading to many, many different editions. And, one by one, I've been collecting them all, digging back into the story of Larry Darrell once again.

Having just found a new (to me) edition, I've decided to start this blog and show off all those different Razor's Edges in my collection. Hopefully anyone out there who loves the book (and movies) as I do will find this blog a fun place to visit.