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.