Thursday, November 8, 2007

Judging a Book by its Covers

I recently went back to "the dusty boxes" which I'd been reunited with a month and a half ago. I pulled out an old paperback edition of John Steinbeck's To a God Unknown and immediately remembered the circumstances around which I obtained this book. There was a period of time, during my university years, when I frequented used bookstores in search of old editions of books by particular favourite authors of mine. When I saw this book on the shelf two thoughts immediately came to mind: 1. Hmmm, I've never heard of this Steinbeck title before, and 2. I wonder if it's the same Steinbeck that wrote Travels With Charlie and Grapes of Wrath?

The cover of the book had only the word "Steinbeck" across the top, the title just below that, and, in a small cursive script the words "A powerful novel of lust for land...". With a bit more investigation I discovered that it was, indeed, the same Steinbeck and found out the novel was one on his early works, published in hardcover in 1933, the same year as The Red Pony. What baffled me was the rest of the cover. Should I be led to believe that the cover of the book reflected what was between the covers? How could I reconcile this apparently bawdy tome with the socially conscious tales he'd created, such as Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row and Grapes of Wrath?

When I dug this book from out of one of the boxes I decided to search the world wide web for a picture of the cover of the original hardcover edition so I could compare the impressions they would leave with anyone encountering them seperately or together. I could not find an image of the paperback edition so I snapped a digital shot of it. Feast your eyes on these:

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