You can tell a lot about people by their bookshelves. Mine are messy, cluttered, and over-stuffed. The pride of my book collection is what I call the Vonnegut Shelf. It contains all the major hardback editions of my various Kurt Vonnegut collectibles and related ephemera. Here is an abridged guide to the highlights.
- My wife collects penguins of different materials. We have wood, glass, coal, quartz, and several obscure types of stones. When we were in China, the big quest was to find a jade penguin, which is a humorous story all in itself. I had to move a bunch of the penguins off the shelf to take the picture, so only a representative selection is visible.
- I wrote about my letter from Vonnegut back at the time of his death (so it goes). I keep it in a pretty cheap picture frame and the magic marker signature is starting to show some fading. The envelope it came in was hand addressed, but it has long disappeared.
- For our first anniversary (which is the paper anniversary), my wife gave me a first edition of Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano. A book dealer just a little up the road from our apartment in Tampa had a copy. Nowadays they are only available from internet dealers at prices easily five to ten times what she paid. It is one of my most treasured possessions for several layers of sentimental reasons. Next to it is the equally rare, but much less valuable book club edition.
- Vonnegut’s most famous novel is Slaughterhouse Five and first editions of it go for nearly as much as the much older Player Piano. I have two copies and I’m not sure what it would take to make me part with either.
- My favorite later Vonnegut novel is Bluebeard and I own four different versions of the book. In the red paper cover is the galley proof. The faux-leather bound fancy version is the Franklin Press limited edition. These are silly collector plate type of editions designed to rip-off collectors. I bought mine used at less than what the original price. Next to it is the standard “trade” edition first printing. At the top left of the picture, in a yellow cover, is the latest paperback edition you can get at your local BigBoxOfBooks®. I have had to slowly buy reading copies of all my Vonnegut novels.
- The one and only time I saw Kurt Vonnegut in person was when he was autographing his last original book, Timequake. The picture of me standing next to him while he is signing it is still misplaced somewhere.
- For his 60th birthday, Vonnegut’s publisher in cahoots with wife Jill Krementz put together a commemorative collection of tributes to him called Happy Birthday, Kurt Vonnegut in homage to his play Happy Birthday, Wanda June. This book was never available for purchase.
- Another rare piece of Vonnegutia is the ostensible children’s book Sun Moon Star he wrote with artist Ivan Chermayeff in 1980. While hardly rare, it is usually not listed in bibliographies of his works. Somehow I’ve ended up with two copies.
- In addition to the printed works, I have a few audio recordings. One is a cassette of excerpts from Slaughterhouse Five read by Vonnegut himself. The full unabridged CD version is read by Ethan Hawke. I also bought on a whim a CD collection of interviews with him. Ironically, I have never listened to any of them because they are all still in the original shrink rap as if they were precious Star Wars figurines. Not on the shelf is the ten-minute CD called “Tock Tick” which is Vonnegut reading the backwards bombing sequence from S5 set to music by Simon Heselev.
- When we first moved to Maryland, one of our must-do items was to take our son to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The two wooden eggs are the souvenir of that rainy Monday. The blue one is the standard egg given to all the kids. The yellow one is the much less common one with Sock’s paw print on it. My son has no memory of the event, but I’m still thrilled he got to do it.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: How do you display your books or collectibles?