Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fortnightly Book, August 18

I've been going back and forth about what book to do for this busy next two weeks as Fall term begins. I've finally settled on another short work, which I haven't read at all: Booth Tarkington's Monsieur Beaucaire. Tarkington was an Indiana author who, with Faulkner and Updike, is one of only three authors to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once. His most famous works are The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams.

Monsieur Beaucaire was nearly left unpublished; it was turned down by a magazine editor, but Tarkington's sister, Hauté, literally went to New York and forced Sidney McClure of McClure's Magazine to read it -- would not take No for an answer. It was published as a two-part serial in 1899 and 1900, and soon afterward as a book. While rarely considered Tarkington's greatest works, it has been a longtime favorite, being adapted into a play, an operetta, and at least two films. It is set in Bath, England, in the early eighteenth century.

I will be reading it in the Heritage Press edition (the book at the link is actually a Limited Editions Club version, so my cover is different, but other than that it is essentially the same book, since Heritage Press often did slightly less fancy versions of Limited Editions books). It is designed and illustrated by T. M. Cleland, with a beautiful double-spread title page and eight water-color illustrations. The typesetting is somewhat unusual, using 14-point Caslon, giving the page a sort of baroque look. The cover is mulberry linen with gold-leaf decorative stamping. I do like Heritage Press editions; they make reading much more interesting.

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