THE KING OF SCHNORRERS: GROTESQUES AND FANTASIES. London: William Heinemann, 1894. Octavo, pp. [1-2] [i-iv] v viii [ix] x [xi-xii] [1] 2-400 [note: preliminaries mis-paginated] + 20-page publisher's catalogue dated "December 1893" inserted at rear, numerous illustrations in the text by George Hutchinson, Phil May. F. H. Townsend, A. J. Finberg, Mark Zangwill and Irving Montagu, original decorated terra cotta cloth, front panel stamped in dark brown, spine panel stamped in gold, publisher's monogram stamped in dark brown on rear panel, all edges untrimmed. First edition. A collection with several excellent supernatural stories. "A Double-Barrelled Ghost" is that rare thing, a humorous ghost story that actually is funny. It concerns an author whose work is ghostwritten by a ghost. The comedy avoids the usual pitfalls of nineteenth century humor (which can be seen now as having more to do with reinforcing class-consciousness than causing amusement): the condescending caricature of working class diction and mores, or the strained assertion of leisure class diction and mores, with their celebration of euphemism and impotence. "The Queen's Triplets" is a fractured fairy tale, a clever parody of the form, appealing to an intellectual elite. In "The Memory Clearing House" a means is devised for trading memories. An author of light romances wants to write a "realistic" novel, so he buys the memories of a murderer (who is happy to part with them) and proceeds to write a first-person novelization of the murderer's crime. It is panned by the critics as unbelievable. Outraged, the author goes to the police and shows them where the body is buried. He is arrested and convicted. The mystery classic "Cheating the Gallows," in which a premonitory dream plays a key part, can be seen as a clever variation on the Jekyll-and-Hyde theme, and perhaps even as a source for the later comedy, "The Odd Couple," written by Neil Simon, another popular Jewish author. Zangwill's wit is still fresh and his plot twists sharp. An underrated author today, similar in some ways to his American contemporary, Frank Stockton, but more acerbic and cerebral. This book has been in print almost continually since its publication in 1894. The first edition is uncommon. Not in Bleiler (1948; 1978). Not in Reginald (1979). Day, p. 96 (citing a later edition). Gift inscription dated 3 October 1894 on front free endpaper. Cloth lightly rubbed at edges, a bit of scuffing and dustiness to cloth, a bit of tanning to front free endpaper, but a sound, very good copy overall. (#149530).

Price: $375.00

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