Friday, May 4, 2018

Paperback 1019: The Primitive / Chester Himes (Signet 1264)

Paperback 1019: Signet 1264 (PBO, 1956)

Title: The Primitive
Author: Chester Himes
Cover artist: [Tony Kokinos] (signature top left)

Condition: 6.5/10
Estimated value: $30

Sig1264
Best things about this cover:
  • White lady trying hard not to think about centuries of brutal racism and her own complicity therein ... I assume.
  • There's drunk, there's very drunk, and then there's "I only made it half way through taking my shoes off" drunk
  • The red of the red shoes is very red against the non-color of everything else. Echoes the title font color. I like.
  • This novel was heavily cut for the US audience, which, like, couldn't deal, I guess. It was published right before Himes made the turn into hardboiled crime fiction with his Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones series (so great)
Sig1264bc
Best things about this back cover:
  • The End of a Primitive was the original title of the book (the title used when the book was finally published in unexpurgated versions, 40+ years later)
  • So the white woman is just white but the "Negro man" is "embittered"? Normally I don't beg for more adjectives, but come on.
  • Van Vechten tryna get cute with that "white heat" shit, I bet. He's a white dude who wrote a book called Ni**er Heaven. A key figure in white people's "discovering" Harlem. I highly recommend Mat Johnson's current comic, Incognegro: Renaissance, which is set in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance and features a Van Vechten-like figure in the first issue. Good stuff.
Page 123~
"Oh, sure," he said, thinking, "I like de big gut, do you like de big gut?"
~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

2 comments:

Melissa Garber said...

Goddammit, English language, I don't care who else is in the sentence, a woman is not "a misfit in his own world." And goddammit, copy editor, change it to "both misfits in their own worlds" or something. -sigh-

David Levinson said...

Yeah, that "white heat" jumped out at me, too. It's a fairly common phrase, but come on!

After 20+ years of Baby Got Back, I can't help but read the Page 123 quote as "big butt". Probably not where Himes was going with that.