"HAVEN'T CALLED A SOUL—NOT EVEN MY PUBLISHER OR TRANSLATOR, AM JUST WANDERING AROUND IN TRANCED BLISS": FIRST EDITION OF SHIP OF FOOLS, INSCRIBED WITHIN DAYS OF PUBLICATION BY KATHERINE ANNE PORTER TO MARY RACKLIFFE, THE HEAD COPY EDITOR AT LITTLE, BROWN, WITH TWO SIGNED AUTOGRAPH POSTCARDS WRITTEN BY PORTER TO RACKLIFFE
PORTER, Katherine Anne. Ship of Fools. Boston Toronto: Atlantic Monthly / Little, Brown, (1962). Octavo, original yellow cloth, marbled endpapers, original dust jacket.
First edition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's first and only full-length novel—a "miraculously brilliant book" (New York Times)—inscribed on the half title by Porter mere days after publication to the head copy editor at Little, Brown: "For Mary Rackliffe, Remembering the battle of Pigeon Cove, but we won! Yours, Katherine Anne Porter. 4th April 1962," accompanied by two signed autograph postcards also written by Porter to Rackliffe describing travels in Paris and Rome.
Published on April Fool's Day in 1962 and inspired by a 1931 trip to Europe aboard a German passenger ship, Porter's "detailed notes about her fellow passengers… would grow into the pointed satire of her microcosmic account of a trouble world poised on the brink of WWII" (ANB). "Porter's carefully crafted, ironic style is perfectly suited to the allegorical exploration of the collusion of good and evil that is her theme" (Britannica). Ship of Fools has been praised as "a miraculously brilliant book… As in any great work of art, something larger is in the air and we know we are in another ship as well, another voyage, sailing to another harbor" (New York Times). Basis for the 1965 Academy Award-winning film directed by Stanley Kramer, starring Oskar Werner, Simone Signoret and a stellar cast. Bruccoli & Clark, 301. The first postcard, handwritten by Porter and dated "8 June 1962 Hotel Prince de Galles," reads in full: "Dear Mary: Everything is as merry and beautiful as I hoped. My niece Ann is with me and we explore together or revisit places where I lived here once, and go to restaurants I knew, or find others for ourselves and shop for perfumes and rose jam and gloves and other delicious 'Articles de Paris,' and loll over breakfast in our splendid Old-fashioned Hotel. Off to Rome Monday, 11 June, on to Taormina for a week and so, too soon, back to New York, she to her treadmill in Connecticut, I to mine in Washington. But this is our time! Love Katherine Anne." The second postcard, handwritten by Porter and dated "14 December 1962 Rome," reads in full: "Dear Mary—Merry Christmas and happy New Year. I am joyously in Rome, Footloose and fancy free—Resting, Resting, Resting, Resting… ad infinitum. I don't ever expect to catch up on my sleep at the paltry 9 hours in 24 I am belting off, but its fun trying! Haven't called a soul—not even my Publisher or translator, am just wandering around in trances bliss by myself. I'll come to and let you know—Katherine Anne." Also with enveloped hand-addressed from Porter to Rackcliffe, including Porter's full name in the return address. At the time this inscription and these postcards were written, Rackliffe was the head copy editor at Little, Brown. Rackliffe was known for her congenial personality and treated many of her authors as friends—for instance, J.D. Salinger, M.F.K. Fisher, and, of course, Katherine Anne Porter. Porter's papers at the University of Maryland also include correspondence with Rackliffe. The "battle of Pigeon Cove" mentioned in the inscription likely refers to Porter's battle to finish Ship of Fools while sitting on a glass-enclosed porch at her home in Pigeon Cove, Massachusetts. She had been working on the novel for 20 years, occasionally publishing excerpts but failing to complete the novel. Little, Brown nearly gave up on the title all together, having received endless outlines and notes but no complete manuscript. Rackliffe's responsibilities may well have included helping Porter through the process of completing the book. Interestingly, Rackliffe is perhaps best known today for her appearance in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1957 during which she invoked the 5th Amendment in response to questions about whether she was a member of the Communist Party.
Book with very faint dampstaining to cloth. Dust jacket with faintest staining mainly to rear panel, slight rubbing to extremities, and tape repair to verso. Postcards about-fine. A near-fine copy with two autograph postcards, all with an outstanding association.