Books: Gifts Between Covers
Monday, Dec. 12, 1960
French holiday shoppers browsing in their bookstores can find an edition of Genesis bound in copper that rattles when shaken to simulate the sound of thunder. They can also buy the writings St. Francis of Assisi tied shut with a piece of twine reminiscent of a friar’s cord; a war book, La Route des Flandres by Claude Simon, whose covers are shot through with bullets; and a book about the devil wrapped in old sermons and giving off clouds of powdered sulphur when its pages are turned. Such salesmanship (the work of France’s thriving Christian Book Club) leaves U.S. publishers behind. Along with a few gimmick books Christmas shoppers can find a remarkable collection of handsome volumes in which most of the bookmen’s effort has gone into text and illustrations. Among them:
MOMENTS PRESERVED, by Irving Penn (183pp.;Simon & Schuster; $17.50) is the stunning work of a photographer who has a way with a face. There is little his camera does not do well‚Äîincluding daredevil riders in Morocco and somber still lifes of wine done for ads. But what Photographer Penn does best is to absorb the secrets of character into his lenses There is French Man-of-All-Letters Jean Cocteau, warily perching on a chair sharp-beaked and sharp-trousered his vest as loud as some of his poses; Bert Lahr, his big, kindly, sad-smiling features musing on a great clown’s vision; a chip-on-shoulder but grinning Paris mailman looking as if he knew the secret of every letter in his bag.
“This is a biography of the late Bert Lahr, that clown-comedian who played everything from burlesque to Aristophanes and Shakespeare l l l Bert was wildly funny on the stage and unhappy off. He was a haphazard father, a selfish lover, a thoughtless husband (his wife cherished him), a hypochondriac and a ruthless ‘professional.’ — Harold Clurman, New York Times Book Review