Sunday, July 26, 2009

Did Editing Spoil "The Old Man and Me"?

A couple of years ago, Schwartz sold the New York Review of Books reissue of The Dud Avocado like crazy. The cover was superb, totally capturing that youthful silliness that takes life very seriously. It's nice to have a hook and I used to say Breakfast at Tiffany's goes to Paris. I was even selling a lot of books off my staff rec shelf (sadly, rather unusual), and the NPR coverage and great word of mouth didn't hurt either.

Now two years later and another of Dundy's novels was released by NYRB. The Old Man and Me was Dundy's London novel. It's another pretender to wealth and the good life, code name Honey Flood, visiting London and falling in with a crowd of partiers, finding all the time a strange attraction to one particularly dashing but something galling older gentleman.

The difference? Sales were nary a whimper, at least for us (I checked Above the Treeline and a handful of other independents had substantial sales of five or more). Dundy died between the releases so she couldn't be relied on for interviews. The jacket, while very nice and certainly evocative of the time. If anything, the elements of this story capture even more of the Breakfast at Tiffany's flavor--high living, a druggish jazz club, fun field trips to country houses.

I haven't proven my thesis yet, but I'm thinking the key to the problem might be the editing. I read Dundy's introduction, and it seems she did some major cleanup before this edition's publication. In particular, much of the extraneous dialogue was eliminated. Sadly, the results made the story seems quite flat, at least to me.

So if you haven't read, The Dud Avocado, go out and find a copy; you've still got at least a month of summer to enjoy it. If you're wondering about The Old Man and Me, do me a favor and read it twice, once from NYRB and another of the old edition (find it how you wish). Then let me know.

Subjects for future blogs: 1) What the heck is Above the Treeline anyway? It's a shared inventory management system.

2) Was I toughter on Dundy because she's dead and therefore can't email me or comment on the blog?

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