RARA-AVIS: The Peddler by Richard Prather

From: DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net
Date: 13 Feb 2007

A while ago, Duane mentioned that he wuld have thought some of this book too explicit for the '50s. Well, turns out it was.

A few of the images in this book struck me as surprising for their time, too. One was the use of the euphemism "frig." Sure, Norman Mailer had famously (infamously?) used "fug" just a few years earlier, but that was
"serious literature," whereas Prather was published by Gold Medal, a popular imprint, near the height of the debate over the evils of mass culture. I found it surprising that the publishers would tempt reformers with a word so clearly meant to be "fuck." Though I'd never read it, I've long had a copy of the Gold Medal printing of The Peddler, so I pulled it out and checked.

Hard Case version:

The hell with it, it was that dumb talk with Angelo, and the screwy way Alterie had acted. Well, frig Alterie--and Angelo. Frig them all.

Gold Medal:

The hell with it, it was that dumb talk with Angelo, and the screwy way Alterie had acted. Well, to hell with Alterie--and Angelo. To hell with them all.

A later "frig" was also changed to "to hell with."

So I flipped back to an earlier phrase that had struck me as filthy (not that that's a bad thing, this is a great image):

In his mind grew an obscene image of a great fleshy whore lying on a bed, her legs parted and a constant stream of dollars spurting from her: dollar bills, ten-dollar bills, hundred- and thousand-dollar bills, filling the room, smothering her, flowing out of the doors and windows, a cascade, a flood, of money rushing day and night from the woman's thighs.

It's the "her legs parted and" that makes it so filthy for me, makes it very clear exactly where the money is spurting from (the word spurt has always gotten to me, too, as in Richard Hell's song, "Love Comes in Spurts"). Those four words were not in the 1952 edition.

I checked a few other passages, but those hadn't been changed.

Raises a question, though: Charles, are you going back to the original manuscripts of the classics you're reprinting, not the previously published versions? Cool if you are. Are you finding much was changed in the original printings?


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