Authors’ Second Thoughts To Raise Big Bucks

According to last week’s NY Times Sunday magazine, Christie’s is set to auction 75 first editions, including art books, each annotated by its author/artist, to raise funds for the PEN American Center. If you’re close to Rockefeller Plaza between now and December 2nd, you, too, can take a look at these one-of-a-kind items. Don’t drool, or they’ll kick you out.


The authors’ notes are much more interesting than any solitary signature could everbe. Junot Díaz points out his mistakes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Jennifer Egan observes that the voice of one of her characters in A Visit From the Goon Squad

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was influenced (“too much in its early stages”) by the character Junie B. Jones:

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And George Saunders highlights the stories in his collection, Civil War in Bad Decline,

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that were rejected or accepted by “The New Yorker.” 

In theNY Times article, Philip Roth writes about Portnoy’s Complaint:

“I am shocked and pleased: shocked that I could have been so reckless, pleased that I was so reckless.”
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Later in his essay:

“One writes a repellent book (and “Portnoy’s Complaint” was taken by many to be solely that) not to be repellent but the represent the repellent, to air the repellent, to expose it, to reveal how it looks and what it is.”

Roth’s book will be on the auction block, along with Break It Down by Lydia Davis, Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson, and the books by George Saunders, Jennifer Egan,  and Juno Díaz that I’ve already mentioned. 

Christie’s website calls the auction:First Edition, Second Thoughts.” 

Take a look at the list:

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Big name authors not mentioned by the NY Times include: Toni Morrison, Richard Ford, Neil Gaiman, Alice Walker, Sue Grafton, Michael Chabon, T.C. Boyle, Tobias Wolff, Paul Auster, Woody Allen—oh, and Eric Carle.

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Yes! An annotated The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

Only a handful of books (art-related) include estimated sales prices. Serra 2013, Richard Serra’s catalog for his exhibition of new sculpture at Gagosian Gallery in New York,

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 is expected to raise between $10,000 to $15,000, and Julie Mehretu’s Grey Area, published by the Guggenheim,

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is expected to fetch between $20,000 to $30,000. The Guggenheim’s website calls the book “a richly illustrated catalogue that provides unique insight into the artist’s intellectual and creative process…” 

Each of these books with its marginalia should be considered a new work of art that will give readers—those peeping toms—


a voyeuristic thrill.

Got any spare change for bidding?

Thoughts on how much The Very Hungry Caterpillar will bring?

Now, I’m wondering if this event could be used as a new business model?

Authors could either annotate the digital versions of their work, similar to making notes on a Kindle, and sell those digital versions for a higher price, or sell handwritten annotated versions on Ebay or some other type of auction service.

Maybe this would improve the authorial bottom line? Maybe?


35 thoughts on “Authors’ Second Thoughts To Raise Big Bucks

  1. Letizia says:

    What a great idea to get authors to annotate their own works. It must have been daunting to them at first as some mention in the video. Now, I need to scrape up some spare change so I can do some bidding…. (which book can I buy for you?).

  2. FictionFan says:

    Oh, it’s too hard to decide – I think I’ll just buy them all! That’ll be the Christmas present list sorted then! I wonder how much the Roth will go for…oddly enough, I’ve always felt that I’d need to be paid to read it… 😉

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Alrighty then, I knew you were holding out on us. What is your true identity, oh one with unlimited book-buying cash? But then I get to your last statement and—well, that sounds more like you. 😀

      • crimeworm says:

        I’m with FictionFan – it’s never remotely appealed. And what was “reckless” then doesn’t raise an eyebrow now. The Young Turks have become the Grand Old Men of American Letters (although I forget which of them are still with us – which indicates my level of interest in them and their work…) Really interesting article though Jilanne, thank you!

        • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

          Thanks CW!

          Yes, I have no interest in those books, either. There are others on the list that I find much more interesting. Neil Gaiman, for example. Would love to see his marginalia for “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” Or Joyce Carol Oates’ “Them.” Or Jane Smiley’s “A Thousand Acres.” So many others….

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Aha! I thought you had meant “from annoyed readers” making scathing notes about the author’s writing. 😀

      Yes, beware the irate book protectionist ghosts! They’re looking over your shoulder, watching and waiting for you to start marking up a page.

    • crimeworm says:

      I have to re-read everything really carefully when I’m on the Kindle – it can turn a perfectly normal sentence into utter tripe. Whenever I type a word beginning “Lo” it suggests Loeb, a name I’ve NEVER written. A tad creepy…It also does all it can to prevent me swearing, like a disapproving clergyman (it doesn’t work, though. But it does make it awkward for me, which probably satisfies it sufficiently…!)

      • Lady Fancifull says:

        Rather than humans with softwear implanted in their brains, think fiendish programmer, taking delight in confounding us by creating anarchic automatic predictives and a whole list of ‘thou shalt nots’ on perfectly innocent words.

        My Outlook routinely stuffs emails from a dear friend straight into junkmail, every so often. Usually when she sends me emails suggested we meet for lunch. the grim faced Outlook controller find the combination of her name (her surname is a foodstuff) and ‘lunch’ completely unacceptable. Either the whole concept of lunch is far too laid back and pleasurable for Outlook, or the combination of words suggests the author is trying to sell something.

  3. Vanessa-Jane Chapman says:

    What ones a you bidding for then Jullanne? Can you put bid on Caterpillar for me while you’re there please? That one has special memories for me from reading it to my kids when they were little, so just that one please.

      • crimeworm says:

        It would kind of defeat the purpose, as then you’d have no son to enjoy it with…it would be wonderful to have though. Maybe Dubya will buy it, as didn’t he say it was his favourite childhood book – even though it wasn’t published until something like the 70s!

  4. Mrs. P says:

    Oh this does sound delicious! What a great project, one that seems to have moved the authors as it hopefully will move the public into buy them at auction. Time to get out my shovel and go dig up the buried treasure in the yard.

  5. Celine Jeanjean says:

    I really like your idea of using that as a model for writers – anything that makes the reader experience more interactive or immersive, or just a bit different is always good in my book.

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