Fake Book Project: 1963 Signet Paperback

As always, the image is linked to a PDF.


So, this one is complicated. First, in my continuing oddball quest to see if I can learn anything from 20th Century mass market paperbacks, I rescued an old Signet from the recycling bin and did all the usual scanning and measuring. Then I had to figure out what sort of text to put in the box. For that, you always go to the source and study it a while. In this case, the source was Shelby Foote’s Shiloh, a novel I had on a shelf for some reason but never read, partly because it’s nowadays just a collection of loose crumbling sheets huddled together in a much-abused wrapper. But also partly because it’s not my scene to read that kind of thing, anyway. Especially if it is, as I suspect, written from the point of view some historians have that both sides were equally noble. I mean, I’m from the South, too, and yet it was never hard for me to see who was right and who was absolutely wrong in the War. It shouldn’t ever be a remotely confusing issue: the Confederacy was wicked, plain and simple. And nothing done on behalf of an evil cause is noble. So, even though I’d probably picked the book up at a thrift store back when I was buying a lot of histories, I had since reconsidered it and was about to throw it away. In fact, in retrospect, I probably didn’t have a compelling need to copy the design of this particular object, except I was looking for some variety in my fake book pages. Working on it did give me an idea, though.

The idea was just to try and write a fragment of an imaginary novel about my non-imaginary great-great-grandfather, who was shot in the Battle of Atlanta in 1864. I’ve always been fascinated by this event, mostly because of that usual thing we think when we think about our forebears: what if it had all gone some other way? I have zero sympathy for this particular ancestor’s cause, of course. But the regular human part of the story is interesting (and a reminder, yet again, of the vast number of regular human stories we don’t have from back then, each one equally as important as the others). After he was shot he was picked up off the battlefield by some Union soldiers and taken to a Union doctor, whose triage verdict was my ancestor, Peyton, was a goner. After a day or so the verdict changed to, you’re going to lose your leg. A few days after that the verdict was, your leg and the rest of your parts are well enough to go to prison up North. Which is where Peyton stayed, a POW on Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie until he was paroled after Appomattox. All of this happened before he fathered any children.

In my fragment, I wanted to depict him as definitely not heroic or noble in any way. He’s just the owner of a body in pain, surrounded by failure, pinned to the ground under the eyes of all the worlds in heaven. In other words, this one wasn’t supposed to be funny like the other ones are at least trying to be. So who knows what direction my project will go in. I thought for sure it was going to be about a weird kind of humor. See what happens when you work blind? Oh, but a fragment’s all I can manage, so none of the other fragments will hook up with this one to tell a whole story. Kind of exactly how my thesis worked, come to think of it.

Almost forgot: my huge discovery was, the type is Times New Roman, or at least something pretty close. I know, its like Howard Carter opening a tomb only to find a couple of boxes of Cracker Jack prizes in it. And not the good prizes, either, but the temporary tattoos of Ben Franklin or whoever that always smear about 3 nanoseconds after you stick them on.

Okay, I just spotted a rivulet if not a full-blown river in my page. Always more to learn.

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