Forbidden Childhood – Ruth Slenczynska (Doubleday, 1957)

I might as well start off by stating that this will be a pretty boring post. And the reason for that is that i know absolutely nothing about this dust jacket. It feels like i pretty much always say that so this situation is nothing new of course, but usually it’s possible to read up a little bit and find bits and pieces of information or other stuff that i find interesting enough to include. This is not the case this time. I’ve spent quite some time during the week staring at drawings of pianos and trying to find anything at all but sadly i’ve been stomped this time… And there’s not really an interesting story about how and where i found this sooooo… i guess we’ll see what we end up with here.

Like any random serial killer or criminal i’ll stick to my standard modus operandi and start with some basic facts. The title of the book is Forbidden Childhood and was written by Ruth Slenczynska together with Louis Biancolli, the book was published in 1957 and is yet another example of the relationship between Doubleday and Andy Warhol at this time. It’s basically a book of memoirs and if you want to get technical it also comes with the tagline or whatever is called “The frank account of a girl’s struggle to free herself from the strangle hold of her tyrannical father”. Ouch! That’s a pretty straight forward review of her childhood and her thoughts about her father. And from what i’ve read it seems she has every right to be pissed off. Apparently her father Joseph Slenczynski, a musician and violinist, was hell bent from day one that his daughter would become a famous musician. From what i understand she was pretty much forced to start playing the piano at age three which is pretty remarkable. My daughter is soon to be four and though she enjoys strumming, pulling and occasionally destroying the strings on my guitars she still prefers the colorful glockenspiel thing with ten or so keys… So, it must have taken some serious dedication from the father, i’ll give him that. Anyways, forced to practice relentlessly for hours and hours everyday she apparently started more serious piano studies by the age of four and played her first concert at age six and then a year later at age seven she did her first concert with a full orchestra with critics calling her the greatest child prodigy since Mozart. Seems she was also beaten senseless for mistakes and bad reviews, over which she of course had had no control herself. Speaking of critics i’ve also read that because she played such complicated arrangements the media sometimes speculated that she was a midget. All of this is both impressive, disgusting and disturbing at the same time and you can’t really argue with the use of the words “tyrannical father”…

Anyways, i’m not sure to what extent she wrote the book herself but when it comes to Warhol and his dust jackets she is unique in the sense that i think she is the only still living author who has a book published with a dust jacket by Andy Warhol. There are a couple of other authors like David Alexander, Dick Ashbaugh and Walter Ross that i’m not really sure about and where it’s hard to find any information about them. But if you look at their “Warhol-dust-jacket-books” they all have their picture on the back and though i’m pretty bad at guessing peoples age i would still guess that by now all of them have passed on. I don’t know how much she cherishes the fact that her book has a AW designed dust jacket but yeah, she is unique in more ways than one.

As said this was published by Doubleday and if i’ve done my homework this is the fifth book for which Warhol designed the jacket for them, the previous being Pistols for Two, The Saint in Europe, Who Cooked Mother Goose? and The Runaway Pigeon. Besides this Doubleday edition the book was also published in the UK in 1958 by Peter Davies using the same jacket design. This was a fact i was unaware of before Guy Minnebach informed me about it and also pointed out the small differences. And small differences is right, as said the front cover is identical and on the back there is just a couple of very minor changes in coloring and the addition of some more text on the UK edition. The only “big” difference is one the title page or whatever where the Doubleday edition has the outline of the piano drawing and the Peter Davies edition has a photo of a very young Slenczynska playing the piano. There are some good images of the UK edition in this quite recent listing on ebay.

Anyways, i don’t know which of these editions is most sought after but as with everything else i would assume it’s this “original” one by Doubleday. So unlike what happened with my copy of The Adventures of Maud Noakes where i  didn’t know there were two editions using the same cover design i was lucky this time to score a cheap original. This is also something as rare as a Warhol dust jacket that’s pretty easy to find, ever since i started collecting them i’ve come across a lot of copies. However, considering Slenczynska’s fame and notoriety i think this book also attracts attention from people who are totally uninterested in Andy Warhol but instead want it for it’s “true intention” and it’s place in music history or whatever. So…. there are plenty available at Amazon and other places but a decent copy with the jacket intact will probably start at $150. If i remember correct i ended up paying an almost embarrassing $5 for this copy and this was also something that just appeared in my wish list one day. It’s an old library book with the usual stamps and markings and the description said: â€œEx library, taped on jacket protector (with consequent tape residue), call# on jacket (not on book), stamps on top edge and title page, card pocket in rear, taped hinges, broken spine, first 98 page section has separated from spine, needs glue repair, otherwise unmarked an clean”. This of course sounds absolutely terrible but as it turned out this was a pretty conservative grading by the seller. Granted if you open the book it’s anything but good and looks like it’s about to fall apart into a million pieces. But i have no intention of flipping though the pages reading and further destroying this book, and when closed up it’s looks to be in excellent condition so i intend to keep it that way. Personally i am not a fan of these collage-style designs mixing drawings and photographs and this is probably the main reason that i haven’t gotten a copy and decided to wait until i could get one at a bargain price. And that time was now and once again slow and steady wins the race.

Whatever my thoughts about the cover i’m very happy to finally be able to put this down in my collection as number 15 out of 17 known dust jackets/book covers. I can’t really wrap my head around how fast all this has moved along. And i realize that in some cases i’ve been extremely lucky seeing as with a lot of the books the only copy i’ve ever seen is the one i got a hold of. There is one more pretty interesting thing about this cover, but i’ll leave that as some kind of a cliffhanger until i know more about it and get to hear what my compadres in the WCCC have to say. And unless something really spectacular comes along this will be my last post for a couple of weeks. We are currently in the process of moving to a new home and all of my Warhol stuff is already stored away at a safe place to keep it away from potentially messy and sloppy movers throwing boxes around without a care in the world…

So… more stuff coming up in july!

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10 thoughts on “Forbidden Childhood – Ruth Slenczynska (Doubleday, 1957)

  1. Thanks for another fascinating post – not boring at all! And congratulations on getting No.17/19! I wish I could get that close for my record cover collection!
    I would never have recognised the “Forbidden Childhood” cover as being by Warhol! I might have possibly have considered the dot-and-blot piano drawing to be by him on a good day, so hreat find and I like the price you paid!
    I’m looking forward to you reporting Nos 18 and 19…

    • Thanks Richard! And i agree with that i would never have pointed this out as a Warhol. And there are a couple of others like that as well when it comes to the book covers. Gives me hope that there might one waiting to be “discovered”… 🙂

  2. Well done Niklas! Again a great bargain you’ve found. In fact you have beaten me with this one: I have a US copy, with the frontispiece by Warhol present and signed by Ruth Slenczynska, but unfortunately it lacks the dust jacket. Besides that I have a UK copy, that does have the dust jacket. Good to know also: the UK version is a bit smaller than the US book. Best, Guy

  3. Pingback: Jack Wolfgang Beck, Andy Warhol and some Concert Gems by the Warwick Symphony Orchestra | ratfab

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