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10 SPECIAL BOOKS that mean a lot to one collector

January 16, 1986|ROSELLE M. LEWIS

From his book collection, John Larroquette selects these as among his favorites:

"A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole (Louisiana State University Press, 1980). Larroquette feels a kinship with the author of this posthumously published comic novel because: "It's about New Orleans, about a man who grew up where I did." Toole committed suicide in 1969 at age 32. Literary rumor has it that the book's rejection was a contributing factor.

"War All the Time" by Charles Bukowski. Black Sparrow Press put out only 26 of these in an "A-to-Z" printing. An oil painting by Bukowski contributes to the rarity of a book that Larroquette considers the best poetry written by Bukowski, Los Angeles' unofficial poet laureate, who sings of the city's meaner streets.

Larroquette also owns Bukowski's "extremely rare" "The Fire Station." Published in 1970 by Capricorn Press, only 200 books were printed and signed by the author.

Another rarity owned by Larroquette is Bukowski's "Horsemeat," published by Black Sparrow in 1982. This oversize book, with photographs by Michael Montfort, depicts a day at the track, where the bettors appear "worn, done, defeated." Signed by both poet and photographer, only 100 have been for sale.

"The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand (Bobbs-Merrill, 1943). Unsigned, alas! This novel influenced not only Larroquette but several generations of Americans in its look at life as an uncompromising struggle against traditional values. "Man's ego is the fountainhead of human progress," is written on the book's dust jacket.

"The Collected Works of Samuel Beckett" (Grove Press, 1981). Larroquette highly values this 16-volume work, especially the trilogy "Molloy," "Malone Dies" and "The Unnamable." Particular favorites are Beckett's famous play "Endgame" and the critical study "Proust." The latter, published in 1931 by Chatto and Windus, is not part of the set.

"Gravity's Rainbow" by Thomas Pynchon (Viking, 1973). A critic described this book as "confronting a mysterious world without sure explanation." Larroquette finds it a "remarkable story and a difficult book to read--with powerful, recurring images."

"Naked Lunch" by William S. Burroughs. Larroquette has the first American edition published by Grove Press in 1953. It has a photo of the author "tipped in," lightly secured in the book, and signed. He also has the signed 25th-anniversary edition of this limited 500-press-run title, which is boxed in black paper.

"Wisdom of the Heart" by Henry Miller (New Directions, 1941). This prepublication copy, possibly intended for a reviewer, has publishing information stamped on the inside cover. Larroquette bought it in a small Ohio farm community from a woman who was unaware of its rarity. A photo for possible promotion purposes is laid in the book. It depicts a young, genial-looking Miller standing in an open field.

"Dreams From Bunker Hill" by John Fante (Black Sparrow Press, 1981). Written in the '30s by the author of "Ask the Dust" and "Wine of Youth," this signed book represents for Larroquette a "dark study of man's life written in raw prose."

"The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" by Tom Wolfe (Farrar-Straus & Giroux, 1969). Signed by Wolfe, this flamboyant work delights by offering "merry pranks" and a sense of opening a "psychedelic envelope."

"Junkie" by William Lee, the pseudonym of William S. Burroughs when he was a narcotics agent. Originally published in 1953 by Ace for 25 cents, "Junkie," an account of the author's experiences as a drug addict, makes up one half of this odd back-to-back book; flip it over and there's a complete novel, "Narcotic Agent," by another author, Maurice Halbrant.

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