Monday, May 17, 2021

Book cover: "Snow Above Town" (Armed Services Edition)

  • Title: Snow Above Town
  • Author: Donald Hough (1895-1965)
  • Publisher: Council on Books in Wartime
  • Year: October 1944 as Armed Services Edition N-12 (originally published by W.W. Norton & Company in 1943)
  • Pages: 287
  • Format: Paperback
  • Dimensions: 5¾ inches by 3⅞ inches
  • About Armed Services Editions: The Council on Books in Wartime, which included W. W. Norton of W. W. Norton & Company (publisher of Snow Above Town) and famed critic/scholar Mark Van Doren, was a nonprofit organization formed during World War II. Its primary aim, according to Wikipedia, was "the promotion of books to influence the thinking of the American people regarding World War II, to build and maintain the will to win, to expose the true nature of the enemy, to disseminate technical information, to provide relaxation and inspiration, and to clarify war aims and problems of peace."
But its best-remembered effort was publishing Armed Services Editions of fiction and nonfiction books, which it was able to sell to the U.S. government at a cost of just over 6¢ per volume. The government was, in turn, able to distribute the books to those serving in the military. There were nearly 123 million books, spanning 1,300+ titles, printed.
Regarding the postcard-sized dimensions of the books, Cara Giaimo of Atlas Obscura wrote in 2017 that the "paperbacks [were] specifically designed to fit in a soldier’s pockets and travel with them wherever they went. ... These books improved soldiers’ lives, offering them entertainment and comfort during long deployments."
"Whoever made ‘em hip pocket size showed a stroke of genius!” one soldier wrote, as reported in The New York Times. “I can’t say it’s next to my heart, but it is treasured.”
The books also had a huge side effect: As a hit with soldiers, they popularized the idea (and eventually the outright love) of paperback books in the United States. That was a boon for the book publishing industry (and the reading public!) in the decades after World War II.
For more, check out Giaimo's article, this 2014 Yoni Appelbaum article in The Atlantic and the 2014 Molly Guptill Manning book When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II.

Now back to the book...

  • Excerpt from back cover: Snow Above Town is the cheerful chronicle of a man and his family literally stranded in a valley town in the Grand Teton mountains of Wyoming, from the time the dust clouds settled at the rodeo until the snow came down and marooned the town itself.
  • About the author: Donald Hough was, according to Wikipedia, "an American humorist and author of several books and film scripts." Those film scripts included 1943's Prairie Chickens. The worked as newspaper reporter, wrote for outdoor magazines, did some public relations and advertising work, served as a forest ranger and even tried his hand as an inventor. During World War II, serving as a captain in the U.S. Army Air Force.
  • Dedication: To Berry and Sherwood
  • First sentence: Here in the Western mountains, winter comes down from above, not from the north or east or wherever it seems to come from in flatter places.
  • Last sentence: I push the door gently until I hear the latch click into place.
  • Random sentence from the middle:  We never would have taken on the kitty had we known that kitties sleep all day an dspedn the night coming in and going out.
  • Review of the book: There is very little by way of reviews of Snow Above Town on the usual websites. The original hardcover edition is relatively rare. So here's an excerpt from the 1943 mini-review from Kirkus: "The involuntary exile of the author, his wife Berry, their son Sherwood, in a Wyoming foothills town where they stopped off en route to Mexico, and where the gambling tables got their traveling and budget funds. They learned to love the place, the people and the life and this account in casual, informal manner, traces the discomforts, the delights, and the daily round of the community life. ... The things that go on around him and his way of telling them are contagiously enjoyable. Robust enjoyment here."
The other Armed Services Edition books in my little stack...

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