Toni Morrison, Patti Smith hand-annotate books for PEN benefit

Writers including Toni Morrison and Patti Smith hand-annotated books to be auctioned by Christie's for PEN

Books hand-annotated by Toni Morrison, Patti Smith, Don Delillo, Philip Roth and others are being auctioned at Christie's to benefit PEN American Center in New York.

For the Dec. 2 auction, titled First Editions/Second Thoughts, authors picked up first editions of their works and made notations and drawings in them by hand. Some messages explain their intent, others their process, and other times, just a feeling.

"He protected me," Patti Smith writes under a photograph of her leaning against Robert Mapplethorpe. "He was strong."

Before Mapplethorpe was a fine art photographer and before Patti Smith was a rock star, the two were an inseparable pair of starving artists in New York. She memorialized that in her 2010 memior "Just Kids," which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. It's a first edition that book that she has annotated for the auction. See her notes above.

Other annotated works in the auction include two from Nobel Prize laureates — Toni Morrison's "Beloved" and "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk — and several Pulitzer Prize winners, including Junot Diaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad," Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" and Philip Roth's "American Pastoral."

Roth is the only author to annotate two books for the auction, the other being "Portnoy's Complaint."

The many other impressive works include poet John Ashbery's "The Tennis Court Oath" from 1957; the paperback original of Richard Ford's "The Sportswriter"; David Simon's heavily annotated nonfiction chronicle "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," which preceeded his television work; George Saunders' "Civil War Land in Bad Decline"; and "Underworld" by Don Delillo, who writes, "first sentence of the novel is the first sentence I wrote...."

Artists, including Ed Ruscha and Marina Abramovic, have provided art books and catalogs for the auction with their own artful revisions. A few plays are in the mix, including "Angels in America" by Tony Kushner and Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd."

In some ways, it was an awkward project.

"For the first time in my life, I wrote what I felt was kind of an intimate letter to a stranger," Paul Auster said in a statement. He annotated "City of Glass" (1985) for the auction. "I can say that it was probably the most bizarre act of writing I’ve ever been involved in. But I believe in PEN ardently, so anytime I have a chance to help, I want to."

In all, 61 authors and 14 artists revisited iconic works. The roster is impressive, the notations fascinating. The complete list of writers and artists and their works is below.

Marina Abramovic, "Dream Book"
    
Woody Allen, "Play It Again, Sam"  
    
John Ashbery, "The Tennis Court Oath"  
    
Paul Auster, "City of Glass"  
    
T.C. Boyle, "Descent of Man"  
    
Peter Carey, "True History of the Kelly Gang"  
    
Eric Carle, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"  
    
Robert A. Caro, "The Power Broker"
    
Michael Chabon, "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh"
    
Billy Collins, "Questions About Angels"  
    
Michael Connelly, "The Black Echo"  
    
Patricia Cornwell, "Postmortem"
    
Michael Cunningham, "The Hours"  
    
Lydia Davis, "Break it Down"
    
Angela Y. Davis, "If They Come in the Morning"

Don DeLillo, "Underworld"  
    
Junot Díaz, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"
    
E.L. Doctorow, "City of God"  
    
Rita Dove, "Ten Poems"  
    
Jennifer Egan, "A Visit from the Goon Squad"
    
Louise Erdrich, "Love Medicine"  
    
Jules Feiffer, "Little Murders"
    
Gillian Flynn, "Gone Girl"
    
Richard Ford, "The Sportswriter"

Neil Gaiman, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane"
 
William Gass, "The Tunnel"

Malcolm Gladwell, "The Tipping Point"  

Robert Gober, "Robert Gober: Sculpture and Drawing"

Sue Grafton, "'A' is for Alibi"

Roni Horn, "Bird"
    
Khaled Hosseini, "The Kite Runner"

Paul Karasik, "City of Glass: The Graphic Novel"

Garrison Keillor, "Lake Wobegon Days"

Barbara Kingsolver, "The Poisonwood Bible"
    
Joseph Kosuth, "Purloined"

Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"     

Jhumpa Lahiri, "Interpreter of Maladies"
    
Glenn Ligon, "Neon"  

Peter Matthiessen, "The Snow Leopard"
    
David Mazzucchelli, "City of Glass: The Graphic Novel"

Julie Mehretu, "Grey Area"

Colum McCann, "Let the Great World Spin"  

Jay McInerney, "Bright Lights, Big City"  

Larry McMurtry, "Streets of Laredo"  

Toni Morrison, "Beloved"
    
Paul Muldoon, "Knowing My Place"

Shirin Neshat, "Shirin Neshat: Untitled"

Joyce Carol Oates, "Them"
 
Yoko Ono, "Acorn"

Orhan Pamuk, "Snow"

Katherine Paterson, "Bridge to Terabithia"     

Marilynne Robinson, "Housekeeping"
    
Philip Roth, "American Pastoral" and "Portnoy's Complaint"   
    
Ed Ruscha, "Past Stuff"

James Salter, "The Hunters"
    
George Saunders, "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline"  
    
Simon Schama, "The Story of the Jews"

Richard Serra, "Richard Serra 2013"

Sam Shepard, "Buried Child"
    
David Simon, "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
    
Jane Smiley, "A Thousand Acres"

Kiki Smith, "Her Memory"
    
Patti Smith, "Just Kids"
    
Lemony Snicket, "The Bad Beginning"

Stephen Sondheim, "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Alec Soth, "Niagara"
    
Amy Tan, "The Joy Luck Club"
    
Colm Tóibín, "Brooklyn"

Fred Tomaselli, "Fred Tomaselli: Monsters of Paradise"
    
Anne Tyler, "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant"

Alice Walker, "The Color Purple"

Lawrence Weiner, "NAU EM I ART BILONG YUMI"    

Edmund White, "A Boy's Own Story"
 
John Edgar Wideman, "Brothers and Keepers"
   
Tobias Wolff, "This Boy's Life"

The books go on public view at Christie's in New York on Nov. 17; a preview of the auction is online now. Proceeds will support PEN American Center's work to protect and support the freedom to write.

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