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Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me probably began shortly after his marriage to Carolyn Hester in early 1960,  as Carolyn has testified to not only serving as sounding board as the novel progressed, but also as typist for first 90 pages, written over the next three years of its extended birth.  Rumored to be his second novel, it's certainly the first to be finished. (There are two candidates for the 1st novel, both reportedly written at some point during his Cornell days, with one, according to Hajdu's book, alleged to be about his mother's Irish family ; the other is mainly remembered by his former Cornell cohorts as something he liked to announce he was working on daily, or had just about finished, or tragically abandoned. Reports, possibly as appocryphal as the fabled novel itself, were that whichever it was, wasn't or might have been,  "it was awful.")  

Been Down So Long had been shopped around as a work-in-progress to several British publishers in the early part of 1963, but turned down.  Submitted to Random House by Fariña's  agent, Robert Mills (of the Mills Agency, who also handled Richard Brautigan, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and Isaac Asimov) , it was accepted in April, 1965 (minus von Schmidt's illustrations of things only alluded to in the prose) and edited by Jim Silberman (currently the much-sympathized-with editor of Hunter Thompson).

Fariña was paid the staggering advance sum of $5400. The book was originally announced for the Fall of that year, and later moved to the spring publishing season, at the end of April, 1966.

Poster used to advertise May 1st booksigning at Discovery Bookshop, SF
Following a publication party at Random House in NYC in late April, Fariña returned to California for a scheduled signing April 30th at the Thunderbird bookstore in Carmel (one of several places on both coasts he called home), to be followed next day by a another at the Discovery Bookshop, a bookstore on Columbus Avenue, a few doors down from City Lights Bookstore.

The cover featured an ink wash drawing by Eric von Schmidt, with a David Gahr photo from the same NYC session used on the Elektra Been Down So Long, 1st ed., back notesSinger Songwriter Project , and later on the Penguin trade paper edition. First editions had a two paragraph bio of the author to the right of the photo. The second edition added a review from Richard Kluger of Book Week, above the photo,  describing  the novel as " A madly careening odyssey of a charismatic young-anti-hero." Also added for the second edition was a prefatory sentence to the biography noting Fariña's death. The fourth editon added a third paragraph plugging the Been Down So Long, back, 4th printing"recently published" Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone.

The hardcover edition was originally published in blue boards with a green cloth binding, changing to orange boards but keeping green cloth binding for the second edition. It went through five known editions before going out of print in the early 70s.

In June, 1967, Dell would bring out a mass market paperback edition, orginally priced at seventy-five cents, it would go through about eight Been Down So Long, mass market 1st ed., June 1967editions before shifting, in February, 1971 to both a new edition sequencing and an ill-fated movie tie-in edition with a new cover.





The cover advertised the Paramount film as "an outstanding film", and were probably alone in their excitement. They kept this cover  for one printing, and  then in May, 1971 did a second Been Down So Long, movie tie-in, 1st ed. , Feb.'71printing of the new edition that went back to the orginal cover art and kept to it until Viking Penguin bought the rights in the early eighies.

Penguin's edition was a larger, trade-sized paperback edition which came out in February, 1983, at $4.95. This edition featured a new cover with a David Gahr photo of a band-aided Fariña, from the same session that yielded all the other author photos used on Been Down So Long, this time Fariña's leather jacket is draped over his shoulders instead of being worn. A simultaneous hardcover edition of this was also published ( at $14.75), probably aimed at library sales, as few copies ever made their way to bookstores.  The hardcover used the  Viking Press imprint (paper was Penguin ), and was done on blue boards with yellow cloth binding. The paper edition featured a cropped copy of the cover photo over a line from Thomas Pynchon's blurb written for the book, which in turn, hovered over a paragraph of marketing copy, while the hardcover featured the unedited blurb by Pynchon boxed and centered on an orange field.
Been Down So Long, Penguin trade paper ed. 1st ed. - Feb.'83
Been Down So Long, Viking HC 1st ed., 2/83






This edition went through thirteen years of reprintings before Penguin decided to spruce it up and place it in their Twentieth-Century Classics, at $12.95. Originally announced for November of 1995, it was delayed until Spring of the next year while the marketing people argued with the sales people over just how much of the new David Gahr photo should be kept. Modesty won out and Fariña's bemused smile was left a mystery.
Been Down So Long, Penguin, 2nd cover, 1996
Been Down So Long, Penguin 2nd cover - Original uncropped photo