The Fariña Files

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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 its life shortly after Dick's marriage to Carolyn Hester in early 1960, as Carolyn has testified to not only serving as sounding board while the novel progressed, but also as typist for the 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 apocryphal 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).

Poster for May 1st booksigning at Discovery Bookshop, San FranciscoFariña 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.

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 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 Singer Songwriter Project, and later on the Penguin trade paper edition. Back dustjacket notes, 1st ed. 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 edition added a third paragraph plugging the "recently published" Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone.Back dustjacket notes, 4th printing

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.

Mass market 1st ed., June 1967In June, 1967, Dell would bring out a mass market paperback edition. Originally priced at seventy-five cents, it would go through about eight editions before shifting, in February, 1971, to both a new edition sequencing and an ill-fated movie tie-in edition Movie tie-in, 1st ed., Feb. 1971 with a new cover. The cover advertised the Paramount film as "an outstanding film", and was probably alone in its excitement. They kept this cover for one printing and then, in May, 1971, did a second printing 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 eighties.

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 Penguin trade paper ed. 1st ed. Feb. 1983 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. Viking hard cover 1st ed. Feb. 1983 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.

This edition went through thirteen years of reprintings before Penguin decided to spruce it up and place it in their Twentieth-Century Classics series, 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.

Penguin, 2nd cover, 1996Penguin, 2nd cover with original uncropped photo. 1996

Last modified: 31 March 2002