Tuesday, March 17, 2009
"The Dreaming Gazelle" by Joel S Muttoe
In December of 1972, Alkahest House publishers released an all-new printing of Joel S Muttoe's story collection "Slab Sputum" under the title "The Dreaming Gazelle." It was a fairly shameless attempt to cash in on the success of that spiritual animal story, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which by that time had sold approximately 100 million copies. Of course, Richard Bach's novella is, shall we say, wistful, while Muttoe's story is an uncompromising look at life from the perspective of someone who is, shall we say, a little more eccentric. Alkahest House recruited Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick (an avowed Muttoe fan) to write the introduction, but even that wasn't enough to keep the volume in print. It hit the remainder shelves within a couple of weeks of its release- anyone who bought this book expecting something like "Seagull" could be forgiven for feeling they'd been cheated. Still, Alkahest's headquarters was subjected to rioting by angry patrons demanding a full refund of the purchase price ($1.95 hadcover), which was probably excessive. The rioting, not the cover price.
To my knowledge, this is the only time in recent memory when a short story collection caused a riot in America.
I've scanned the cover of the 1972 edition, along with scans of the story from the original 1934 "Slab Sputum" printing, because my 1972 edition is so cheap that it cannot be opened without it turning to dust. Ironic, when you think about it, considering one of the stories in the collection is "Moldering Volume."