03 May 2007

Charles Clapp Jr. The Big Bender, 1938

Charles Clapp, Jr. THE BIG BENDER. New York: Harper & Row, 1938.

Current Selling Prices
$600-$800 /£300-£400

Much wanted book about a struggle with alcoholism by an early Alcoholics Anonymous and Oxford Group associate. Charles Clapp was an Oxford Grouper, who AA founder Bill W had helped get sober in October of 1935. CC had been working with one Sam Shoemaker, but could not stay sober until he got help from Bill. "The Big Bender" relates that story. Clapp was from Bedford Hills. His book was written around 1937 and in 1942 he wrote another book called "Drunks Are Square Pegs." In that book he wrote that now that he understood everything about alcoholism, it would be possible for him to drink and control his drinking if he chose, an idea that diverges quite sharply from A.A. thinking and one which Clapp seems to have later recanted. He wrote another book, "Drinking Is Not The Problem," which was published in 1948. This puts forward some ideas that seem to be very much part of A.A. thinking-- briefly if a drunken pickpocket becomes sober he is still a pickpocket - alcohol abuse being symptomatic of all sorts of other problems than just the 'bevvy.'

The Oxford Group preceded A.A. and has some of the same ideas - especially the idea of the group and sharing and possibly the Higer Power.The OG program emphasized acknowledgment of offenses against others, making restitution to those sinned against, and promoting the group to the public.

The London newspaper editor Arthur J. Russell joined the Oxford Group after attending a meeting in 1931. He wrote 'For Sinners Only' in 1932, another valuable and much desired book as a first edition. The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. and Dr. Bob Smith, were inspired by Oxford Group principles.Our photo above shows the Gate House of the Seiberling Estate in Akron where Bill W and Dr. Bob met and talked for 6 hours straight. Akron was something of an Oxford Group Centre and an alcoholic scion of the local rubber tyre family, one Bud Firestone, had managed to knock drinking through association with Oxford Group members. The full story can be found at these Oxford Group pages.

VALUE? Early A.A. and Oxford Group literature has been collected for quite a while and started making good prices in the late 1990s. One used to receive long lists of Oxford Group and early A.A. books, many manifestly Christian, one presumes that alot of collectors have now found most of the books and new collectors are not necessarily being generated. It doesn't seem to have moved on vastly and may have levelled off but it is still a good collecting area.

The cheapest copy on the web of Clapp's book is circa $700 in mediocre condition with decent ones with jackets between $800 and $1000; whether they sell at these prices (some have been there for a while) I am not certain but decent copies probably sell at $500+. A wise old bookseller out on the West Coast once told me that a good and pricey book usually sold readily if you took 40% off the price as long as the price wasn't crazy to start with. Some truth in this. [ W/Q *** ]
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