London: Secker & Warburg, 1959. First edition. Original green publisher's cloth binding, Near Fine on account of some foxing to the text block. In a VG+ first state jacket, with the 15s. net price on the front flap; jacket with some toning to spine and wear to extremities, most noticeably to the foot of spine. Inscribed by the author on the title page: "To Brad, whose rotobroiled lobster carried me through the first chapters, here it all is from his Hells Kitchen buddy, Jack." The recipient, Bradford Dillman, the son of an E.F. Hutton stockbroker, was Knowles' roommate at Yale and after. Following college, the two shared an apartment in Hell's Kitchen, New York, each pursuing his own creative career. While Knowles set to work on what would become his masterpiece, A Separate Peace, Dillman struggled to find acting jobs despite his parents' disapproval. Miraculously, both accomplished their goals: Dillman became a successful Broadway and Hollywood actor. Clearly, Knowles' prep school and Ivy League background shaped his fiction; it was something the young men had in common, as Dillman's youth led him to take on specific character types, earning him notoriety "as an actor of imposing stature as the bossy, over-ebullient, and immature mama's boy" (Weiler). An exceptional association to someone whose experiences and input shaped this classic novel.
Knowles drew on his own experiences at a New England boarding school in order to write this haunting story about the friendship between Gene and Finny. Effectively polar opposites and yet fiercely devoted to each other, Gene and Finny develop a rivalry that sustains each of them. Gene especially tries to emulate Finny's positive qualities to make himself better. But their friendship takes a dark turn as a result of a rash decision that Gene makes while the two are perched on a tree branch. The fallout and ensuing tragedy haunts Gene for the rest of his life. A Separate Peace is a stirring meditation on adolescence, masculinity, guilt, and friendship. Near Fine in Very Good + dust jacket. (Item #3503)