It’s about time Jaws got the deluxe edition it so rightly deserves, and who is it that brings us this wonderful edition… that’s right, the quite brilliant Folio Society.
So, let me open with this; Peter Benchley is one of my favourite authors of all time – let’s get that out of the way from the start.
His books explore the world around us; with many featuring the sea and more importantly the dangers that lurk on, beneath, or near the water, but he’s not just a one trick pony. His novel ‘Rummies’ was a fabulous book which broke the norm of his catalogue of work and endeared him more to my heart and proved he has the chops to cut it with the best writers out there, so, if you get a chance… check that out too.
What I love about Folio Society crafting this beautiful book, is that it brings a whole new audience to the book I love and have re-read countless times; this offering includes some stunning artwork by Hokyoung Kim and a fabulous introduction by Wendy Benchley (worth the price of the book alone) – whilst also being something you can just stare at for ages.
I have to admit, yet again, another dark secret.
I am a huge fan of ‘Jaws’ I read it as a young boy, watched the film until I wore out my VHS – yes I’m that old. The film is one of my favourite films of all time (judge me for my film choices if you will, but for now we are talking about the book).
I think when I read the book as a child, it was a little lost on me, I didn’t fully understand the deeper context to which the book alludes to, but I wanted to read it because the film was such a big part of my childhood – I remember sitting alongside my father and picking the skin at the base of his thumbnail when the shark was about to attack, how he’d wrap his arm around me when Quint met his end, telling me it was just ketchup coming out of his mouth – parenting in the 80’s was a lot different to the parenting of today.
But the one thing I was concerned about when I read the book as a child was that it didn’t follow the rhythms of the film, and in my childish mind I thought the film was much better, a statement I had made countless times growing up, but one I’ve had to chew up and swallow in my 20’s like the shark did the Orca.
I re-read Jaws a lot, I find great joy in it, and but I think it was about seven years ago, that it really blew my mind. You ever get that, re-reading a book and because you’re in a different place, a different time, you’re more open to it, things change, you uncover things you couldn’t or failed to understand the last time you read it.
I knew the story, knew the eccentric bunch of characters within, knew the ebb and flow of the story; but now I managed to see the sheer brilliance of Benchley’s work afresh.
One part of the book in particular that stuck out to me recently and is strikingly different from the film adaptation is the relationship between Brody’s wife and Hooper; which is hardly touched upon in the film, but in the book it had me crying out with anger, had me enraged that she could be doing this to Brody (of all people) – it left me resenting her and showcased Benchley’s ability to get right under your skin and to cause this type of reaction, shows the brilliance of his writing.
Benchley also had the remarkable ability to give a personality to the shark, as strange as that sounds, it’s no mean feat to give a voice to an animal that doesn’t speak; the scenes where the shark is stalking, lurking or attacking people are exquisitely accomplished and help the reader gain an insight and feel something for the shark. You can’t help but be pulled into its quest and what it will do to survive.
Benchley was an advocate for marine life and with ‘Jaws’ and his masterful execution of the story, helping the reader get into the mind and motives of the shark reveals that it is not just a mindless killing machine, but is a ferocious predator in its natural environment and will protect itself when called upon, so we should probably where we can stay out of its bloody way.
When getting the new edition of ‘Jaws’ from Folio Society I was thrilled to see the internal illustrations; each one is a work of art that is worthy of being framed and hung on the wall. What I also loved is that these illustrations pick out key moments of the book, and really paint the scene, detailing perfectly the feel of the words on the page.
The book and its illustrations are so beautifully presented by Folio that this is not just a book, its a work of art, a collectors item and a book I will cherish for a lifetime, something I’ll even pass down to my children – its that beautiful.
If you have never read Jaws before, what the hell have you been doing!
Honestly… I am.
Because if you’re going to pick it up for the first time, I couldn’t think of a better edition for you to read than this one from Folio.
I’d highly recommend purchasing a copy of this new edition from The Folio Society – not only for its classy re-design, and the internal artwork, the cover artwork and the beautifully designed slip case and the wonderful introduction… but buy it for the words themselves.
Enjoy the phenomenal piece of writing which inspired the film and changed the world we live in. I hear you saying that’s a bit rich, how did it change the world we live in? Have you ever heard someone say ‘We’re going to need a bigger boat.’ I’d bet my last pound that you have, so yes, this book has influenced us, the film has influenced us and so let Folio Society and this new edition of Jaws influence another generation.
Peter Benchley was born in New York in 1940 and educated at Harvard. As a young man he worked as a journalist for the Washington Post and Newsweek, as well as a speechwriter for President Johnson. After several difficult years attempting to break through as a full-time writer, Benchley enjoyed enormous success on the publication of Jaws – a novel he had conceived a decade earlier – especially, of course, after the release of Steven Spielberg’s film version in 1975. Benchley’s other novels include The Deep and The Island, both of which have maritime settings and were turned into Hollywood films, though none of the later books was received with the acclaim and excitement of Jaws. In the 1990s, Benchley became an impassioned marine conservationist, seeking to communicate the true beauty and power of the sea, and to correct the record on the danger of shark attacks. He died in 2006 at his home in Princeton, New Jersey.
Hokyoung Kim grew up in South Korea and studied painting at Hongik University in Seoul, followed by training in illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. She is now based in Queens, New York City, and specialises in illustrations for print media. Her work has been commissioned by The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal, as well as book publishers such as HarperCollins and corporate clients including Apple. She previously worked in animation and film production and has retained a strong interest in storytelling and narrative as part of her practice.