THE GRAPES OF WRATH. (OF MICE AND MEN). John Steinbeck, George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart.
THE GRAPES OF WRATH. (OF MICE AND MEN).

THE GRAPES OF WRATH. (OF MICE AND MEN).

NY: Random House, 1941. First Modern Library Edition. Hardcover. . NY: Random House, 1941. First Modern Library edition. Worn dustjacket (supplied), cloth stained and soiled (mostly at spine and not affecting internals), still solidly bound. Inscribed by Steinbeck to Moss Hart on the half title: For Moss Hart this book is touchingly inscribed - with pleasure and gratitude for Lennie knows what. John Steinbeck. Lennie is the key word that links Steinbeck to Hart, as Lennie Small is the tragic character in Of Mice and Men, and it is Moss Hart's principal collaborator, George S. Kaufman, who adapted the novella with Steinbeck for the stage in 1937. The inscription, unfortunately undated, can be no earlier than 1941 (when this edition was published) so it was not executed at the same time Steinbeck and Kaufman worked together. The back story for the inscription is provided by journalist and radio producer Don Swaim, resident of Bucks County and chairman of the Writer's Workshop there, on his excellent website. Bucks County was a favorite area for "country homes" for Manhattan writers, artists and "theater people" in the 1930s-1950s. Moss Hart and his wife Kitty Carlisle owned Fairview Farm in Holicong and Kaufman and his wife Beatrice were not far away at their estate, Cherchez La Farm. Steinbeck had written most of the short novel Of Mice in Men in dialogue form and he thought it would be easy to adapt to the stage. Kaufman had secured the stage rights. Steinbeck had written an adaptation but Kaufman saw that it needed immediate work, as the play was to be staged that fall. He invited Steinbeck to join him at his farm where in the later part of August 1937 they rewrote together Of Mice and Men. The degree to which Kaufman re-shaped the play is an open question. A comparative analysis by Jackson J. Benson in The Short Novels of John Steinbeck: Critical Essays With a Checklist to Steinbeck Criticism suggests that, even though the dialogue is about 80% directly from the novella, the narrative drama of the stage version was partly achieved by expanding the dialogue of Curley's wife, mistakenly killed by Lennie, and making her more sympathetic. The play opened in November to critical acclaim, edging Our Town for the Drama Critics Award, and spawned a successful movie version two year later. Steinbeck tired of the New York scene and returned to California to write The Grapes of Wrath. He never commented or wrote publicly about his experience with Kaufman, although in his later years well after Kaufman's death, he consistently credited Kaufman with the play's success. Still, Steinbeck's experience with Kaufman in August 1937 could not have been easy. He had written Of Mice and Men almost as a 'play-novella" and likely anticipated an easy transfer from page to stage. Thus, the inscription raises many questions for Steinbeck biographers and scholars. Had Steinbeck, commiserated with Hart, as the inscription suggests, who was just down the road from Kaufman about Hart's partner's reworking of his work? ("Damnit, Moss, what is George doing with my story?") Does Steinbeck refer to Lennie because he wanted to "protect" his tragic figure from Curly's wife becoming more sympathetic in Kaufman's hands? Is the reference to Lennie an allusion to how no one, perhaps even Steinbeck himself, could understand what was going through the mind of a person like Lennie? The inscription is also distinctive in that it is not common for Steinbeck to make explicit references to characters in his books in his inscriptions. No matter how dear the character Lennie may have been to Steinbeck and whatever Steinbeck meant in the inscription, this discovery surely is a vital artifact of Steinbeck's career and of American stage and film history both. (The provenance of the book is clear. By the late 50s, Kitty Carlisle had grown tired of the maintenance of the Bucks County farm and wanted to spend more time in New York and, in an eagerness to return to her and Moss' Manhattan apartment on a per. Very Good. Item #009973

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