Sunday, December 01, 2019

Fortnightly Book, December 1

I've gone back and forth, forth and back, over what to do for this next fortnightly book, and I've finally settled on John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. The book was published in April of 1939, and the edition I have, from my grandparents' library, was published in September of 1939. (It was the best selling novel of the year; the September printing is the ninth.) I'll have to be careful with it; the book isn't in bad shape, but eighty years inevitably gives a book like this, published more for a wide audience than with any fancy binding, a bit of a workout. Looking at the inscriptions, it is from my grandmother's side of the library, and ultimately from my great aunt. There is an inscription, "Read 9/12/63", which I'm pretty sure is in my grandfather's hand.

The book was written while Steinbeck was working for the San Francisco News; while there he took an interest in the stories of displaced migrants; it started out as a series of articles in 1936 about such migrant workers, for which Steinbeck had to do a significant amount of background research. When writing the novel, Steinbeck couldn't settle on a title for it; eventually his wife, Carol, proposed the phrase from The Battle Hymn of the Republic that stuck.

With classics I often look to see if there is an old-time radio adaptation, and it turns out there is one: NBC University Theater did an adaptation in 1949; there is also, of course, the 1940 movie, which regularly makes lists of the top American films of all time. If I have time, I'll pull in one or both.

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