"THE GROTESQUE, THE STRANGE, AND THE EXOTIC"
CALDWELL, Erskine. God's Little Acre. New York: Viking, 1933. Octavo, original black cloth, original dust jacket. $4000.
First edition of Caldwell's most popular novel, censored in New York, banned in Boston, and so controversial that its author was prosecuted for disseminating pornography. A fine copy in rare entirely unrestored original dust jacket.
With "Tobacco Road (1932) and God's Little Acre (1933), Caldwell achieved not only critical and popular success, but also some notoriety. Both books were set among the poor whites of his southern childhood, and both displayed a mixture of muckraking anger and grotesque sexual behavior that upset southern loyalists and northern moralists alike… God's Little Acre, after a highly publicized obscenity trial, became one of Caldwell's perennial bestsellers" (ANB). "Erskine Caldwell shows us the grotesque, the strange, and the exotic. If naturalism means the presentation of the most brutal facts of human existence with utter candor, then Caldwell the Southern regionalist is a naturalist par excellence. The characters of his Georgia stories—sharecroppers, white trash, back-country pig farmers—demonstrate few human attributes; they resemble animals grotesquely clad in human form… He presents pornography for its own sake, he is fond of shocking his audiences into attention, and he creates human beings devoid of any sense of decency. There is no doubt, however, that he is sincere in his desire to present the less savory aspects of Southern rural life as he sees them, and to produce eventual amelioration through the tactic of exposé" (Bell, et al., 105-6). Caldwell's appeal was nevertheless great: he "showed a rich sense of folk humor, indignation at social inequities, and a lusty bawdiness" (Hart, 117). While Caldwell had difficulty maintaining his literary reputation in the United States, "his status remained high abroad, notably in the Soviet Union and in France, where he was considered one of 'les cinq grands' along with Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Dos Passos, and John Steinbeck" (ANB). His talent was not missed by his fellow authors; Faulkner once remarked, "the first books, God's Little Acre and the short stories, that's enough for any man." The basis for the 1958 film by blacklisted screenwriter Ben Maddow. Tiny bookseller ticket.