"A SUSTAINED BEAUTY AND PASSION THAT IS RARELY SEEN": FIRST EDITION OF THE OLD MAN'S PLACE, 1935, JOHN SANFORD'S BREAKTHROUGH NOVEL, SIGNED BY HIM
SANFORD, John. The Old Man's Place. New York: Albert and Charles Boni, (1935). Octavo, original ivory cloth, original dust jacket. $450.
First edition of the first novel published under Sanford's pseudonym, signed by him, a novel that brilliantly explores "the violence at the core of the American psyche," a bold work that led to his career as a screenwriter before being blacklisted for refusing to name names before HUAC, an exceptional copy in the bright original dust jacket.
The descendant of Russian Jewish immigrants, Sanford grew up near Nathanael West and the two became close friends, both changing "their names in response to the open anti-Semitism of the 1920s." In the early 1930s, when they rented an Adirondacks hunting cabin to write, "West was working on Miss Lonelyhearts. Sanford, who had his first novel [Water Wheel] under way, read West's proofs, and provided a captive audience for his monologues" (Guardian). Old Man's Place, Sanford's second novel and the first issued under his pseudonym, was based on a story he heard while there, about soldiers returning from WWI. In the novel, Sanford "delves into "the violence at the core of the American psyche, a theme he would return to throughout his career" (Mearns, Firsts, 43). Nearly four decades after publication, it was the basis for the 1971 film, My Old Man's Place—"one of the first films… critical of the U.S. debacle in Vietnam" (Craig, American International Pictures, 266-67).
Sanford, who is "often compared to William Carlos Williams and John Dos Passos… wrote unforgivingly about dark passages in American history, such as slavery and the execution of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti" (Los Angeles Times). His body of work offers "a sustained beauty and passion that is rarely seen… a master of his craft; his writing sparkles with the clean lines of a gem" (Mearns, Bibliography, xiii). In 1951 Sanford and his wife, the highly successful screenwriter Marguerite Roberts, "were subpoenaed by HUAC but refused to cooperate by naming names of other communists in Hollywood. They spent the next decade in internal exile, barred from foreign travel because their passports had been canceled," and blacklisted. "When the political climate began to ease in 1960, Roberts plunged back into her work, writing, among other films, the script for True Grit, the only picture for which John Wayne won an Oscar… [Sanford] ended his silence with the publication in 1964 of the novel Every Island Fled Away" (Los Angeles Times). Known for feuding with publishers and long blacklisted, Sanford's novels were "issued only in small editions" (Mearns, Bibliography, xv). Mearns, Bibliography A2.
A fine copy.