"HIS WRITING SPARKLES WITH THE CLEAN LINES OF A GEM": JOHN SANFORD'S LANDMARK FIVE-VOLUME AUTOBIOGRAPHY, SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF AN AMERICAN JEW, EACH VOLUME ONE OF ONLY 150 SIGNED BY SANFORD
SANFORD, John. Scenes from the Life of an American Jew: The Color of the Air. WITH: The Waters of Darkness. WITH: A Very Good Land to Fall With. WITH: A Walk in the Fire. WITH: The Season, It Was Winter. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1985-91. Five volumes. Octavo, original half cloth, printed paper boards, printed paper spine labels, acetate. $650.
Signed limited first editions of the five volumes of Sanford's autobiography, beautifully printed by Black Sparrow Press, each volume one of only 150 or 125 signed by Sanford—three of them signed by him using both his pseudonym, John Sanford, and his given name, Julian Shapiro. For this work Sanford won the PEN/Faulkner Award; he also won the Los Angeles Times Lifetime Achievement Award.
The descendant of Russian Jewish immigrants, Sanford is "often compared to William Carlos Williams and John Dos Passos… [he] 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… [Sanford] ended his silence with the publication in 1964 of the novel Every Island Fled Away" (Los Angeles Times).
Born Julian Lawrence Shapiro, on his friend Nathaniel West's recommendation Sanford adopted the name of a character from his 1933 first novel Water Wheel as a pseudonym when he published his second novel, and ultimately made "John B. Sanford" his legal name in 1940. The Color of the Air is copy number 125 of only 150 signed copies; The Waters of Darkness is 96/150; A Very Good Land to Fall With is 101/150; A Walk in the Fire is 96/150; The Season, It Was Winter is 91/125.
In fine condition. Quite scarce and desirable.