"A TOUR DE FORCE": TORTILLA FLAT, FIRST EDITION, ONE OF ONLY 500 COPIES IN SCARCE ORIGINAL WRAPPERS
STEINBECK, John. Tortilla Flat. New York: Covici-Friede, (1935). Octavo, original beige cloth, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $5200.
First edition, scarce wrappers issue, of Steinbeck's first popular success.
Inspired by its author's affinity for Arthurian legend and love of the paisanos of southern California, Tortilla Flat won John Steinbeck his first experience of literary fame. Consisting of revised versions of earlier stories, now united in a structure that mirrors Malory's Morte D'Arthur, Tortilla Flat became "the book that raised [Steinbeck] out of obscurity. Written under the shadow of his mother's illness and his father's decay, it is, strangely enough, the most comic of his novels. 'Its tone, I guess,' he wrote a friend, 'is direct rebellion against all the sorrow of our house… Tortilla Flat is a tour de force. In retrospect it is hard to think of any other American writer getting away with it… It is the kind of book, deceptively simple, that is invariably underestimated and leads one to think, I could write a book like this one. There isn't that much to it. It took Steinbeck 15 years of practice to make a book look that easy, and behind that relaxed manner is a world of experience with and sympathy for his subject… Only someone who truly loved and knew these people could have so successfully exaggerated and stylized their lives" (Benson, 276, 279). The novel became a short-lived Broadway play in 1938, and Victor Fleming directed the 1942 film version, which starred Spencer Tracy. With numerous line-cuts by Ruth Chrisman Gannett. This issue is bound in wrappers (500 copies), as opposed to the more common cloth (4000 copies); no priority established. Goldstone & Payne A4b. Bruccoli & Clark I:353. Salinas Public Library, 21. Valentine 29.
Interior fine, light toning to extremities. A nearly fine copy.