A HIGHLY IMPORTANT JOHN STEINBECK ARCHIVE
CONCERNING HIS BOOK: NOTHING SO MONSTROUS,
FIRST PUBLISHED AS CHAPTER SIX OF:
PASTURES FROM HEAVEN
“I HAVE A NEW LITTLE BOOK COMING OUT
RIGHT AFTER THE FIRST OF THE YEAR [OF MICE AND MEN]
AND MY PEOPLE ARE JUST AS SKEPTICAL ABOUT IT
AS THEY WERE ABOUT MY FIRST BOOKS…”
“…I AM NOT GOING TO BE A SUCCESSFUL WRITER.”
“ I HAVE NO OBJECTIONS TO THE REMOVAL OF THE SWASTIKA.. THIS TOUCHINESS IS… ONE OF THE REASONS WHY THE JEWISH PEOPLE ARE MISTREATED… ANYWAY CHANGE IT FOR ALL I CARE. WHAT NONSENCE. ”
STEINBECK, JOHN. (1902-1968). American writer and Nobel laureate, who described in his work the unremitting struggle of people who depend on the soil for their livelihood. Superb, and Highly Important group of five  letters [three Autograph Letters, and two Typed Letters] Signed: “John Steinbeck” and “J.S.” Los Gatos, California, 1936. To Frederick B. Adams Jr., regarding the publication of Steinbeck’s short story: Nothing So Monstrous.
ALSO INCLUDED IS AN ORIGINAL TYPED MANUSCRIPT PAGE, CONTAINING SEVERAL CORRECTIONS IN STEINBECK’S HAND, THAT IS AN EPILOGUE TO THE VIGNETTE.
[October 14, 1936] “Dear Mr. Adams: Excuse the card please. Nothing else in the house and we live some little instance from town. It was good of you to write. And I wish your suggestion might be used. But I am such a notorious bad prophet in business, that a suggestion of mine usually causes a stampede in the opposite direction. My complete lack of financial success as a writer is the direction of this result. Every book causes the same head-shaking. I have a new little book coming out right after the first of the year and my people are just as skeptical about it as they were about my first books. It seems to follow that I am not going to be a successful writer. But now and then someone (like yourself) likes my work well enough to write. I’m not sure that I do not prefer it that way. I’m a little suspicious of popularity. Thank you for writing me. It is good to know that some people do like the work. Sincerely, John Steinbeck”.
“November 4, 1936. Dear Mr. Adams: I feel rather like writing to Santa Claus myself. There are things I should do and I don’t know whether I can or not. I have the whole process of Santa Claus writing (Joyce please clip) ruined for me by a fanciful method preached by my family. They said the letters should be burned and the essence reached Santa Claus. This served the double purpose of saving a stamp and making the whole thing more spiritual. It also had the effect of making a hard and introverted sceptic [sic, skeptic] of me. Of course I should like the book to be done. I should like it very much. I can’t give the permission because I have given a practical power of attorney to my agents. They are McIntosh and Otis, Inc., 18 East 41st St. NY. Give them a buzz and talk to them. I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t give the assignment but they might refuse. Covici would probably have to permit the thing too, but there again I don’t see why he might object. It’s a swell thing, your taking this matter up. Thank you. Anyway a couple of telephone calls will clear the matter up there in New York. And if there is no trouble there, I certainly will interpose none. Thank you again for your interest, Sincerely, John Steinbeck”.
“November 11th 1936. Dear Frederick Adams: I’m glad the permissions came through all right. I’ll try to answer your questions as they occur in your letter. No, I don’t want to make any changes in the text but if you or the proofreader want to make any it doesn’t matter in the least to me. As to a name, that also I leave to you. It occurs to me that “Pastoral” might not be a bad name. If there were as decent synomym [sic, synonym] for disreputable it might be a good name but Disreputable Pastoral sounds lousy. One other suggestion. You remember the line from Virginibus Pueresque. The story might be called Nothing So Monstrous. However, name it what you wish. Next about an introductory paragraph. I’ll try to knock one off this afternoon and enclose it. This is rather difficult since both my wife and I have influenza and we feel terrible. However I’ll do what I can because I am very glad of this little book. Next, you ask whether I know anyone who will buy the book. Frankly I don’t. I know many who will gladly borrow it. The bookstores that have most avidly supported my work are that of Ben Abramson in Chicago, called the Argus Bookshop, 333 South Dearborn St., Chicago., The Shaker Bookshop, 13127 Shaker Square, Cleveland, Ohio, Jake Zeitlin’s Book Shop in Los Angeles, The Emporium and Gelber Lillienthal in San Francisco. The Sather Gate Book store in Berkeley Calif, The Adobe Book shop in Monterey, Calif. A few critics like Burton Rascoe might buy them. Harry Schwartz of the Casanova Press, who deals in limited editions might buy one or more. I don’t know anything about the east at all. You might enquire of those I have mentioned. I should like a few for my family if they don’t cost too much. That’s about all I guess. I feel too lousy to write much more. Oh yes, my wife admires your stationery very much. Could you tell me where you get it and how much it costs and where I could order some for her? I do think that is all. I’ll try to do some kind of foreword now. Sincerely and with thanks, John Steinbeck”.
“It is some years now since Junius Maltby and Robbie climbed the bus to go to San Francisco to get a job. I’ve often wondered whether Junius got a job and whether he kept it. He was strong in spirit when he went away. I for one should find it difficult to believe he could go under. I think rather he might have broken away again. For all I know he may have come back to the pastures of Heaven. Somewhere in the brush-thick canyons there may be a cave looking out on a slow stream, shaded by sycamores. And in the cave Junius may live and Robbie with him. This cave would be secret, mind you, and curtained with vines, the entrance concealed. And to this cave young farmers who were little boys when Junius was here before, may come secretly, slipping through the brush, splashing across the stream in the night. Yes they may leave their warm comfortable wives in bed and creep out to sit in Junius’ cave, a whole raft of them around a little fire. Each man would fill his hand with the dry sand of the floor and let the sand sift out of his closed palm while Junius talks, then each man would study his hand and not see it. But they may sit there on the floor while Junius tells how ants as big as cows pulled down the camels in the desert as Herodotus shows, and how Solomon was buried secretly in a cavern as big and very like a church. And Junius may wonder just what the Lotus was and what manner of gas came out of the crevase [sic, crevasse] at Delphi. The young farming men may listen and be glad he came back. And well after midnight when the sky is black and the roosters have started crowing long before the light, they may slip quietly away and creep into their houses and ease into their beds beside their warm wives. I don’t know that this is true. I only hope to God it is. John Steinbeck, November 1936, Los Gatos, California”.
[November 16, 1936] “Dear Adams: first came in to town and have your letter. Of course I have no objections to the removal of the swastika. When this was written it had only its many ancient meanings. Substitute the Pentateuch if you like. Maybe then the so-called Aryans may find fault. This touchiness is of course one of the reasons why the Jewish people are mistreated. They stick out their chins as Isaiah put it albeit in slightly different language. Anyway change it for all I care. J.S.” [Swastica next to Star of David] “What nonsense.”
[November 28, 1936] “Dear Adams: I guess that clears us up. The search is all right. I was blind with flu when I wrote that last letter. Didn’t I say pentagram? Doesn’t matter. No, six copies will be fine. I can’t afford any more and that will take care of my family. I’ll be anxious to see them and I hope you don’t take a loss on the matter. I’m much afraid my public is not large enough to justify merchant pay. I have the largest borrowing public in America and the smallest buying public. It’s cold. I must go out and saw some wood. I think the paper will be fine could it have a heading. Carol Steinbeck, Greenwood Road, Los Gatos, California. And about 200 sheets, I guess. I’ll send a check for it when it is told me how much it is. And I guess that is all. Thank you. Sincerely, John Steinbeck”.
Nothing So Monstrous first appeared as the sixth chapter in a book called Pastures of Heaven, a collection of interrelated stories about the gradual disintegration of a peaceful farming community in the lush California countryside. It was published in 1932 by Robert O. Ballou, Inc. In 1936, the year of this correspondence, Steinbeck tried to get the short story published privately by Frederick B. Adams [industrialist and cousin to President Franklin D. Roosevelt]. Instead, Covici-Friede bought the rights and in the same year published 370 copies of the sixth chapter under the title Nothing So Monstrous. For this publication, Steinbeck added a short epilogue that was not included in subsequent editions of Pastures of Heaven. The first version of that epilogue is, however, included in this correspondence.
The ability to acquire major correspondence from Steinbeck’s pen, along with actual manuscript, written during the period of his great literary achievements are nearly non-existent in today’s market. Superb condition throughout.