CALDWELL, Erskine (1903-1987). Tobacco Road. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932.
8o. Original rust cloth, front cover and spine stamped in blind and gilt; pictorial dust jacket. Provenance: Sam Marx, head of the screenwriting department at MGM (presentation inscription).
FIRST EDITION, ADVANCE REVIEW COPY, with Scribner's review slip laid-in. PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY CALDWELL TO HIS BOSS AT M.G.M., SAM MARX on the front free endpaper: "For Sam Marx with the best wishes of Erskine Caldwell M.G.M. June 10th 1933."
Tobacco Road ranks as one of preeminent novels of the American South, a stark and disturbing look at the backwoods of Caldwell's homestate of Georgia. Even Maxwell Perkins, Caldwell's supportive editor at Scribner's, had to admit to an overseas agent that the grim reality and frank sexual language of the novel were difficult to stomach: "we think from a literary point of view [Tobacco Road] is quite a remarkable performance... [but] it is an unpleasant story--in fact one of the most unpleasant I can ever remember." Reviews in the North were consistently complimentary, drawing comparisons between Caldwell, Faulkner and Wolfe, although Southern reviews were mixed, ranging from an appreciation of the book's achievement to opposition to absolute disgust. In the end, Tobacco Road enjoyed enormous success and Caldwell's Broadway adaptation ran for eight years. The phrase "Tobacco Road" entered the American consciousness almost immediately, signifying the environment that nutured poor, ill-educated and volAtile whites.
A VERY FINE ASSOCIATION COPY. In the spring of 1933 Caldwell found great success, and courted MGM to replace an "angry, unhappy, and sometimes drunk" William Faulkner as a summer screenwriter. At the time, the book's recipient, Sam Marx, was head of the screenwriting department. Caldwell despised the work, and the place, upon arrival. "This country is not a fit place to live," he wrote to his wife, "God did not intend for people to live here in this desert." He was teamed with writing partners who slept until mid-morning and was subjected to the prevailing laziness, debauchery and dishonesty surrounding him. Amazingly, he was invited back the following summer and he accepted, demanding more than double his original salary. A VERY FINE COPY IN THE SCARCE JACKET.