11 October 2002
STEINBECK, John. Sweet Thursday. London: William Heinemann, 1954.
8o. Original dark green cloth; dust jacket (some wear at edges). Provenance: Thomas Steinbeck, the author's eldest son by his second wife Gwynn (presentation inscription).
FIRST ENGLISH EDITION. AN INTIMATE FAMILY PRESENTATION, INSCRIBED BY STEINBECK TO HIS TEN-YEAR OLD SON THOMAS on the front free endpaper: "For my son Thom who is sweet also from father John Steinbeck." Sweet Thursday was Steinbeck's attempt to exorcise the pain caused by the unexpected death of his great friend Ed Ricketts: "I've just finished another book about the Row. It is a continuation concerned not with what did happen but with what might have happened. The one can be true as the other. I think it is a funny story, and sad too because it is what might have happened to Ed and didn't. I don't seem to be able to get over his death. But this will be the last piece about him" (A Life in Letters, New York, 1975, p. 474). The book was later adapted by Rodgers and Hammerstein as an unproduced musical comedy entitled Pipedream.
When Thomas (or "Thom," as he was referred to by family) Steinbeck was born on August 2nd, 1944, his father wrote to a friend: "This has been a busy and exciting time. Thom seems to be a baby-shaped baby and I like him very much. There isn't much to like about him yet. He just eats and sleeps and shits but I can think of worse kids ... Thom is a good healthy kid with red hair and blue eyes and he can't see yet but there's nothing to look at anyway" (Letters, p. 272). At the time of the inscription, Thom was experiencing difficulties in school which were likely the evidence of an undiagnosed learning disability. Steinbeck wrote to Gwynn while the boys were with him in Paris: "I do hope you will get at Thom's block against reading and writing because that is what it is, a kind of panic. He has told me that he knows things, which he does, but that he simply cannot write them down. When it is insisted that he write answers he goes into a blue funk, but he is quite capable of reciting in great detail anything he has been told. If the block could be removed, he would be ahead of his age, not behind" (Letters, p. 487). Goldstone and Payne A33b.
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