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Of John Steinbeck and the "Novel Play"

By Kristin Masters. Feb 4, 2014. 10:32 PM.

On February 6,1937, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was published. The novella met with immediate acclaim, but later sparked countless controversies. Now the book has found its way to the required reading lists in English-speaking classrooms around the world. 

  • Before he was a famous author and Nobel laureate, John Steinbeck was a bindlestiff, that is, a hobo who carries a bundle on a stick. He based the exploits of Lennie and George on his own experiences as a vagrant.
  • Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men (and Grapes of Wrath) in Monte Sereno, California. His dog, Max, actually devoured an early manuscript of the novella.
  • Of Mice and Men represents Steinbeck's first attempt at a new literary form: the "novel play." One critic also referred to it as a "play-novelette." Steinbeck intended the work to be both a novella and a script for the play.
  • Steinbeck originally planned to call the book Something That Happened, alluding to the fact that the tragic events in the book weren't the fault of any specific person. But after reading Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse," he decided to change the name to Of Mice and Men.
  • Of Mice and Men was chosen as a Book-of-the-Month Club selection before it was even published, thanks to all the positive reviews it got from critics. The New York Times critic called it a "grand little novella, for all its ultimate melodrama." 
  • Steinbeck's works have long been targets of censors, and Of Mice and Men has been challenged for a host of "offenses," from "promoting euthanasia" to "being anti-business" and using offensive language. 
  • The character of Lennie Small has been used as the standard for determining legal mental retardation in the state of Texas. Steinbeck's son, Thomas, has long protested this practice as a misappropriation and insult of his father's work. 

Browse the Steinbeck Collection

A Selection of Collectible John Steinbeck Books


Of Mice and Men

First (Japanese) edition with preface and text of play in English, notes and commentary in Japanese. As New condition in alike dust-wrapper. SIGNED by editor Kiyoshi Nakayama and inscribed to Lee Richard "Dick" Hayman, noted John Steinbeck scholar and historian and co-founder of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA: "For Dick Hayman / The leader of the / Steinbeck Foundation / with warmest wishes / Kiyoshi Nakayama / January 10, 1993 / (the official publication date)." A Very Fine, scarce association copy. Details>>


The Moon Is Down

A most attractive First Printing of the First Edition in just about Fine condition, fresh blue cloth with bright gilt lettering to spine in Near Fine dust-jacket, ever so lightly rubbed to spine ends. Minute tanning to endpapers and dust-jacket. Large period between "talk" and "this" on page 112, line 11; lacking printer's name on copyright page. Goldstone/Payne A16b. In custom made, clamshell case with sculpted The Moon Is Down design. Details>>


Burning Bright

Joe Saul feels he is cursed after three unfruitful years of marriage. HIs young wife secretly conceives the child of another man, and when Joe discovers her deception, his anguish is greater than ever. A very beautiful First Edition/First Printing in Fine condition in a Fine dust jacket, complete with the original $2.50 price on the front flap of the dust jacket. Details>>


TheForgotten Village

A just about Fine First Edition, bright green drawing on front cover, bound in coarse buckram, top edges stained green, Goldstone/Payne A14a. In Very Good pictorial dust-jacket, minor chipping and a few short closed tears, little soiling to rear of jacket, original price of $2.50 present. Details>>


"Always Something to Do in Salinas"

This article was first published in Holiday magazine in June, 1955, and was reprinted in the present format "as a service to Steinbeck collectors." It was part of a series of articles by famous writers on their home towns. A most handsome Limited Edition in Very Fine condition. Hand bound in dark brown buckram over boards with a title label in contrasting tan. Rich textured text paper. This copy is numbered 22 of 300 limited edition copies. Hard to imagine a nicer copy. Details>>


Un Americain a New York et a Paris

A beautiful First Edition/First Printing in yellow wrappers in very Near Fine condition, edges very slightly rubbed, tight binding, large front and back innerfolds, original price of 390 fr. Goldstone/Payne A35b. Translated from English into French by Jean-François Rozan. The first printing shows a "14 Mai 1956" on the colophon page. Details>>


Further Reading:

Kristin Masters
Master Content Brain. You think it, she writes it, no good thought remains unposted. Sprinkles pixie dust on Google+, newsletters, blog, facebook, twitter and just about everything else.


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