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    Signed and Inscribed John Steinbeck Unpublished (and "Unpublishable") Short Story A 4pp. typed manuscript of a short story written by Steinbeck and given as a gift to the father of his friend, New York based musician Murray Louis. Steinbeck has signed and inscribed the manuscript, entitled "Bettencourt, a Christmas Story", on the first page. The manuscript is accompanied by the original transmittal letter, dated "New York 25 Jan 57", written by Louis explaining how and why Steinbeck is gifting the story to Louis's father. He writes: "Dear Folks: Well, the party last night at Steinbeck's was a complete success. Alcohol, the social lubricant, ran like the ocean and everyone was engulfed, including our host. We had a splendid time, arguing about what part of the country represents the most sterile form of smug, sententious and vicious mediocrity. I took the part of northeastern Ohio. John S. tried to outstrip me with ghastly examples of social paralysis in California. To shorten the story, I painted our family in its native environment and tried to vivify for my listeners the sort of 'quiet desperation' that exists there. Dad, you were the main example of how anyone with some degree of sensitivity is constantly frustrated by the general lack of vigor and enthusiasm in his community. I might say that John S. respects you without knowing you. Anyhow, Steinbeck decided that he must send you something. He told me that anyone can scribble in front of a book and that he had done so many times in bookstores. He wanted you to have something unique. Something that suitably symbolized the idea of honesty, humor and realness in the face of a purblind society. The story enclosed and inscribed 'Harold Louis from John Steinbeck, read it in good health,' is an unpublishable story; one which no book house will accept and for obvious reasons. In his own way, S. is showing that he can't accomplish all his literary desires wither. Without an audience, writing is as hollow and pointless as unheard music. So, you come into possession of a peculiar little story about children doing things children do, but an unpublishable story, because we won't admit that children do this sort of thing. But enough. The story is its own spokesman. Besides that, I think it's a marvelous thing to own. I add my own, 'read it in good health.'"

    In order to preserve the integrity of its unpublished state, we cannot disclose a transcript, but can say that the story tells of a peculiar incident occuring in an elementary school, what is peculiar is not the incident but that Steinbeck would choose to focus on such a moment. However, it is true to Steinbeck's style of capturing with simplicity and economy of word, the fascination children have with their bodily functions. Although today, the story would not be deemed "unpublishable", in the context of the 50's it is completely understandable why even such a literary giant as Steinbeck could not find a publisher for it.

    This manuscript is dedicated and signed by Steinbeck and includes a rich explanation of the significance of the story as well as the motives for it being gifted. A unique opportunity to add a 'one of a kind' piece of literary history capturing not just Steinbeck's gift as a writer but the his insight into human nature.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,433

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