New York: Viking Press, 1945. First edition, second issue. Hardcover. 8vo. 208pp. Canary-yellow cloth in color printed dustjacket. Housed in three-quarter blue leather clamshell case with 5 raised bands on spine and gilt lettering and ruling. INSCRIBED "For Anais/who if circumstances/& sexes were/not so involved,/I would ask to/be my bride/John Steinbeck". Mr. Steinbeck has also drawn a bird underneath his signature. An uncommonly effusive, playful, and intriguing inscription from Steinbeck, almost certainly addressed to Anais Nin. Though not generally realized or discussed, Steinbeck and Nin were acquainted. At the time of Cannery Row's publication (the style of Steinbeck's hand and the book's edition suggest a contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous execution), both Steinbeck and Nin were living in New York City. Furthermore, they had numerous mutual and near-mutual acquaintances. Near fine in dustjacket; housed in three-quarter blue morocco over blue cloth covered slipcase with gilt lettering. Note: An auction house has questioned whether the textblock has been recased; our professional bookbinder disagrees. Item #17548
Henry Miller is of course the most obvious, though he knew Steinbeck only casually and maintained a rather chilly distance from and opinion of the writer. At the same time, Miller was considerably more inclined towards Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck's best friend and the inspiration behind Cannery Row. In addition, Kathryn Winslow, Miller's long-time supporter, was close to both Nin and Ricketts. More directly, Nin socialized with director/producer Sasha Hammid, who worked with Steinbeck on The Forgotten Village (see Nin DIARIES Vol. IV, p. 75). No matter how they were originally introduced or became acquainted, however, there is no doubt they knew each other. Even before the publication of Cannery Row, Nin writes in her famed diary: "May make side trips to visit Steinbeck and Krishnamurti and the Rosicrucian Center. Am going to the most interesting part of California — the wild... [etc.]" (The Journals of Anais Nin: 1939-1944, 119). More intriguingly, both Steinbeck and Nin attended the opening of a Monterey restaurant in 1947, an event Nin vividly describes: "To celebrate the opening of Angelo's cafe‚ we were invited come in disguise. It was difficult to find odds and ends to make costumes out of...There were no curtains, no draperies, no paints, no textiles. We did the best we could. I dressed John's [Steinbeck] wife: From the waist up she was a nun, in brown chiffon, with a cross on her breast. Below was the same chiffon, trailing to the floor, but without a slip underneath, so her legs could be seen in silhouette. When we arrived, there were some costumes done by Varda which were marvelous. He had dressed some of the young women as his collages" (Diary of Anais Nin 1944-1947, 221). On a more speculative note, it is also worth noting the following. First, that the period during which this book was likely signed coincided with Steinbeck's brief and rather tumultuous marriage to Gwyn Steinbeck. Second, in addition to both authors living in New York City in the years immediately following the publication of Cannery Row, both Nin and Steinbeck traveled to Mexico in the summer of 1948. And following John and Gwyn's official separation in August of that year, Steinbeck returned to Pacific Grove to live; Nin established an apartment in San Francisco that Fall. She remained in that apartment until January 1950, before returning to New York City. Steinbeck meanwhile returned to New York a month or so earlier in the winter of 1949. Finally, Steinbeck's only other appearances in Nin's famed diaries occurred during these years. The first, dated August 1945, mentions Steinbeck in connection to Sasha Hammid (see above). The second, dated August 1946, finds Nin observing: "How easy it is to do what Steinbeck does, to take people's suffering. Physical hunger, physical poverty, whose troubles are direct, concrete, simple. His world is simple to tell" (Nin DIARIES Vol. IV, p. 122). Whether the inscription here offered suggests a closer relationship than previously acknowledged or whether it simply finds Steinbeck in an atypically (for him) playful mood, it is perhaps impossible to say. However, given the connections between the writers, the inscription's tone and content, not to mention Nin’s rather unusual name, we cannot imagine a recipient other than Anais Nin. A unique association, one with potentially important implications for Steinbeck and Nin studies. (Goldstone & Payne A22 b).