More on the Cool Factor

One of the joys of being an antiquarian bookseller is finding items that are blockbusters, or important, or unique, but not every book or item falls into those rarified categories. Some bring joy just because they are so cool.

One recent acquisition has that cool factor. It’s a bound volume of a periodical called Pacific Weekly published out of Carmel, Califiornia. It was established in late 1934 by W. R. Bassett and his wife, Dorthea Castlehoun. It was a weekly that published left-leaning journalism, essays, criticism, fiction, and poetry, often illustrated with woodcuts, some by Giacamo Patri. Contributors included John Fante, Carey McWilliams, Langston Hughes, A. I. Bezzerides, George Albee, and Nathanael West. Locating any issue of this periodical is quite a difficult task.

Lincoln Steffens, the well-known muckraker, seized control of the magazine in June 1936 seeking a more hard-line communist agenda. He acted as editor and publisher until his death in August 1936. The November 9, 1936 issue was essentially a memorial issue for Steffens. Contributors in that issue include Steffens, Robinson and Una Jeffers, William Saroyan, Louis Adamic, Granville Hicks, Upton Sinclair, Sara Bard Field, Ella Winter, and a guy named John Steinbeck who contributed a sketch called Breakfast. It was the first publication of this brief “story” which eventually was included in Steinbeck’s 1938 book of short stories, The Long Valley, published by Viking.

This issue is extremely difficult to find. In my 47+ years being involved with Steinbeck material, this is the first time I’ve ever seen it. Even Adrian H. Goldstone, whose Steinbeck collection is the basis for the Goldstone & Payne bibliography of Steinbeck, didn’t have a copy. It is cited in G&P as C21 via a photocopy from the Harrison Memorial Library in Carmel.

The recently-acquired bound volume includes 26 issues from Vol. V, No. 1 (July 6, 1936) through Vol. V, No. 23 (December 28, 1936), all of which were the personal copies of Carey McWilliams who is probably best known for his Factories in the Field. McWilliams was an associate editor of Pacific Weekly. Most of the issues have his address stamped on the upper left-hand corner of the rear cover. There are some minor notations in his hand in some issues and the front pastedown of the bound volumes carries his full signature.

Cool? You bet. Salable? It sold in less than a handful of minutes to the first person to whom I offered it.

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