“Out of all this struggle a good thing is going to grow. That makes it worthwhile": First Edition of John Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle; Signed by Him

  • In Dubious Battle.

In Dubious Battle.


Item Number: 60027

New York: Covici-Friede Publishers, 1936.

First edition of this “dramatically intense, beautifully written novel” (The New Republic); the first book in Steinbeck’s Dustbowl trilogy, which was followed by Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. Octavo, original cloth. Signed by John Steinbeck on the front free endpaper in a contemporary hand. Near fine in a near fine dust jacket with light rubbing and a few short tears. Trade editions are rare signed.

On publication, New York Times reviewer Fred T. March compared it to the "genial gusto" of the "picaresque" Tortilla Flat. He commented that "You would never know that In Dubious Battle was by the same John Steinbeck if the publishers did not tell you so." He called it "courageous and desperately honest," "the best labor and strike novel to come out of our contemporary economic and social unrest," and "such a novel as Sinclair Lewis at his best might have done had he gone on with his projected labor novel." In 1943, with Steinbeck now famous, Carlos Baker "revalued" the novel. He opened by saying "Among Steinbeck's best novels, the least known is probably In Dubious Battle." Steinbeck, he said, "is supremely interested in what happens to men's minds and hearts when they function, not as responsible, self-governing individuals, but as members of a group.... Biologists have a word for this very important problem; they call it bionomics, or ecology." He said that "Steinbeck's bionomic interest is visible in all that he has done, from Tortilla Flat, in the middle Thirties, through his semi-biological Sea of Cortez, to his latest communiqués as a war correspondent in England." He characterized In Dubious Battle as "an attempt to study a typical mid-depression strike in bionomic terms." In 1958, critic Alfred Kazin referred to In Dubious Battle and The Grapes of Wrath as "his most powerful books," contrasting them with Cannery Row and The Wayward Bus. President Barack Obama told the New York Times that it was his favorite book by Steinbeck. It is the basis for the 2016 film directed by and produced by James Franco, with a screenplay by Matt Rager. The film features an ensemble cast, consisting of Franco, Nat Wolff, Josh Hutcherson, Selena Gomez, Vincent D'Onofrio, Analeigh Tipton, Zach Braff, Bryan Cranston, Ed Harris, and Robert Duvall.

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