A collection of 25 autograph letters signed ("John"), 2 autograph postcards (1 signed "John"), 2 typed letters (1 signed "John"), 3 typed postcards (2 signed "John"), in all 32 letters, approximately 72 pages (most letters on foolscap, 12 3/8 x 8 in.; 315 x 203 mm) in ink and pencil, New York City, Sag Harbor, N.Y. and n.p., 2 February 1961—29 March 1966, to Howard Gossage of San Francisco (with one to the Rover Company); condition generally very good. 18 autograph envelopes. Half red morocoo gilt clamshell case.
"It seems to me that one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences open to the human animal is Aloneness ...." These letters were written by Steinbeck to his close friend, advertising executive Howard Gossage (1917–1969), known in his industry as the Socrates of San Francisco, during the 1960s. The ostensible reason for the letters was Steinbeck's great admiration for the Land Rover. Gossage handled the Land Rover advertising account, and Steinbeck had a number of recommendations for possible new features for the vehicle. These recommendations apparently occurred to Steinibeck during his cross-country trek which resulted in Travels with Charley: In Search of America (pub. 1962). The death of the poodle Charley, is, in fact, mentioned in these letters. Ideas for improving the Rover include a head-rest on two stilts and a bed let down from the ceiling of the van. "For carrying books, cans, dishes, cups, etc. the old sailing ship cabin could be studied. Things have a tendency to fly about." Steinbeck also suggested naming a particular Land Rover model the B. B. T. The British Bull Terrier is, he says, "a kind of comfortable and friendly animal, gentle and loving but when pushed it is a volcano of controlled, fearless and efficient fury." Steinbeck discusses his own bull terrier, Angel, whose photo is included with this collection.
These observations on car and van design lead Steinbeck to discuss other matters of importance to him. His pleasure in driving by himself in lonely terrain causes him to write, "It seems to me that one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences open to the human animal is Aloneness, and it is a state which has just about disappeared from the world, slaughtered by Togetherness. A plethora of Togetherness has destroyed families, wrecked marriages and exploded neighborhoods. It has eliminated thinking. Since in the creative process there are no successful collaborations except in breeding, Togetherness more than any other single thing has been the death of art and poetry."
The letters include comments on politics, on Steinbeck's new book on Americans, an anecdote about bribery, salesmanship ("I have never been able to sell anything in my life. If I hadn't wonderful agents I would long ago have starved to death"), the Nobel Prize, autobiographical matters, and the military draft. "Life is very hard sometimes in the oddest ways. I'm not draft age, drat it! If only I were, I could probably duck it. But being retired and retreaded and wheezy and crippled, I'll probably have to go."
One of the letters includes Steinbeck's parody of an article for Field and Stream, which opens, "The black and purple shape reared up and blotted out the sky. For a moment I thought it was a reverse avalanche and then the slavering red mouth opened, ringed with carbide-tipped teeth. I smelled the fetid breath like mouldy waistcoats. With my left hand I pushed feebly at it while my right slipped behind my back where I knew I had a safety pin holding up my pants ...."
Also included are photocopies of three letters from Gossage to Steinbeck and 4 snapshots of the bull terrier, Angel, and the bull terrier hood ornament on Steinbeck's Rover.
An fine and unusual archive of Steinbeck letters to one of the closest friends of the last decade of his life. Excerpts from a few of the letters have beed published, but the majority of this material is presumably unpublished.
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