This week, I’m excited to share with you all a new selection from the Winter catalog of The Folio Society. As many of you know, I’m a devoted fan of The Folio Society editions of classic literature, and the three I received so generously from the publisher last month have done nothing but encourage my adoration. Today’s featured edition is John Steinbeck’s classic, OF MICE AND MEN.
I’m always drawn in by the incredible cover art and interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one thing I truly appreciate about their editions is the thought and design they put into their sturdy slipcovers.
I think this edition’s smooth tan coloring and darker silhouettes, coupled with the western font, truly delivers on the sense of loneliness and resignation that permeates the novel, as well as its slow, almost still persistence. The slipcover, too, is simply beautiful in its paradoxically bright and colorful design.
Migrant laborers George and Lennie are dropped miles from their new workplace by a bus driver who deems them unworthy of an unscheduled stop. The symbolism is clear from the outset – itinerant farm workers have little social status in the land they sow and harvest for others’ financial gain. George is slight and savvy, Lennie a hulking simpleton, and the pair have formed an unlikely friendship. They wander state to state, working on ranches and sleeping rough between jobs, until Lennie’s childlike naivety inevitably lands him in trouble and they must once again move on.
Steinbeck’s sparse narrative is suggestive of a stage play and his gift for relating complex human sentiments with the briefest authorial direction is unsurpassed. The characters are drawn with confident self-restraint that borders on detachment; Steinbeck sets the scene then pulls back to allow them space to tell their story. The effect is overpowering and ensures this thought-provoking novella will endlessly gnaw at your conscience.
If there was any hope of realizing the American dream, it is ruthlessly shattered by Steinbeck as the story progresses, leaving us wrangling with the reality of life at the fringes of society in a country battling financial meltdown. It is an extraordinary book that endures and rattles like the horses’ halter chains in the barn – a repeated refrain that is full of foreboding.
About the Author: John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, in 1902. In 1919 he enrolled at Stanford only to drop out six years later without obtaining a degree. Steinbeck then moved to New York City to find work as a freelance writer, though he quickly returned to California where he worked as a caretaker in Lake Tahoe. There he wrote his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929). His first major successes were with Tortilla Flat (1935) and Of Mice and Men (1937). His 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath won Steinbeck a Pulitzer Prize in 1940, and at the height of its success sold ten thousand copies a week. Despite his pro-American writing during the Second World War, the FBI maintained a file on him as a suspected Communist due to the calls for economic reform found in his works. Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. He died in New York City in 1968.
About the Publisher: For 70 years, The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books. It believes that the literary content of a book should be matched by its physical form. With specially researched images or newly commissioned illustrations, many of its editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship, and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions last for generations.
Book copy and all images are courtesy of The Folio Society. Feel free to visit their NEWS AND BLOGS page for more information. In case you missed them, take a look at my Folio Friday features for Mary Beard’s S.P.Q.R. and other Folio Society books.