This book is a full portrait of a complicated personality. Caldwell's unpredictability, harsh mood swings, and extramarital affairs are paralleled with instances of warmth, gentleness and generosity. A shy man bounds from a canvas alive with controversy. This book also is an attempt to better understand an American storyteller.
William Faulkner once ranked Erskine Caldwell among America's five most promising novelists. Thomas Wolfe was given the lead, followed by Faulkner, John Dos Passos, Caldwell and Ernest Hemingway. His reputation soared from 1934 to 1944 and then nose-dived. By the end of World War II, critics shunned him, though he had a huge following for several more years.
Inexpensive editions of Caldwell's books on circular "Spin It" racks in drugstores and corner groceries became a distribution sensation. His paperback publisher, New American Library, proclaimed him to be "The World's Best-Selling Author!" It was more than a buzzword gathering to decorate eye-teasing jackets—only the Bible was ahead in sales. His books have sold 80 million copies in forty-three languages, and in spite of numbers, Erskine Caldwell is a forgotten American writer.
There were 25 novels, 150 short stories, 12 nonfiction collections, and even 2 books for young readers. The novels Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre endured (they sometimes can be found in bookstores), and many of Caldwell's short stories were consummate achievements.
TWO ABOUT D.H. LAWRENCE IN CORNWALL
The Cornish Nightmare:D.H. Lawrence in Cornwall
How people saw Lawrence depended on where they stood on the social or intellectual level. A chameleon in reverse, taking on the opposite coloring of his environment, he stands out starkly in the many books written by articulate friends.
Now we hear a new voice. Naturally eloquent and with tactile recall, one of Lawrence's own characters speaks to us. Stanley Hocking, the farm boy in "The Nightmare" chapter of Lawrence's novel Kangaroo vividly describes that crucial time in Cornwall from March 1916 to October 1917 when Lawrence was reconsidering many of his inner values and external relationships. His marriage was in trouble, he felt tormented by the mass patriotism around him, and he was uncertain of his sexual preferences as he wandered ever closer to a culmination with the handsome young farmer, William Henry Hocking.
The book merges Stanley Hocking's remembrance of physical events with Lawrence's need to recall emotional events: the desire to find the past in the present was always strong in him. Lawrence delights in blending with the spirited Cornish farm family -- reliving his beginnings in the Midlands. His feelings run parallel to that time. So do the reactions of the women who love him: his mother then; his wife, Frieda, now.
Were the couple's famous fights caused by a struggle for dominance, class difference, or a mutual need for emotional upheaval? The farm people see a different Frieda than do Lawrence's intellectual friends. "She's more of a lady than he is." was an innocently astute remark from one of Stanley's sisters.
But the world intrudes. Submarines sink British ships,
some in view of Lawrence's cottage, and people begin to talk. This strange,
bearded man with his German, red-stockinged wife and his immoral, unpatriotic
books was surely betraying his country. Now, added to the couple's hatred of the
war, come suspicion and surveillance, and finally, shockingly, expulsion.
Lawrence at Tregerthen
Lawrence at Tregerthen unveils the third face of D. H. Lawrence. Not the one his complicated literary friends sketched, nor the self-pursued image of his own fiction. This is a day-to-day Lawrence seen fondly, sometimes critically, and with some amusement, by the people with whom he felt at ease -- his Cornish farm friends.
Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, delighted in the somber beauty of the Cornish coast and their cottage by the sea. But this was for him a time of violent self-appraisal.
The love between him and Frieda was a constantly shifting vehemence that left little emotional foothold. Simultaneously, he was involved in a lacerating, ritualistic and ambiguous intimacy with the handsome Cornish farmer, William Henry Hocking.
The time was World War I. Just beyond the unsettled cottage, German U-boats were torpedoing English ships, and suspicions of treason began to pursue this bearded oddity and his German wife.
C.J. Stevens tells with palpable clarity of this most critical and extraordinary time in D. H. Lawrence's life --from March 1916 to October 1917.
The Miracle of Bryan
by C.J. Stevens
Bryan Pearce was born in 1929, an apparently healthy baby, but soon the parents became concerned: the child barely reacted to his surroundings and "just stared into space as if he wasn't there." An undiagnosed and rare congenital condition, phenylketonuria, was retarding his mental development. Mary and Walter Pearce did their best to give normalcy and meaning to their son's life--they would be faced with a similar tragedy after the birth of their daughter, Margaretta, in 1941. Bryan was sent to a school for the retarded when he was ten, and upon his return home six years later he worked for a time in his father's butcher shop scrubbing pots and pans. He did these chores meticulously and with some satisfaction, though it was a road to nowhere.
One day Mary brought home a child's coloring book and coaxed her twenty-four-year-old son to fill in a page of bold outlines with watercolors. He did the task beautifully, became interested, and this was the beginning of one of the most astonishing adventures in twentieth century painting.
Mary Pearce was herself a talented artist, but her priority lay in the enrichment and elevation of her children's lives and the promotion of Bryan's gift. When doctors gave her son no chance of living a productive life, she refused to accept their opinions as final. Her struggle to do what she felt was best for her son produced the miracle of Bryan Pearce.
Today, Bryan's paintings are displayed in prestigious art galleries and coveted by collectors--he has become a presence in the world of art. Rarely does a book capture the interest of such a diversity of readers: the connoisseur of art, the lover of human drama at its most poignant, the caregiver of children with special needs, and all who delight in the uplifting story of a person prevailing against incredible obstacles.