New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Very Good+ in Very Good dj. 1938. First Edition. Hardcover. [book covers very lightly soiled along bottom edges, otherwise a tight clean book with no significant wear; jacket shows some wear and a number of nicks and tiny tears along top edge, 1-1/2" closed but slightly ragged tear at bottom of front panel, some visible wear at corners and edges but nothing too obnoxious]. SIGNED by the author on a tipped-in limitation page, beneath this statement: "This copy of the first edition of The Journey Down is one of 700 copies signed by the author for friends of Borzoi Books." Laid in are two items of related ephemera: a short biographical sketch of the author; and a two-page "Memorandum from Mr. Knopf," dated January 18, 1938, regarding the book. Bernstein's fictionalized depiction of her five-year affair (1925-1929) with then-budding novelist Thomas Wolfe, and its devastating (for her) aftermath; by most accounts, she never got over having been dumped by Wolfe after the publication of his debut novel "Look Homeward, Angel," the creation of which had been nurtured by her encouragement and financial support, and which in fact was dedicated to her. The literary merits of her novel notwithstanding, as a psychological-self-portrait it's a rip-snorter -- and all the more poignant when one contemplates the fact that Wolfe was still alive at the time of its publication. (He would die in September of the same year, with Mrs. Bernstein unable to visit him as he lay dying, to her eternal regret.) Contemporary reviewers understandably tiptoed around the book's obvious roman-a-clefness: Kirkus Reviews called it "evidently autobiographical," derided it as "a segment of [the author's] inner life, set down rather hysterically," and sniffed that "many will feel it in questionable taste." The New York Times was a little more circumspect (but no more complimentary), opining that it "can be described as a novel at all only because we call any piece of prose writing over 150 pages in length a novel, if it is not set forth as fact," and characterizing its account of the central love affair as "entirely one-sided and, as far as the reader is concerned, virtually unintelligible." (They did give the author props for her "remarkable eye for physical detail -- for the shape and appearance of a room, the look of a costume down to its last bead and ribbon," etc. -- which was either a backhanded compliment or a bit of politely veiled advice for her to stick to her primary career as a scenic designer for the stage.) This is all going to get much more interesting with the release of the upcoming film GENIUS, about the relationship between Wolfe and Bernstein (to be portrayed by Jude Law and Nicole Kidman) in the context of the former's association with his editor, Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth). And if the movie's a hit, this book will retrospectively look like a pretty good bargain. [This item is featured in ReadInk's E-Catalog 3.1, which can be perused at our website. Many of the items can only be seen in that catalog, i.e. are not listed on whatever website you're viewing this.] Signed by Author . (Inventory #: 21876)
Unusual, Uncommon and Obscure Books in many (but not all) fields, with particular interest in American Culture (Popular and Unpopular), Art, Literature, Life and People from the 1920s through the 1960s.
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