Steinbeck, John: Sweet Thursday
(researched by Meghan Mahan)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Published by The Viking Press, New York, New York 1954. Published on the same day in the Dominion of Canada by The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1954 Published by W. Heinemann, London, 1954. Copyright 1954 by John Steinbeck.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First Edition is published in yellow cloth with dust jacket.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
145 leaves. pp.[6][vi]vii-x[2]3-273[5]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
This book was neither edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
21cm x 3cm The book is in very good condition. It is extremely readable with large font and large margins. The text size measures 9.5R. It has serif type throughout the text, but the prologue, chapter titles, second title page and dedication are italicized. The book shows little or no sign of damage. The binding is rigid, the pages are crisp and the text is clean of marks.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper used is thick and white. Pages do not stick together due to the density of the paper. There are no signs of damage such as marks or tears. No yellowing has occurred.
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding is 3cm wide and constructed of calico-texture cloth. It is a medium yellow with the title located one-third of the way down the spine in red, the author at the top with a bird in flight stamped below it and the publishing company with a bird stamped above it in blue: Steinbeck/Sweet Thursday/Viking. The front cover has the title written in red with 3 birds surrounding it, in flight, stamped in blue. The back cover is blank. The dust jacket is an ocean scene with the water being a deep blue. The railroad tracks traverse the small area depicted. Workmen are pictured and it is a lower middle class area with wooden A-frame houses, barrels, wheelbarrows and basins depicted. "Steinbeck" is written in the area reserved for the sky and the title is written in gold, block letters above the town. The artist signed it "PG". Dust jacket cover done by Paul Galdone.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: JOHN STEINBECK/SWEET THURSDAY/1954/THE VIKING PRESS NEW YORK Verso: Copyright 1954 by John Steinbeck/ First published by Viking Press in June of 1954/ Published on the same day in the Dominion of Canada by the Macmillan Company of Canada Limited/ Library of Congress catalog card number: 54-7983 Printed in U.S.A. by the Colonial Press
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Dedicated, "For Elizabeth with Love". Dust Jacket: Inside front flap: "No contemporary writer has produced such a varied body of work as John Steinbeck: a touching story of a boy and his horse, a strike novel, the classic Grapes of Wrath, a war novel, and a Mexican folktale, among others. His most recent book was the massive East Of Eden with its terrifying portrait of a woman of pure evil. In presenting a woman of completely opposite cast he has returned to his beloved Monterey County, scene of Cannery Row, in a superbly amusing and exquisitely fashioned Romance. Sweet Thursday (naturally the day after Lousy Wednesday) is sheer delight, heightened for the reader by the presence of a few gently satirical notes-almost as though Mr. Steinbeck was poking occasional fun at his characters and himself. Beneath the theme of boisterous humor the reader will find the subtle and poignant patterns which will give him a grateful new awareness of why John Steinbeck occupies his pre-eminent position among living novelists. Back Dust Cover: Also by John Steinbeck East of Eden "...the sort of rich, vital, dense, novel, thick with the juices of real life, that makes a reviewer glad he has held in reserve some of his enthusiasm so he can, in this case, fire a real salute." Lon Tinkle, Dallas Morning News The Short Novels of John Steinbeck Includes Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, The Moon is Down, The Pearl and Cannery Row (set in the Monterey locale which is also the background for Sweet Thursday). The Portable Steinbeck With an introduction by Lewis Gannett. Includes two short novels complete, plus short stories from The Long Valley, other selections, and war correspondence. The Log From the Sea of Cortez Burning Bright A Russian Journal The Wayward Bus Bombs Away The Grapes of Wrath In Dubious Battle The Pastures of Heaven
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Viking Press never released another edition of Sweet Thursday. See question 5 for editions from other publishers.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
Penguin Books: 1954-New York, 272p.;19cm. 1986-New York, 272p.;19cm. 1954-New York, 260p.;19cm. 1996-New York, 260p.;19cm. 1983-Middlesex, Eng.;New York, x,273p.;19cm. 1982-Middlesex, Eng.;New York, x,273p.;19cm. 1984-Middlesex, Eng.;New York, x,273p.;19cm.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Mandarin 1954-London, 247p.;18cm. 1992-London, 247p.;18cm. 1992-London, [240]p.;18cm. 1997-London, 247p.;18cm. Pan Books 1958-London, 256p.;18cm. 1958-London, 205p.;18cm. 1964-London, 206p.;18cm. 1971-London, 205p.;18cm. Heinemann 1954-London, viii, 264p.; 21cm. 1963-London, viii, 264p.; 21cm. 1969-London, viii, 264p.; 21cm. 1972-London, 263p.; 21cm. Bantam Books 1954-New York, 240p.; 18cm. 1956-New York, 240p.; 18cm. 1954-New York, 180p.; 18cm. 1956-New York, 180p.; 18cm. 1963-New York, 180p.; 18cm. 1972-New York, 240p.; 18cm. 1954-Toronto, New York, 240p; 18cm. 1972-Toronto, New York, 240p.; 18cm. 1976-Toronto, New York, 240p.; 18cm. World Books No date given-Toronto, 256p.; 19cm.
6 Last date in print?
1954-
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
55,000 copies Publisher's Weekly, vol. 166, No.4; July 24, 1954. 65,000 copies by the end of 1954 Hackett, Burke. 80 YEARS OF BEST SELLERS 1895-1975. R.R. Bowker Company, New York, 1977, pg. 164.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Advertisement "STEINBECK'S funniest and happiest book." -Lewis Gannett, N.Y.Herald Tribune "Steinbeck's world of Cannery Row is the nearest thing we have to Huck Finn's Mississippi River...Steinbeck at his mellowest." -Clifton Fadiman, Book-of-the-Month Club News "Funny, tender, compassionate, penetrating." -Newsweek AN IMMEDIATE BESTSELLER At the booksellers $3.50 This advertisement was in the New York Times Book Review, July 11, 1954.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Pipe Dream- book: Oscar Hammerstein II, based on John Steinbeck's novel Sweet Thursday Music: Richard Rodgers lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II staging: Harold Clurman sets: Jo Mielziner costumes: Alvin Colt Productions: Opened November 30, 1955 for 246 performances Reviews: America 94:417-18, Jan 7, 1956 Catholic World 182:388, Feb 1956 Commonwealth 63:331, Dec 30, 1955 Nation 181:544, Dec 17, 1955 New York Theatre Critics' Reviews 1955:198+ New York Times II, page 1, Nov 27, 1955 Page 44, Dec 1, 1955 II, page 5, Dec 11, 1955 New Yorker 31:104+, Dec 10, 1955 Newsweek 46:110, Dec 12, 1955 Saturday Review 38:24, Dec 17, 1955 39:13 Sep 15, 1956 Theatre Arts 40:12-13, Feb 1956 Time 66:67, Dec 12, 1955
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Shimin Shobo 1984-Tokyo, 238p. ill.;21cm. Japanese Del Duca 1956-Paris, 345p.;21cm. French Diana 1956-Stuttgart, 346p.;20cm. German Livraria Bertrand 1960-Lisboa, 373p.;19cm. Portuguese Grote Letter Bibliotheek 1974-Eindhoven, 318p.;26cm. Dutch Bonniers 1955-Stolkholm, 301p.;20cm. Swedish Varlik 1968-Istanbul, 267p.;17cm. Turkish Deutscher Bucherbund 1983-Stuttgart, 395p. ill.;20cm. German Tammi 1998-Helinski, 282p.;21cm. Finnish Buchergilde Gutenberg 1958-Frankfurt am Main,402p. ill.;21cm. German Forum 1968 1954-Uddevalla, 242p.;20cm. Swedish Gyldenal 1954-Copenhagen, 235,[1]p.;22cm. Danish Editorial Cumbre, S.A., 1955-Mexico, 316p.;21cm. Spanish Ullstein 1970 1960-Frankfurt, 253, [1]p.;18cm. German Editorial de Ediciones Selectas 1961-Buenos Aires, 316p.;20cm. Spanish Gyldenal 1974-Copenhagen, 237p.;21cm. Danish Presernova druzba 1989-Ljubljana, 341p.;18cm. Slovenian Editiones Selectas 1968-Buenos Aires, 316p.;18cm. Spanish Plaza & James 1982-Barcelona, 239p.;18cm. Spanish Ediciones Selectas 1965-Buenos Aires, 316p.;21cm. Spanish A Mondadori 1965 1954-Verona, 295p.;19cm. Italian Gyldenal 1963-Oslo, 191p.; 20cm. Norwegian Editorial Exito 1955-Barcelona, 299p.;20cm. Spanish Editions Mondiales 1956-Paris, 256p.; 17cm. French Caglayan 1955-Istanbul, 232p.;16cm. Turkish
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
NA
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
Prequel: Steinbeck: Cannery Row, (1944)
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
John Ernst Steinbeck (originally Grossteinbeck, but the prefix was dropped when his grandfather arrived in America) was born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas California to John Ernst Steinbeck and Olive Hamilton Steinbeck. He has three sisters, Elizabeth, Esther and Mary. The Steinbeck family lived comfortably in an agricultural town with his father serving as the Monterey County treasurer and his mother being a school teacher. As a child, John was characterized as a loner. As a teenager he spent a lot of time in his room writing articles for magazines that he would submit under a pen name. After graduating from high school, he went on to attend Stanford University in 1919. However his attendance was sporadic and he didn't pursue a degree. Instead, he took classes that would help him develop his appreciation for literature and ability to write. During his random educational hiatuses, he traveled the country and took jobs on ranches and in sugar refineries. At one point, he went to New York and landed a job as a journalist, andt was soon fired because he didn't report facts, but only the philosophical or poetic nature of events. It is not long before Steinbeck returned to California and his first book Cup of Gold was published in 1929. Tortilla Flat published in 1935 was very successful and In Dubious Battle in 1936 was characterized as the best strike novel ever made. In 1938, The Grapes of Wrath started a nation-wide controversy over the exploitation of farm workers. Steinbeck was attacked on many fronts. He said: "The vilification of me out here from the large landowners and bankers is pretty bad. The latest rumor started by them that the Okies hate me and have threatened to kill me for lying about them. I'm frightened at the rolling might of this damned thing. It is completely out of hand. I mean, a kind of hysteria about the book is growing that is not healthy". Steinbeck married Carol Henning in 1930 and was divorced in 1943 due to his affair with Gwendolyn Conger. They married that same year and she gave birth to two boys, Thom and John born in 1944 and 1946 respectively. The marriage was bad and ended in 1948. His third and final marriage was to Elaine Anderson, a former Broadway stage manager. This time in his life was rather tumultuous. He wasn't able to gain steady employment because of he was politically suspect for having "red sympathy", and Cannery Row published in 1944 received extremely bad reviews. Sweet Thursday is a clarification of possible misinterpretations of its prequel. However Robert J. DeMott sees it as more. He writes that it's a charming self-parody, an attack on materialism and the middle class, and a farewell to California. Sweet Thursday is the day before Good Friday but there is no sign of redemption. He believes that there is serious tone underneath the humor. The novel was made into a highly unsuccessful theatrical musical. This uninspiring project leads Steinbeck from theatre and towards literature again. Steinbeck's life was full and tumultuous. Despite being a shy boy in Salinas California, he grew to be a politically active, outspoken man. He wrote speeches for Adlai Stevenson and was a correspondent for Newsday during the Vietnam War. He died in 1968 with mild emphysema and severe artery blockage at a time when his literary prestige was waning.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The critical reception of Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday was not entirely positive when it came out in 1954. By this point, Steinbeck had already established his literary prowess with such works as In Dubious Battle and Grapes of Wrath. These politically charged novels made critics and readers alike characterize him as a "Social critic with more sentiment than science or system, warm, human, inconsistent, occasionally angry but more often delighted with the joys that life on its lowest level presents" (New Republic, June 7, 1954). With this in mind, most critics charged Sweet Thursday for lacking substance and a concrete message. However, there were a few notable critics that saw this novel as a compassionate portrayal of the human condition. There were a number of review written on John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday. On of the harsher ones reads, "Consolation is harder to find [in Sweet Thursday]. For here the evidence tends to show that while the author is comparatively young and vigorous, his talent diminishes from book to book" (The New Yorker, July 10, 1954). He praises Steinbeck for having unique insight into the lower levels of American society but claims that the characters he creates from this firm basis are merely movie characters. He doesn't see a literary dimension to someone like Doc. And this sentiment is shared. One writes, "It reads like stuff that has been salvaged from the wastebasket?Sweet Thursday is a turkey with visibly Saroyanesque stuffings. But where the Saroyan might have clothed the book's characters and incidents with comic reality, Steinbeck merely comic-strips them of all reality and even of very much interest"(Time, June 14, 1954). Critics were disappointed with the shallowness of its characters and frivolity of the plot. However, there were some who argued that Steinbeck indeed used his "warm and wise view of life"(Newsweek, June 14, 1954) to paint a picture of a slightly satirical picture of a small town. It can be seen as a "funny, tender, compassionate, penetrating book" (Newsweek, June 14, 1954). It appears as if some critics, while recognizing its literary pitfalls, still think its worth reading. A critic from The New Republic states, "This book, however thin and unconvincing its central situation is, does make an emphatic and clear-cut statement of Steinbeck's greatest single theme: the common bonds of humanity and love which make goodness and happiness possible"(The New Republic, June 7, 1954). There were mixed review of Sweet Thursday despite the overall consensus that it was lacking a depth evident in his previous books. There was a feeling of disappointment with the development of his characters and dynamism of his plot. While some critics de-valued this book on these points, others still saw this story as a continuance of Steinbeck's literary pursuit to tell stories people that are traditionally understood. SOURCES: "Steinbeck's Philosophers", Newsweek, June 14, 1954, pg. 110-111. "A Narrow-gauge Dickens", The New Republic, June 7, 1954, pg. 18-21. "Books", The New Yorker, July 10, 1954, pg. 71-71. "Back to Riffraff", Time, June 14, 1954, pg. 120-122.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The critical reception of Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday was not entirely positive when it came out in 1954. By this point, Steinbeck had already established his literary prowess with such works as In Dubious Battle and Grapes of Wrath. These politically charged novels made critics and readers alike characterize him as a "Social critic with more sentiment than science or system, warm, human, inconsistent, occasionally angry but more often delighted with the joys that life on its lowest level presents" (New Republic, June 7, 1954). With this in mind, most critics charged Sweet Thursday for lacking substance and a concrete message. However, there were a few notable critics that saw this novel as a compassionate portrayal of the human condition. There were a number of review written on John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday. On of the harsher ones reads, "Consolation is harder to find [in Sweet Thursday]. For here the evidence tends to show that while the author is comparatively young and vigorous, his talent diminishes from book to book" (The New Yorker, July 10, 1954). He praises Steinbeck for having unique insight into the lower levels of American society but claims that the characters he creates from this firm basis are merely movie characters. He doesn't see a literary dimension to someone like Doc. And this sentiment is shared. One writes, "It reads like stuff that has been salvaged from the wastebasket?Sweet Thursday is a turkey with visibly Saroyanesque stuffings. But where the Saroyan might have clothed the book's characters and incidents with comic reality, Steinbeck merely comic-strips them of all reality and even of very much interest"(Time, June 14, 1954). Critics were disappointed with the shallowness of its characters and frivolity of the plot. However, there were some who argued that Steinbeck indeed used his "warm and wise view of life"(Newsweek, June 14, 1954) to paint a picture of a slightly satirical picture of a small town. It can be seen as a "funny, tender, compassionate, penetrating book" (Newsweek, June 14, 1954). It appears as if some critics, while recognizing its literary pitfalls, still think its worth reading. A critic from The New Republic states, "This book, however thin and unconvincing its central situation is, does make an emphatic and clear-cut statement of Steinbeck's greatest single theme: the common bonds of humanity and love which make goodness and happiness possible"(The New Republic, June 7, 1954). There were mixed review of Sweet Thursday despite the overall consensus that it was lacking a depth evident in his previous books. There was a feeling of disappointment with the development of his characters and dynamism of his plot. While some critics de-valued this book on these points, others still saw this story as a continuance of Steinbeck's literary pursuit to tell stories people that are traditionally understood. SOURCES: "Steinbeck's Philosophers", Newsweek, June 14, 1954, pg. 110-111. "A Narrow-gauge Dickens", The New Republic, June 7, 1954, pg. 18-21. "Books", The New Yorker, July 10, 1954, pg. 71-71. "Back to Riffraff", Time, June 14, 1954, pg. 120-122.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Steinbeck's SWEET THURSDAY was a bestseller in 1954, but its' journey to the bestseller's list was not simple. There were many factors that contributed to its' success. First of all, Steinbeck had already made his mark on American literature with such politically charged works as GRAPES OF WRATH and TORTILLA FLAT. His name had immense selling power because of his reputation. SWEET THURSDAY was also a sequel to another bestseller, CANNERY ROW; whose characters were extremely endearing and charming enough to sustain another novel. So while this work of fiction had a lot of reasons for becoming a bestseller, it's still important to look at the context in which it was written. SWEET THURSDAY was an extreme departure from his earlier work. This novel is not politically charged, nor is it acknowledged as literary genius. In fact, it's Steinbeck's first funny and satirical novel, and many critics saw it as unworthy of being in the Steinbeck canon. Both contemporary and subsequent critics alike questioned its' literary merit. However, the novel can not be read in isolation of social events in America. In 1954, the United States was recovering from WWII. There was a sort of national exhaustion and need for spiritual revitalization that was evident in the types of books that were selling that year. Nonfiction grossly outsold fiction. There were three religious titles on the list and there were two cookbooks. SWEET THURSDAY was written at a time where small town life and a dignified character like Doc would appeal to a large market because of the international flux of the time. Steinbeck was not excluded from this category. He too felt many of the same pressures in 1954 and this novel was a reaction to it. So, SWEET THURSDAY was a typical bestseller in the sense that an accomplished author sold over 65,000 copies, but it was atypical in the sense that this work was not very well received and was a stylistic departure from earlier works. SWEET THURSDAY was written at one of many turning points in Steinbeck's personal life and career. It reflects his mindset and experience. 1954 was a time of reflection for the author. He had evolved from a shy boy of Monterey County to a major American author with a Pulitzer. He started a national debate over America's responsibility for the rural men and women of the United States. He lived through two divorces, governmental suspicion of communist activity, a World War and public failures of his theatrical adaptations of his work. The slow-paced, lyrical narrative of SWEET THURSDAY was almost a literary sigh in the context of his chaotic personal and professional life. He returned to the common theme of small time life and gave the characters a quiet dignity. The setting, Monterey, was seemingly isolated from the rest of the world. The tragic aftermath of World War II was only hinted at with the closed canneries and brief, but fond references to men lost in battle. Steinbeck focused his attention on the town's ability to revitalize itself with the strength of character of its' citizens. It was a powerful and popular sentiment in America at the time. Steinbeck was coming to terms with his experiences and America was emotionally recuperating from losing fathers and sons and rebuilding their lives. Steinbeck's message that, "The common bonds of humanity and love [which] make goodness and happiness possible" (The New Republic, on back cover) helped to make this book a best seller. Steinbeck wrote SWEET THURSDAY very late in his career and even late in his life. Steinbeck's career and personal life took many varied paths and his writing often mimicked his experience. SWEET THURSDAY was written in 1954 and the content and style was indicative of his mindset. By 1954, he had already established a name for himself in the literary community. Works like TORTILLA FLAT, IN DUBIOUS BATTLE, AND OF MICE AND MEN, written in 1935, 1936 and 1937 respectively established him as an outspoken supporter of the men and women of rural America. This was a subject close to his heart because while growing up as a privileged son of a County Treasurer in Monterey County California, he spent much of his young adult life working in beet fields, sugar refineries and fish hatcheries. His interest in higher education was limited because his only goal was to take courses to improve his writing. He had the aforementioned jobs while taking sporadic courses at Stanford. Steinbeck's most successful and debatably most poignant novel THE GRAPES OF WRATH, was written in 1939. It won the Pulitzer Prize and established him as a major American author while also centering him in a political controversy. The combination of accusations of his work being a type of Communist manifesto with a new invasive celebrity status took an emotional toll on Steinbeck. He spent time in Hollywood to help reproduce his novels for the big screen, he divorced his first wife and married a young singer named Gwyndolen Conger soon after. Steinbeck attempted to enter the Air Corps in 1943 but was refused on communist suspicions on the part of the U.S. government. So he went to Europe as a reporter for the New York Herald-Tribune and was involved in undercover, foreign invasions. When he returned to the United States with his disturbing memories of war, he began to work on CANNERY ROW, which was published in 1945. It was an emotional depiction of characters in a small town during wartime. Critics saw it as a divergence of his earlier, hard-hitting narratives. It wasn't much later that Steinbeck experienced a mental breakdown as a result of a close friend and confidant, Ed Ricketts dying and his wife revealing her infidelity. Despite a successful third marriage, his writing career took another turn. He wanted to become a playwright but didn't experience any success with his theatrical projects. SWEET THURSDAY was unsuccessfully adapted to a musical in Rodgers-Hammerstein PIPE DREAM SWEET THURSDAY had the backing of a very successful publishing company. Viking Press was known as a small quality house since its establishment in 1925. It survived the Depression and intentionally didn't expand during World War II so it could concentrate on having an exceptional list. By 1950, Viking was publishing about 60 general trade titles a year. Upton Sinclair, Carl Van Doren, and Rebecca West are a few of the authors involved with this company other than Steinbeck. The ad campaign for SWEET THURDAY was also extensive. Full or half page ads could be seen gracing the pages of The New York Times Book Review with bold lettering, flattering reviews and a mirror image of the cover art. Steinbeck's name is printed at the top as boldly as the title itself, because by this time the appearance of his name had selling power. Some variations between some of the ads include, "An Immediate Best-Seller" and "Hilarious Best-Seller". By using the original cover art in the ad campaign, the ads capture the quaint, lyrical nature of the novel. The wooden houses, the abandoned canneries and the empty train tracks evoke feelings of nostalgia and fatigue. These sentiments are closely related to the novel. SWEET THURSDAY received very mixed reviews upon its publication in 1954. None of the critics were overwhelmingly supportive because even the positive remarks were words of mere vapid satisfaction as opposed to enthusiasm. Milton Rugoff reviewed the book for the New York Herald Tribune and wrote that it was part of, "The ancient and honorable tradition of low comedy with up-bubbling notes of rowdy humor, and the occasional broad satiric thrusts" (STEINBECK'S TYPEWRITER, pg. 291). There were some contemporary critics that were able to recognize and enjoy the quirkiness of the characters and the quaint nature of their dialogue. Some critics argued that while it was not a powerful book with loads of social criticism to unpack, it was a good story worthy of reading. However, the negative critiques of this novel were harsh. A review in Time Magazine dated June 14 in the year of the book's publication attacked it on many levels. It suggested that the plot was lacking and that the characters were outlandish and perhaps pointless. For instance, the madam Fauna was described as having, "Once masterminded a flourishing South American export trade in shrunken heads. She keeps a former competitor's noggin in a desk drawer to remind her of the good old days." He went on to sarcastically refer to Doc as "half Christ and half satyr", and Hazel as a "male deadbeat". These are not positive generalizations and not necessarily what one might expect in a story of an ordinary small town. SWEET THURSDAY is a novel where the reader is asked to look beyond the superficialities and oddities of the characters and see the innate human aspects of their character. Negative reviews argued that Steinbeck's technique wasn't good enough to allow them to make that leap. To some, "It reads like stuff that has been salvaged from the wastebasket" (Time, June 14, 1954 pg. 120). Another critic writes, "SWEET THURSDAY is intended to be- shouts aloud, in fact, that it will be- funny and vulgar and touching, and yet all for kicks; what it proves to be is labored, self-conscious, and drenched with artificial sunlight and good feeling" (The New Yorker, July 10, 1954, pg. 71). Many literary critics just didn't have faith in Steinbeck's ability to write an uplifting story in light of his previous works. He had already proven himself as a journalist and a social activist of sorts, and some found his attempt to write a novel with the sole purpose to evoke a smile, forced. Critics read the book with different intentions. The ones who expected a good story with wacky characters set in a small town, were not disappointed. However the ones who read SWEET THURSDAY with works like THE GRAPES OF WRATH in mind, were thoroughly disappointed because it lacked an intense social critique that Steinbeck had come to be known for. They were mistrustful of his attempt to entertain and it shows in their literary analysis. But whether or not a critic recommended this novel or not, it is safe to make the assumption that they would not rank SWEET THURSDAY above previous works like THE GRAPES OF WRATH, TORTILLA FLAT or OF MICE AND MEN in terms of style, technique or plot. After spending five weeks on the Best-Seller's list 55,000 copies had been sold. About another 10,000 copies would sell in 1954 to make it the seventh best-selling fiction work of that year. SWEET THURSDAY was the only novel on the list that was not historical or a newly discovered author. Over half of the fiction list was composed of period pieces, but the real literary event of 1954 was that nonfiction outsold fiction for every spot on the list. Overall, nonfiction titles sold 1,600,000 copies more than fiction. There were three religious works on the list and two cookbooks. A major factor for SWEET THURSDAY being a part of such an eclectic list is the fact that it is a sequel. It is the continuation of CANNERY ROW and a postwar follow up on Doc. Doc is an intelligent and solitary man that is a living legend in his own town. He's seen as the master problem-solver because of his wise aura. Monterey would not be the same without his daily visit to the store for liquor or his odd scientific endeavors. The town watches as he becomes obsessed with his observation of Octopuses and they desperately want him to abandon his science and fall in love. Doc is a truly beloved character and those who read CANNERY ROW would read the sequel just to make sure that he did in fact survive the war and find a girl. There is much debate over whether or not SWEET THURSDAY is worthy of its bestseller status. It has received very little attention in the decades following its release and literary critics seem almost apathetic. Hugh Holman, from The New Republic writes, "Everyone agrees that SWEET THURSDAY isn't among Steinbeck's premier efforts, but there has been so much disagreement over the locus of the book's apparent flaws, its numerous aporia, that even that minority cadre who have found the book worth attention, cannot agree on the basis of the attraction." There's a skepticism surrounding the literary worth of this novel. Even those who liked it can not explain the basis of their contentment because it doesn't leave a powerful impression like his other works. Oddly, it is a forgettable Steinbeck novel. SWEET THURSDAY has a couple of things to offer its readers. It has a benevolent man named Doc, a charming story set in a small town, and an optimistic view of humanity. Both Steinbeck and the American public were recovering from the experiences of WWII while also bracing themselves for the sweeping social reforms to come when the book was published. The nation was in transition and the people were undoubtedly tired. SWEET THURSDAY, while it may not have a revolutionary tone or ingenious literary style like his previous works, serves its' purpose. It completes the saga of Doc from CANNERY ROW and it most importantly evokes a smile. Critics don't hail it as a masterpiece but their disapproval does not keep this simple story of a small town in California off of the bestsellers' list in 1954.
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