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Alameda bookseller obtains Steinbeck manuscript

Submitted by on 1, August 6, 2010 – 4:50 am2 Comments

Our inbox lit up Thursday with an intriguing announcement: Webster Street bookseller Tavistock Books has come into possession of an original John Steinbeck manuscript.

Tavistock owner Vic Zoschak said he bought the manuscript for “His Father,” a short story published in the September 1949 issue of Reader’s Digest, from another bookseller who obtained it from a private collection. Most of Steinbeck’s manuscripts are in institutions, Zoschak said.

The story, about a troubled boy whose father is absent following a divorce, is apparently somewhat autobiographical in nature. Steinbeck wrote shortly after he divorced from his second wife, Gwendolyn.

“Steinbeck had some anxieties about how this would affect his two sons, John IV & Thom; these anxieties are intensely reflected in this story,” Zoschak said.

Steinbeck wrote the story after visiting his children in New York and sent it to his agent, with a note that said: “I don’t know whether you will like or approve of the enclosed. It is what happened anyway. … it occurs to me that if Nat Benchley can write the things that didn’t happen in my family, perhaps I can write some that did.”

The manuscript consists of four sheets of lined, yellow legal paper, filled with Steinbeck’s writing in pencil. The sheets are encased in protective Mylar sleeves in a “custom maroon quarter-leather clamshell case, which has, gilt lettered on the spine, the title, ‘Where’s Your Father.'”

Zoschak thinks the manuscript could have some scholarly interest because it differs from the final, published story. He’s hoping to sell the manuscript to an aficionado of the revered author.

In the meantime Zoschak – who, incidentally, said “East of Eden” is one of his all-time favorite books – is allowing people to come view the manuscript. Call him at 814-0480 to make an appointment.

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