Introduced by Michael Dirda
Illustrated by Edward Kinsella
John Steinbeck’s generational epic, East of Eden, introduced by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Dirda and illustrated by award-winning artist Edward Kinsella, is the winner of Folio’s 2017 Reader’s Choice Fiction Competition.
‘It has everything I have been able to learn about my art or craft or profession in all these years,’ wrote John Steinbeck of East of Eden, the novel he considered his magnum opus. Coolly received when it was first published in 1952, it has grown in stature and popularity ever since, and is now recognised as the author’s most ambitious and accomplished work. This magnificent edition, published to celebrate the winner of Folio’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Fiction Competition, and produced with the highest design and production values, is a fitting testament to Steinbeck’s remarkable achievement.
With his masterwork, Steinbeck aimed to tell ‘perhaps the greatest story of all – the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of beauty and ugliness’. Blending family history and biblical allegory, he draws on the stories of the fall of Adam and Eve and the fatal rivalry of Cain and Abel to recount the intertwined fates of two families living in California’s idyllic Salinas Valley, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, from the beginning of the twentieth century to the close of the First World War. Rich in symbolic artistry and sweeping in scale, the narrative explores universal themes of love, identity and free will to reveal the primordial passions that govern us all, emotional patterns that are repeated, revised or reversed as one generation passes to the next.
In his introduction, Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Dirda writes of Steinbeck’s refusal to be restrained by genre. Ignoring ‘rigidly formed strictures’, he interweaves his plot with autobiography, authorial intrusions and mini-essays to enthralling effect. The result is a richly layered novel that one lives rather than reads, experiencing the story as it builds to one of literature’s most powerfully resonant endings.
Edward Kinsella has contributed 11 arresting illustrations that heighten both the novel’s more dramatic scenes, as well as its poignant, intimate moments. His striking binding design uses natural imagery native to the Salinas Valley – an oak tree and rattlesnake, which is echoed on the slipcase – to reinforce the novel’s thematic symbolism. A gilt top and ribbon marker complete this stunning edition.
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 World War II, 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.
Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary journalist and the author of five collections of essays: Readings (2000), Bound to Please (2005), Book by Book (2006), Classics for Pleasure (2007), and Browsings (2015). He has also written the memoir An Open Book (2003) and On Conan Doyle (2012), which received an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America. His current project is a reconsideration of popular fiction during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Edward Kinsella was born in St Louis, Missouri. He graduated with honours from Ringling School of Art and Design in 2006, and his work has since been commissioned by a variety of prestigious magazines and publishers. He has also shown his fine art and illustration in a number of gallery exhibitions. His accolades include gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators, and a Gold Award from Spectrum.
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