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April 14: The Grapes of Wrath — and the Viking Press

April 14, 2014
logo_vikingpressJohn Steinbeck’s great novel of the Depression and the Dust Bowl, The Grapes of Wrath, was published on this date in 1939 by the Viking Press, a literary house founded by three Jews: Harold K. Guinzberg, the son of a major activist in the American Jewish Committee (and the father of Thomas Guinzberg, who founded The Paris Review); George Oppenheimer, who like Guinzberg was a Harvard graduate; and B.W. Heubsch, who was the first publisher in the United States of James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence before joining forces with Viking in 1925. Steinbeck’s book won the Pulitzer Prize as well as the National Book Award, and was made into a widely acclaimed movie in 1940. It was also widely attacked, and even banned, as socialistic. The Viking Press has been a major literary force through the decades, publishing Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939), Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949) and The Crucible (1953), most of Saul Bellow’s novels, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road (1957), as well as works by Hannah Arendt, Geraldine Brooks, William S. Burroughs, Peter Matthiessen, Carol Brooks, Thomas Pynchon, Wallace Stegner, Nadine Gordimer, Barbara Tuchman, Don DeLillo, Robertson Davies, William Kennedy, Salman Rushdie, and J.M Coetzee, among many other literary greats. To see Henry Fonda delivering the final “Tom Joad” passage from the film, look below. “As the first Jewish literary publisher (and a radical one at that) in the United States, Huebsch’s colophon was appropriately enough a menorah. In its cultural sallies, the Viking Press’ drakkar sought, with an invisible menorah on its bow, to cut through the dark seas of nativism and enlighten America as to the reality of its pluralism.” -Chris Green
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