I'm just an ordinary writer, Erskine Caldwell once wrote. ""I'm not trying to sell anything; I'm not trying to buy anything. I'm just trying to present my vision of life."" His ostensibly unsolicitous vision of Southern grotesques, of the slack-jawed, pellagra-ridden sharecroppers, repressed farmwives, and over sexed nymphets, elicited, however, anything but an ""ordinary"" response. Hailed by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Maxwell Perkins, reviled by others as a pornographer or sensationalist, Caldwell was once called ""America's most popular author."" Once the furore flagged, Caldwell was relegated to the ""mansions of subliterature,"" where his reputation resides today.
This book contains more than 150 previously unpublished letters, notes, telegrams, and postcards written between 1929 and 1955, at the peak of Caldwell's popularity and influence, all extensively annotated. The Introduction assays Caldwell's significance in American popular culture and literary studies and establishes the importance of Caldwell's correspondence as a means of understanding the intentions of a man who was otherwise terse and unforthcoming about his work.
Robert L. McDonald is associate dean for academic affairs and professor of English at Virginia Military Institute. He has written numerous essays on Southern literature and art and two other books on Caldwell, among other works. A past president of the Popular/American Culture Association in the South, he lives in Lexington, Virginia.