Tuesday, August 16, 2011

And speaking of . . .

Speaking of Paul Johnson, he was the writer who introduced me to the work of
Sonora Babb. Sonora Babb wrote a fine novel, Whose Names Are Unknown, about migrant farm workers during the depression. In fact she worked for the Farm Security Administration and had first hand knowledge of the plight of her characters. She wrote the novel in the 1930s but Random House who paid her to come to NY to finish it for them decided against publishing it after the huge success of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath . .  they didn't want to "flood the market" with the two books on the same theme. It should be noted that Ms. Babb had shared her notes with Mr. Steinbeck when he came out to California as a reporter.  Whose Names Are Unknown was finally published by University of Oklahoma Press in 2003 (so she just had to wait sixty some years). She did publish other work but considered this one her best. She died in 2006 at the age of 98 after seeing what she considered her best book finally  published. I reviewed Names for the Boulder Daily Camera and the book editor at the time planned to write an article about the author (who grew up in Eastern Colorado) but he left before this plan materialized and the new book editor didn't see fit to run the review of Ms. Babb's extraordinary book. I recommend it whenever and wherever I can. If you liked Tillie Olson's Yonnondio you will certainly like Whose Names Are Unknown.

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