Erskine Caldwell

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Author

AmericanBorn Erskine Preston Caldwell

American novelist and short story writer

Born on December 17, 1903 in Moreland, Georgia , United States

Died on April 11, 1987 in Paradise Valley, Arizona , United States

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Erskine Preston Caldwell (December 17, 1903 – April 11, 1987) was an American novelist and short story writer. His writings about poverty, racism and social problems in his native Southern United States, in novels such as Tobacco Road (1932) and God's Little Acre (1933) won him critical acclaim.
With cumulative sales of 10 million and 14 million copies, respectively, Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre rank as two of the best-selling American novels, all-time, with the former being adapted into a 1933 play that set a Broadway record for consecutive performances, since surpassed.
...   Erskine Preston Caldwell (December 17, 1903 – April 11, 1987) was an American novelist and short story writer. His writings about poverty, racism and social problems in his native Southern United States, in novels such as Tobacco Road (1932) and God's Little Acre (1933) won him critical acclaim.
With cumulative sales of 10 million and 14 million copies, respectively, Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre rank as two of the best-selling American novels, all-time, with the former being adapted into a 1933 play that set a Broadway record for consecutive performances, since surpassed.


Early years
Caldwell was born on December 17, 1903, in the small town of White Oak, Coweta County, Georgia. He was the only child of Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church minister Ira Sylvester Caldwell and his wife Caroline Preston (née Bell) Caldwell, a schoolteacher. Rev. Caldwell's ministry required moving the family often, to places including Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina. When he was 15 years old, his family settled in Wrens, Georgia. His mother Caroline was from Virginia. Her ancestry included English nobility which held large land grants in eastern Virginia. Both her English ancestors and Scots-Irish ancestors fought in the American Revolution. Ira Caldwell's ancestors were Scots-Irish and had also been in America since before the revolution and had fought in it.
Caldwell's mother, a former teacher, tutored her son at home. Caldwell was 14 when he first attended a school.
Caldwell attended but did not graduate from Erskine College, a Presbyterian school in nearby South Carolina.


Career
He dropped out of Erskine College to sign aboard a boat supplying guns to Central America. Caldwell entered the University of Virginia with a scholarship from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, but was enrolled for only a year. He then became a football player, bodyguard, and salesman of "bad" real estate.
After two more enrollments at college, Caldwell went to work for the Atlanta Journal, leaving in 1925 after a year, then moving to Maine where he stayed for five years, producing a story that won a Yale Review award for fiction and two novels of the Georgia poor.
Caldwell's first published works were The Bastard (1929) and Poor Fool (1930), but the works for which he is most famous are his novels Tobacco Road (1932) and God's Little Acre (1933). His first book, The Bastard, was banned and copies of it were seized by authorities. With the publication of God's Little Acre, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice instigated legal action against him for The Bastard. Caldwell was arrested at a book-signing there but was exonerated in court.
In 1941, Caldwell reported from the USSR for Life magazine, CBS radio and the newspaper PM. He wrote movie scripts for about five years. Caldwell wrote articles from Mexico and Czechoslovakia for the North American Newspaper Alliance.


Personal life
Through the 1930s Caldwell and his first wife Helen managed a bookstore in Maine. Following their divorce Caldwell married photographer Margaret Bourke-White, collaborating with her on three photo-documentaries: You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), North of the Danube (1939), and Say, Is This The USA (1941). During World War II, Caldwell obtained a visa from the USSR that allowed him to travel to Ukraine and work as a foreign correspondent, documenting the war effort there.
After he returned from World War II, Caldwell took up residence in Connecticut, then in Arizona with third wife, June Johnson (J.C. Martin). In 1957, Caldwell married Virginia Moffett Fletcher Caldwell Hibbs, who had drawn illustrations for a recent book of his, moving to Twin Peaks in San Francisco, later moving to Paradise Valley, Arizona, in 1977. Of his residence in the San Francisco Bay Area, he once said: "I live outside San Francisco. That's not exactly the United States." During the last twenty years of his life, his routine was to travel the world for six months of each year, taking with him notebooks in which to jot down his ideas. Many of these notebooks were not published but can be examined in a museum dedicated to him in the town square of Moreland, Georgia, where the home in which he was born was relocated and dedicated to his memory.
Caldwell, a heavy smoker, died from complications of emphysema and lung cancer on April 11, 1987, in Paradise Valley, Arizona. He is buried in Scenic Hills Memorial Park, Ashland, Oregon. Although he never lived there, his stepson and fourth wife, Virginia Moffett Fletcher Caldwell Hibbs, did, and wished him to be buried near his family. Virginia died in December 2017 at age 98.
Caldwell's grandson, Adam Hunter Caldwell, is a fine arts instructor at Academy of Art University.


Politics
Erskine Caldwell's political sympathies were with the working class, and he used his experiences with farmers and common workers to write stories portraying their lives and struggles. Later in life he presented public seminars on the typical conditions of tenant-sharecroppers in the South.
Disillusionment with the government led Caldwell to compose a short story published in 1933, "Sylvia". In this story a woman journalist is executed by a firing squad after being tried in a secret court on charges of espionage.


Works
Caldwell wrote 25 novels, 150 short stories, twelve nonfiction collections, two autobiographies, and two books for young readers. He also edited the influential American Folkways series, a 28-volume series of books about different regions of the United States.


Recognition
In December 1984, Caldwell was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


References


Sources
Bode, Carl (March 1956). "Erskine Caldwell: A Note for the Negative". College English. 17 (6): 357–359. doi:10.2307/372378. JSTOR 372378.
Broadwell, Elizabeth Pell; Hoag, Ronald Wesley (Winter 1982). "Interview: Erskine Caldwell, The Art of Fiction No. 62". Paris Review. Winter 1982 (86).
Caldwell, Jay E. (2016). Erskine Caldwell, Margaret Bourke-White, and the popular Front: Photojournalism in Russia. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820350226.
Cook, Sylvia J. (1983). "Review: Stories of Life/North & South: Selections from the Best Short Stories of Erskine Caldwell". The Southern Literary Journal. 16 (1): 126–130. ISSN 0038-4291. JSTOR 20077726.
Francis, Leila H. (2010). Erskine Caldwell: A Bibliography of Dissertations and Theses. CreateSpace. ISBN 9781453684368.
Kitajima, Fujisato. "Recollections of Erskine Caldwell - A Georgia Hero" (PDF). Keiwa College.
Kitajima, Fujisato (Spring 1989). "Caldwell in Japan". Southern Quarterly. 27 (3). Hattiesburg: 42. Retrieved October 2, 2022 – via ProQuest.
Stevens, C.J. (2000). Storyteller: A Life of Erskine Caldwell. John Wade. ISBN 1-882425-11-1.
Thomas, Phil. review of 'Stories of Life North & South' The Ledger, July 10, 1983


External links

Works by Erskine Caldwell at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about Erskine Caldwell at Internet Archive
Erskine Caldwell papers Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries.
The Papers of Erskine P. Caldwell Archived July 14, 2019, at the Wayback Machine in the Dartmouth College Library
Erskine Caldwell - Encyclopedia Britannica
Rieger, Christopher. Erskine Caldwell The Literary Encyclopedia
Erskine Caldwell Archived July 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine — New Georgia Encyclopedia
Erskine Caldwell Birthplace and Museum
Erskine Caldwell — Georgia Writers Hall of Fame
Erskine Caldwell at Find a Grave
Erskine Caldwell signing a copy of book, "Tobacco Road", April 1936 Harris & Ewing photography collection, Library of Congress
Fujisato Kitajima Keiwa College, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English and Communication



Biography from Wikipedia (see original) under licence CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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