Erskine Caldwell (1903-1987) is the author of twenty-five novels, numerous short stories, and a dozen nonfiction titles, most depicting the harsh realities of life in the American South during the Great Depression. His books have been published in forty-five languages and have sold tens of millions of copies, with God's Little Acre alone selling more than fourteen million. Caldwell's graphic realism and unabashedly political themes earned him the scorn of critics and censors early in his career, though by the end of his life he was acknowledged as a giant of American literature.
The X-rated scenes in this comic portrayal of rural Georgia life probably seem less shocking than they did in 1933 when the book was first published. They may also seem less amusing. While a dirt farmer named Ty Ty Walden spends 15 years digging holes in his fields looking for gold, his hot-headed sons do less digging and more squabbling over women. Add a lascivious brother-in-law who has been laid off from his job in a mill, another brother from the city who shows up to steal his brother's wife, and a promiscuous sister named Darlin' Jill, and the final blowup is hardly surprising. But there are other less predictable surprises as the story veers toward melodrama. With murder and rape following a killing at the mill, it is as if Caldwell flipped a switch from "farce" to "tragedy." This puts the narrator on the spot, even one as skilled as Buck Schirner. Inevitably, Schirner's hilarious hillbilly accent, which sounds so right at the beginning of the book, becomes a near travesty as the final tragedies unfold. Only academic collections need consider.-Jo Carr, Sarasota, Fla.
A beautifully integrated story of the barren southern farm and the shut southern mill, and one of the finest studies of the southern poor white which has ever come into our literature. Writing in the brutal images of the life of his poor white people, Mr. Caldwell has caught in poetic quality the debased and futile aspiration of men and women restless in a world of long hungers which must be satisfied quickly, if at all.--Saturday Review of Literature
Caldwell is one of the best . . . a master illusionist who can create, as Hemingway did, an impression of absolute reality.--Time Magazine
What William Faulkner implies, Erskine Caldwell records.--Chicago Tribune