Thursday, July 28, 2005

How I Found Satan's Bushel

Satan's Bushel review parts I, II and III.

As I wrote in a previous post, my interest in Satan's Bushel was raised when Bruce Ramsey referred to that book in his introduction to Salvos Against the New Deal:

Satan's Bushel (1924) was an allegory of agriculture and its
struggle with overproduction. ("Satan's Bushel" was the bushel that broke the price.)

I discovered that the story was about much more than that, but getting to that point required a journey.

I have tried, without success, to find a copy of Satan's Bushel for almost two years. I have never yet seen a copy of the book. Bruce Ramsey wrote to me that a copy of the text could be found in back copies of the Saturday Evening Post. Indeed, most of Garret's fiction books can be found serialized in the pages of the Post in the 1920's. Satan's Bushel is one exception to that rule. After I wrote back to Mr. Ramsey and informed him that the Post had come up dry on Satan's Bushel, he told me he would try to remember where he had seen it and get back to me. (Ramsey had previously discarded his photocopies of the Post when he gradually accumulated the actual books with considerable effort over a fair amount of time).

After having one of those "eureka!" moments, Ramsey wrote to me that the actual magazine that contained Satan's Bushel was called The Country Gentleman. While I was glad to have received renewed hope of finding the text, Ramsey's news was not the end of the story.

Upon arriving at the State Library, I was told that The Country Gentleman was not published in 1923 and had merged with the Saturday Evening Post by that time. This information was false, and I persisted in my request that the librarians find the Country Gentleman copies in their stack of microfilms in the basement. After the librarians informed me that they would notify me if anything turned up, I once again gave up hope and returned home.

Much to my surprise, I received a phone call several days later from the librarian. Not only had they found the issues of Country Gentleman in question, they had also found, as a result of this search, the library's entire series of Country Gentlemen microfilms that had been misfiled and lost for years.

I have written in a previous post that Satan's Bushel reflects much of our culture that has now been lost or forgotten. A piece of the dying American culture had been essentially buried in the rubble and had languished unnoticed and unappreciated. I thought of this obscurity several days later as I watched the librarian carry the microfilm to one of the ancient microfilm machines so that I might copy it.

Many of the ancient writings from the Roman civilization were destroyed by marauding barbarians who burned cities with little regard for what they destroyed. The barbarians did not even understand the concept of literature or the role of literature in preserving civilization.

I felt that I was reversing the ancient Roman scenario by rescuing Garrett's literature with the help of one who had no idea what she was carrying (or what her coworkers had discovered in the basement). Those of us who rescue forgotten American writing, especially literature with a capitalist theme, will do so in relative obscurity without the understanding of those who might still possess the treasures we seek.

The image of this obscurity was reinforced as I scrolled through the microfilm and discovered the hastiness with which the pages had been copied. Half of most of the pages were too blurry to read. I had to copy many pages two or three times just to get a clear image of each word in the text.

But now, one more copy of Satan's Bushel exists outside the confines of some library basement. The most thorough discussion of this book ever created now exists on the internet. Absalom Weaver's speech can now take its place alongside the speeches of Ayn Rand's great characters. More such discussions of Garrett's books will follow on these pages.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Locations of visitors to this page