The Beaver Pond

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Lynd Ward's first book God's Man was published in 1929 by Jonathon Cape and Smith. It was a novel without words, the story told in 139 wood engravings.

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It is usually assumed, and it is certainly implicit in the complaint about the subject of the young writer's first novel, that there is inevitably a close correspondence between between what happens to the character in the novel and the experiences of the young writer himself. However this may be true of writers, any comparable assumption about the experiences of the young artist in my first book and my own personal life is quite unwarranted. Every young artist knows the painful part of being a young artist, not only from what happens to himself and his friends, but also from what that encounter has been like for artists of earlier generations. And anyone who has pondered the curious and often self-defeating combinations of human qualities, or wondered at the way seeds of talent have been scattered so blindly among mankind must eventually confront the curious and inexplicable circumstance that this obscure process has repeatedly produced highly gifted individuals whose talent burns early and with a fierce light, but who seem thereby fated to give up something in return. It is almost as if they had made a bargain without reading the fine print.

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By the spring of 1929 I had completed about thirty blocks of my pictorial narrative and had reached the point of despondent concern as to whether what I was engaged in would ever interest anyone else. Then I read in a book column that Harrison Smith had entered into parnership with the English publisher Jonathan Cape and would have their first list out shortly.

Taking my courage in my two hands, I wrote a note to Smith, asking for a chance to show him a project I was engaged in. The afternoon I mounted the steps of the brownstone east of Grand Central that housed the Cape and Smith offices stands out in retrospect as a milestone of gigantic proportions. While I had thought only to find out whether Smith might be interested in seeing the pictorial narrative, if I ever finished it, his response was so immediate and so enthusiastic and so complete that on leaving I seemed to float more than walk down the steps of the brownstone. I was bouyed up by the warmth of his words and the vote of confidence implicit in his promise of a contract in the next mail.

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Lynd Ward engravings and quoted text are copyright © Harry Abrams Co. and Lynd Ward
Contents, unless otherwise noted, are copyright © 1996 Don Chaps. All rights reserved.