Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1925. First Edition. Attractive copy of Powell's first novel, an autobiographical work, recounting the story of an idealistic Midwestern girl who moves to New York, aspiring to be a playwright. She settles into a boarding house for women, surrounded by a cast of characters who are perpetually out of money, deeply concerned with their wardrobes, and trying to find a man. She finds fulfilling work as a copy writer, navigates her way throughout a string of suitors (all the while soliciting advice from her housemates), quits her job, and briefly entertains the idea of taking up with a Greenwich Village bohemian and writing plays full-time; she abandons her dreams after accepting an eleventh hour proposal from a wealthy suitor, embarks on a steamship to London with her man, and sails off toward her new life with the words "Is the world really so gorgeous as this?"
The earlier part of the novel, at least, somewhat mirrors Powell's own experiences. She led a somewhat unhappy childhood in Ohio, where her stepmother took pleasure at burning her early attempts at poetry and fiction; after moving in with a supportive aunt and attending Lake Erie College, she moved to Manhattan to pursue a career as a writer, finding work as a publicist for several organizations before marrying her husband, an advertising executive named Joseph Gousha, and settling in Greenwich Village, where she would live out the rest of her life. Her marriage allowed her to quit her job and focus on her writing full-time, "using the Children's Reading Room of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue as the place to write. What became the classic elements of Dawn Powell's work were in evidence from the outset. Her first novel, Whither...has the characteristic satiric tone, mordant wit, and unforgiving eye for the foibles of middle-class Americans, whether they lived in the Middle West, the setting for her early work, or were newly arrived midwestern émigrés to the big city of New York desperately seeking sophistication" (Carnes, Mark C. "Dawn Powell." Invisible Giants: Fifty Americans Who Shaped the Nation but Missed the History Books, p.232). Powell disavowed her literary debut, leaving it out of lists of her publications throughout her lifetime, and referring to She Walks In Beauty (1928) as her first novel. An uncommon debut, published in small numbers, and rare in dustjacket; we find no copies for sale in the auction record, and OCLC notes a scant 11 holdings in U.S. institutions. SMITH P-576. Octavo (19.5cm); navy blue cloth, with titles stamped in gilt on spine and front cover; dustjacket; [iv],,3-305,pp. Spine ends very gently nudged, hint of dustiness to upper edge of textblock, else a fresh, Fine copy. In the dustjacket designed by Harold James Cue, priced $2.00 on front flap; light shelfwear, touch of dust-soil to spine, rear panel, and flap edges, with a few short tears and attendant creases (upper edge of front panel and upper rear joint), shallow loss to spine ends (none affecting lettering), and a dozen small soil spots to panels; still a bright, substantially complete, and Very Good+ example, unrestored.