Prime Steinbeck: A Life in Letters – Schematicwiringdiagram.co

For John Steinbeck, who hated the telephone, letter writing was a preparation for work and a natural way for him to communicate his thoughts on people he liked and hated on marriage, women, and children on the condition of the world and on his progress in learning his craft Opening with letters written during Steinbeck s early years in California, and closing with anote written in Sag Harbor, New York, Steinbeck A Life in Letters reveals the inner thoughts and rough character of this American author as nothing else has and as nothing else ever will This is an odd book to have on a list of personal standouts, but it s there because, quite apart from being a terrific collection of correspondence from a man who dealt with everything including his own psyche by expressing it in writing to other people, I happened to be reading it during a very bad and lonely patch and suddenly found him articulating exactly what I was feeling and going through I can still remember the revelation and the relief of discovering someone else had been there and ma This is an odd book to have on a list of personal standouts, but it s there because, quite apart from being a terrific collection of correspondence from a man who dealt with everything including his own psyche by expressing it in writing to other people, I happened to be reading it during a very bad and lonely patch and suddenly found him articulating exactly what I was feeling and going through I can still remember the revelation and the relief of discovering someone else had been there and made it to the other side it was just as Alan Bennett describes in THE HISTORY BOYS, the feeling that someone has reached a hand up in this case quite a big strong hand out of the pages to grasp yours, and I still feel grateful to Steinbeck in a weirdly personal way for that reassurance John Steinbeck was a compulsive writer In a letter to his editor and friend Pat Covici in 1960, he recorded his excitement about a planned trip by campervan around the United States Steinbeck wrote I nearly always write just as I nearly always breathe The association of writing with life itself defines Steinbeck He wrote novels, plays, screenplays, opinion pieces, political speeches, travel journalism and war reportage And, of course, letters From his days as a struggling writer in t John Steinbeck was a compulsive writer In a letter to his editor and friend Pat Covici in 1960, he recorded his excitement about a planned trip by campervan around the United States Steinbeck wrote I nearly always write just as I nearly always breathe The association of writing with life itself defines Steinbeck He wrote novels, plays, screenplays, opinion pieces, political speeches, travel journalism and war reportage And, of course, letters From his days as a struggling writer in the 1920s until his death in 1968, Steinbeck wrote letters almost daily to friends and family, to his literary agent, to his editor and to the political leaders with whom he associated when he became well known When Steinbeck was writing a novel, letter writing was his way of warming up for a day s work At other times he wrote letters because this was just what he did Steinbeck was a shy man who hated speaking on the phone and letters often took the place of conversation with the people he cared about In addition, he didn t write an autobiography, avoided giving interviews and was terrified of public speaking, so the letters form an important record of Steinbeck s life Reading this book was quite a project Its 906 pages include letters written over a period ofthan forty years The first letter in the volume was written in 1926 to a college friend while Steinbeck was working as a caretaker on an estate at Lake Tahoe while writing his first novel The last letter is incomplete a letter to his literary agent probably begun shortly before he died in 1968 I found the book a fascinating read The letters in it have been chosen because they have something to say Mere letters of obligation or letters which are simply answers to other letters were not included in the collection Steinbeck had plenty to say in his letters The picture of him which emerges from them is of an intelligent and thoughtful man who had insight into his own failings, who was generous and compassionate and who had a genuine interest in people, in society and in the natural environment He writes with enthusiasm about topics as diverse as gardening, dogs, boats and gadgets he has invented or things he believes should be invented In addition, the letters deal with his debilitating bouts of depression, the despair he felt as his first two marriages failed, his deep and enduring love for his third wife, his concerns about his sons and his recurring feeling that his writing was inadequate Steinbeck also writes a lot about writing, both reflecting on his own practice and giving encouragement and advice to other writers I ve read the collected letters of other writers in the past Jane Austen s letters and those of Dorothy L Sayers are the ones which immediately come to mind However, I ve not found myself marking so many pages of a book with sticky notes before This volume positively bristles with colourful plastic tabs There are gems of wisdom and insight in it which I want to be able to read again At the same time, part of me feels slightly uncomfortable at having read this lifetime of correspondence Steinbeck did not write to his wife, to his sons or to his friends with an eye to publication He was a private man and these letters reveal his private thoughts While I m not sure that he would have liked the idea of the general public reading his letters, I m still very glad that the editors Steinbeck s wife Elaine and his friend Robert Wallsten thought that putting together the volume was a worthwhile endeavour.This is highly recommended for writers and for anyone who appreciates Steinbeck s writing, wantsinsight into Steinbeck the man and has plenty of time to read a doorstopper of a book The record of this trip became Travels with Charley In Search of America I ve been working on this book a long time a year or better I would read a little here and there I found it fascinating and couldn t put it down at times But, I would force myself to only read a letter or two at a time because it was just something to be savored Last night, I decided to just go ahead and finish it I had 200 pages left It s good I finished the last 200 pages so quickly It was depressing I mean, it s hard to finish a book you have been reading so long and enjoying so mu I ve been working on this book a long time a year or better I would read a little here and there I found it fascinating and couldn t put it down at times But, I would force myself to only read a letter or two at a time because it was just something to be savored Last night, I decided to just go ahead and finish it I had 200 pages left It s good I finished the last 200 pages so quickly It was depressing I mean, it s hard to finish a book you have been reading so long and enjoying so much, knowing that the end of the book is leading to the author s death Not only that, but reading the letters about illness and knowing there will be nobooks, nowell, anything Those last 200 pages are tough when you ve spent over a year working on the first 600.If you write, want to write, or even want to understand the mind of a writer, you need to read this book It s amazing to me, loving Steinbeck s books as I do, to realize he considered himself someone with little talent but wanted to make the best of what skill he did have Amazing Profound Read Steinbeck any and all John Steinbeck never wrote an autobiography, but his letters probably revealabout the writer and the man than an autobiography could have hoped to.John Steinbeck was everyman, suffered every weakness, stood up to every duty, doubted his own talent, feared the beginning of every new work, and grew with each experience.In one of his early letters he admitted his shortcomings when he was cornered by academia He hated the idea of proper spelling and punctuation for a clean manuscript in his f John Steinbeck never wrote an autobiography, but his letters probably revealabout the writer and the man than an autobiography could have hoped to.John Steinbeck was everyman, suffered every weakness, stood up to every duty, doubted his own talent, feared the beginning of every new work, and grew with each experience.In one of his early letters he admitted his shortcomings when he was cornered by academia He hated the idea of proper spelling and punctuation for a clean manuscript in his first draft and made the case for letting stenographers slip those commas into their proper places A letter he wrote in February 1936 spells out his feelings of inadequacy at the beginning of a new project And that form of self doubt reoccurs throughout the book But almost in the same breath he admits that he loves the writing once he gets down to work.He also had trepidations about dealing with death In a letter to a friend that had just lost his mother Steinbeck shares a feeling of inadequacy that most of us feel when he says, there s nothing for the outsider to do except stand by and maybe indicate that the person involved is not so alone as the death always makes him think he is In an April 29, 1948 letter he says he s about to embark on a marathon book about the Salinas Valley, the one he s been training for all of his life.And it becomes obvious that Steinbeck used a long gestation period to work up to that major project, for it wasthan two years later, August 30, 1950, when he again mentions the Salinas Valley story Apparently though he was still on track and moving toward the beginning of that new work.Then in a letter written to Mr and Mrs Elia Kazan from Nantucket July 30, 1951 Steinbeck indicates that he is presently six hundred pages into the book, but still has three or four hundred pages to go And in that letter he announced the title as East of Eden He also goes on to tell how perfect it is for the book It comes from the first sixteen verses of the Fourth Chapter of Genesis The title comes from the sixteenth verse, but he says the whole passage is applicable.In a letter April 18, 1952 he mentions Kazan and the House Un American Activities Committee Said he read Kazan s full statement to the congress and hoped that the communist and second raters don t cut him to pieces.Then on June 17, 1952 he said Kazan called that morning from Paris and was absolutely crazy about East of Eden and wants to do it He also said the American communist and the Hollywood left had done their best to destroy him His conscience was clear though for he had only given the facts to the congress and he could live with that truth In 1955 Elia Kazan produced and directed the film, East of Eden.Steinbeck was always generous in sharing, his thoughts and some of the methods he used when writing, with other writers.A letter dated December 7, 1956 he said, theone learns about writing, theunbelievably difficult it becomes I wish to God I knew as much about my craft, or what ever it is, as I did when I was 19 years old But with every new attempt, frightening though it may be, is the wonder and the hope and the delight In a letter written to Kazan on October 14, 1958 he sums up his love for writing I like to write I like it better than anything That s why neither theatre nor movies really deeply interest me It s the fresh clear sentence or thought going down on paper for the first time that makes me pleased and fulfilled Those are just a few notes from a writer s perspective that I came away with and I m sure you ll come away with a set of your own.The book is so rich in day to day living that you almost forget that you are in the presence of a man that over his writing career had won a room full of awards along with the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962.Tom Barnes author of The Goring Collection