Monday, February 27, 2012

John Steinbeck was Born Today

Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning author, John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was born in Salinas, CA on February 27th  in 1902. Steinbeck gave us Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. Pure brilliance!

He was an only son to John Ernst Steinbeck, Sr. and Olive Hamilton. He was the second child and only boy. His father, an accountant served for many years as Monterey County treasurer. His mother a former school teacher, shared her son's passion for reading and writing. John was raised as an Episcopalian.

Born and raised on some of the world's most fertile land, and working summers on nearby ranches, he saw first-hand the harsher aspects of working as a migrant worker. He explored his surroundings which became the setting for many of his novels.

He graduated from Salinas High School in 1919 and went on to Stanford University until 1925. He took only courses that interested him there and left without a degree. He set off for New York City via a freighter in 1928.

Once in New York, he worked as a reporter and as part of the construction crew that built Madison Square Garden. He was also soaking up lots of info for his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929) which turned out an unsuccessful attempt at romance involving the pirate Henry Morgan. Failing to have his work published, he went back to California.

Back in California in 1928, he worked as a tour guide and caretaker at a fish hatchery. That's where he met Carol Henning, with whom he fell madly in love and would be his first wife. They were married in January of 1930. Right smack-dab at the beginning of what would be The Great Depression. Not the marriage, THE Great Depression. Not a great time to get married.

Anywho...after they were married, his parents helped the newlyweds out. They lived in a cottage owned by his Dad in Pacific Grove, CA. Rent free. His parents also gave him paper for his manuscripts and loans to allow him to focus on writing.

Finally, Tortilla Flat was published in 1935 which allowed him to build a ranch-home in 1940. He then went on a voyage with his wife around the Gulf of California. But it was too late for their relationship. Their marriage ended in 1941.

In 1942, he married Gwendolyn Conger with whom he had his only children - Thomas ("Thom") Myles Steinbeck and John Steinbeck IV.

He served as a WWII war correspondent in 1943 and began trips to the USSR in 1947. Steinbeck's book, A Russian Journal was published in 1948. In May, John's close friend, Ed Ricketts was seriously injured in a car vs. train accident. Yep. He died. While he was in town for his friend's funeral, Gwyn told him she wanted a divorce. (Shocker. He was gone for quite some time). By his own account, Steinbeck spent the year after Rickett's death in a deep depression.

In 1949 he met Elaine Scott at a restaurant in Carmel, CA. Yep. You guessed it, they married within a week of Elaine divorcing her husband. They were married until his death on December 20th, 1968.

Cup of Gold : a Life of Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer, with Occasional Reference to History. – New York : McBride, 1929
The Pastures of Heaven. – New York : Brewer, Warren & Putnam, 1932
To a God Unknown. – New York : Ballou, 1933
Tortilla Flat. – New York : Covici-Friede, 1935
In Dubious Battle. – New York : Covici-Friede, 1936
Of Mice and Men. – New York : Covici-Friede, 1937
Of Mice and Men : a Play in Three Acts. – New York : Covici- Friede, 1937
The Red Pony. – New York : Covici-Friede, 1937. – Enlarged edition, New York : Viking, 1945
Their Blood Is Strong. – San Francisco: Simon J. Lubin Society, 1938
The Long Valley. – New York : Viking, 1938
The Grapes of Wrath. – New York : Viking, 1939
Sea of Cortez : a Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research / by John Steinbeck and Edward F. Ricketts. – New York : Viking, 1941. – Republ. as The Log from the Sea of Cortez. – New York : Viking, 1951
The Forgotten Village. – New York : Viking, 1941
Bombs Away : the Story of a Bomber Team. – New York : Viking, 1942
The Moon Is Down. – New York : Viking, 1942
The Moon Is Down : a Play in Two Parts. – New York : Dramatists Play Service, 1942
Cannery Row. – New York : Viking, 1945
The Pearl. – New York : Viking, 1947
The Wayward Bus. – New York : Viking, 1947
A Russian Journal. – New York : Viking, 1948
Burning Bright : a Play in Story Form. – New York : Village Press, 1950
Burning Bright : a Play in Three Acts. – New York : Dramatists Play Service, 1951
East of Eden. – New York : Viking, 1952
Viva Zapata! - Rome: Edizioni Filmcritica, 1952
Sweet Thursday. – New York : Viking, 1954
The Short Reign of Pippin IV : a Fabrication. – New York : Viking, 1957
Once There Was a War. – New York : Viking, 1958
The Winter of Our Discontent. – New York : Viking, 1961
Speech Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. – New York : Viking, 1962
Travels with Charley : In Search of America. – New York : Viking, 1962
America and Americans. – New York : Viking, 1966
Journal of a Novel : The East of Eden Letters. – New York : Viking, 1969
Steinbeck : a Life in Letters / Ed. by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten. – New York : Viking, 1975
The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights : From the Winchester Manuscript and Other Sources / Ed. by Chase Horton. – New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976
Steinbeck and Covici : The Story of a Friendship / Thomas French, ed. – Middlebury, Vt. : P. S. Eriksson, 1979
The Uncollected Stories of John Steinbeck / edited by Kiyoshi Nakayama. – Tokyo: Nan'un-do, 1986
John Steinbeck on Writing / edited by Tetsumaro Hayashi. – Muncie, Ind.: Steinbeck Research Institute, 1988
Working Days : The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath, 1938-1941 / edited by Robert DeMott. – New York : Viking, 1989
America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction / Ed. by Susan Shillinglaw & Jackson J. Benson. – New York : Viking, 2002. – Publ. in England as Of Men and Their Making : the Selected Non-Fiction of John Steinbeck. – London : Allen Lane, 2002

What is your fav Steinbeck work?

Happy reading,

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