John Steinbeck

Photo: Courtesy of The Steinbeck House / Valley Guild

1. Why Steinbeck Wrote
My father was an addicted writer. He saw the world through his own verbalization of things. My father had to write. He wrote—as I say, he wrote for individuals. He'd write for Pat [Covici], or he'd write for us, or he'd write for somebody. And if that point got across, he was happy. But whether he sold or not never really occurred to him.

He took his responsibility as a writer very seriously and worked very, very hard at it. And he did draw out his plots and did draw out his ideas very finitely. He knew exactly where he was going with all of it.
John Steinbeck and son

Photo: Courtesy of The Steinbeck House / Valley Guild

2. His Father's Character
He was a very funny, gentle man. And shy. Which made him very adorable, you know. He was just a terribly shy man, which is funny when you see a guy 6'4", you know? Broad-shouldered. Children had a complete fascination for my father, which was really ridiculous because he was so tall and—but he treated children like adults and talked to them that way. So every morning in the summertime all the little neighborhood kids, you know, with the t-shirts that never quite matched the shorts, little bellies hanging out, they'd come over and they'd knock on the door and they'd say, 'Can John come out and play?' And my father would come out and he'd play with them and take them on walks and give them lectures on Latin humor.
Steinbeck and his sons

Photo: Courtesy of The Steinbeck House / Valley Guild

3. How Steinbeck Got His Writing Time
He'd invent strange things for us to do. Send us off on adventures like Holy Grails to get rid of us so he could write during the day. He would create this problem and he'd give it to us—write out a map and say, 'Go down there and you'll find this.' He didn't know what we were going to find. But we thought it was all real. So he'd get rid of us by sending us off on adventures. But he always quit writing around 1:30, 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon and would donate the rest of the day to us because he wrote from 5:00a.m. 'til 2:00p.m. And that was pretty much it for his day. He knew that he couldn't write when he was tired so he would get off and come out and play with us and take us on adventures.
Steinbeck as a young man reading with his family.

Photo: Courtesy of The Steinbeck House / Valley Guild

4. A Love of Learning
He liked learning. I think that's where I got it from. He was an addict. His library was unbelievable. Books on every conceivable subject. Latin. Medicine. Astronomy. Geology. Horticulture. I mean, everything. It was the most amazing library I've ever seen. He was fascinated by all of it. He had the most eclectic sense of information I've ever come across. He studied languages he had no use for just for the joy of studying them, you know.
John Steinbeck

Photo: (c) William Ward Beecher, courtesy Globe Photos.  

5. Steinbeck in Modern Times
I wish he'd been alive long enough for the computer age. He would have loved that. He would have bypassed his publishers totally—you send him a buck, he'll write you a story. He would have had his own website, you know, 'Let's get around all these guys. Okay, who wants a story? Send my 5 bucks and I'll do you a story.' He would have loved that.
John Steinbeck

Photo: Courtesy of The Steinbeck House / Valley Guild  

6. To Be Remembered
As my father said, the worst that could possibly happen is to die and have no one remember or care. And that usually happens to people who have not been very involved with the world. Who don't care about the world. And my father cared desperately. I think sometimes too much. Things broke his heart.


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