John Steinbeck's Career and Books
In 1931, Steinbeck and wife Carol purchased two mallard ducks, "Aqua" and "Vita" to stock the fishpond at their Pacific Grove cottage. The ducks had to be sold later to purchase writing paper for To a God Unknown.
Carol Steinbeck wrote humorous poetry which she published under the name Amnesia Glasscock.
John Steinbeck was left-leaning in his politics: "I am basically, intrinsically and irresistibly a Democrat," he wrote in 1956, after covering the national political conventions. He knew FDR and wrote him in 1942 protesting Japanese internment; supported Adlai Stevenson because he loved his writing and speaking; and contributed ideas and passages for speeches to L.B.J. Steinbeck's wife, Elaine, had gone to University with Lady Byrd Johnson in Texas.
During World War II, John Steinbeck was a correspondent for the Herald Tribune. His columns were syndicated nationwide, except in Oklahoma, which had yet to forgive him for writing The Grapes of Wrath.
In 1953, a year or so after East of Eden was published, Steinbeck suffered the first of several small strokes during which he would trip or become disoriented. He was also treated for anxiety and manic depression by psychologist, Gertrudis Brenner, a friend of his literary agent, Elizabeth Otis.
After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy approached Steinbeck to write the official biography of the late president. John and his third wife, Elaine, had been in Warsaw, Poland when President Kennedy was shot.
According to Elaine Steinbeck, John asked her if he could take Charley, her dog, on his trip around America. Worried about John's health and his being alone on the road, Elaine responded enthusiastically: "That's wonderful. If you get in trouble, Charley can go for help. If there's danger, Charley can warn you." John responded: "Elaine, I'm taking Charley, not Lassie."
Years after her husband's death, Elaine Steinbeck went into a bookstore in Japan, asking if they carried copies of The Grapes of Wrath. The owner was puzzled, not recognizing the title. "It's by John Steinbeck," she insisted. "Oh," said the owner, finally understanding her request. "You mean The Angry Raisins."
The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas has 100,000 visitors per year and cost $11 million to build.
The Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University houses the largest Steinbeck collection in the world and publishes Steinbeck Studies with the University of Idaho Press, the only journal focusing on the writer.
Eight Americans, including John Steinbeck (1962), have won the Nobel Prize in Literature: Sinclair Lewis (1930); Eugene O'Neill (1936); Pearl Buck (1938); William Faulkner (1949); Ernest Hemingway (1954); Saul Bellow (1976); and Toni Morrison (1993).
[Source: The Oxford Companion to American Literature, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995]
The Grapes of Wrath is listed number 10 on Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th century, and the film adaptation ranks number 21 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Greatest American Movies.
At Steinbeck's funeral, Henry Fonda—who starred in the film version of The Grapes of Wrath—read poems by Petrarch, Tennyson and Robert Louis Stevenson.
The Grapes of Wrath has been translated into at least 43 languages.
Copies of The Grapes of Wrath were burned on the curb of the Salinas Public Library and on the sidewalk in Bakersfield California.
Left alone one night, Steinbeck's new puppy, Toby, ate the original manuscript of Of Mice and Men after Steinbeck was about half finished with the novel. "I was pretty mad, but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically," he wrote his agent.
Steinbeck's first novel was revised and published following a snowbound winter as the caretaker of a cabin in Lake Tahoe. During his early career, his manuscript for Tortilla Flat was rejected by numerous publishers. He lost his original manuscript for a novel he later recreated: The Red Pony, and the rewritten version differed from the one he'd lost by only seven words. Steinbeck "wrote" in his mind before committing words to paper; his manuscripts have almost no changes.
Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception."
"Don't think for a moment that you will ever be forgiven for being what they call 'different.' You won't! I still have not been forgiven. Only when I am delivered in a pine box will I be considered 'safe.' After I had written the Grapes of Wrath and it had been to a large extent read and sometimes burned, the librarians at the Salinas Public Library, who had known my folks, remarked that is was lucky my parents were dead so that they did not have to suffer this shame."
— From Steinbeck's letter to an aspiring writer in Salinas, CA