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The Steinbeck Centennial Collection: The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, The Pearl, Cannery Row, Travels With Charley, In Search of America (Boxed Set)

The Steinbeck Centennial Collection: The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, The Pearl, Cannery Row, Travels With Charley In Search of America (Boxed Set) Description: No writer is more quintessentially American than John Steinbeck. Born in 1902 in Salinas, California, Steinbeck attended Stanford University before working at a series of mostly blue-collar jobs and embarking on his literary career. Profoundly committed to social progress, he used his writing to raise issues of labor exploitation and the plight of the common man, penning some of the greatest American novels of the twentieth century and winning such prestigious awards as the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He received the Nobel Prize in 1962, "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception." Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures. The boxed set, containing deluxe trade paperback editions with french flaps, is being released in honor of the Steinbeck centennial being celebrated throughout 2002. Penguin Putnam Inc, in partnership with the Steinbeck Foundation and the Great Books Foundation is sponsoring numerous events throught the year.


Travels With Charley : In Search of America

I read Travels with Charley after reading most of Steinbeck's novels. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately read it again. This work lets the reader get a glimpse of John Steinbeck, the American and the man. I put American first because Steinbeck, I believe, was one of those men who loved his country so much, that he seemed to consider himself an American above all else. I enjoy creative works by individuals who have an unquestionable love for something. I believe Steinbeck was such a person. In the early '60's he is dismayed (but loves) America, and so sets out to rediscover her. Since he is a shy person, he takes his dog, a large black poodle named Charlie, with him to help break the ice with people as he travels around the country. What follows is an account of the places he goes and the people he meets, but more importantly to me as a huge Steinbeck fan, is the uncovering of John Steinbeck, the man. If you want a vicarious trip into '60's America or want to know John Steinbeck, you'll love this little book. I still love it !




Of Mice and Men

Imagine lying in the grass with your head facing the stars, a stream trickling by. You can hear the stream seem to lull you in, and you feel the pleasures of a hot, crackling fire, being managed by someone else. Sounds perfect, right? Well, for George, in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, it is anything but perfect. George is taking care of a man named Lennie, who is mentally ill, and dangerous at that. After grabbing a girl and not letting go, Lennie, under George's strict supervision, is helped to flee. They find a job at a farm in the country, and things are going well- at least, that's how it seems. This book combines distinguished writing with a remarkable plot, summing up to a great, touching ending. At the beginning of each chapter Steinbeck describes the setting of the chapter. This technique is fine for some, but bad for others. This style forces the reader who isn't interested yet to read about the place that is being described. If Steinbeck waited a while to explain these things, readers would really be interested in what they were reading (whereas in the beginning of the chapter this isn't so). However, some people disagree and like to have lots of description so they know exactly what they're reading about. A perfect example is the beginning of the second chapter. After explaining the setting of this room in great detail, Steinbeck pauses. Then he goes on to say, "The door opened and a tall, stoop-shouldered old man came in. He was dressed in blue jeans and he carried a big push-broom in his left hand. Behind him came George, and behind George, Lennie." But after the beginning of each chapter, description dwindles to a perfect amount. The book really flows with dialogue and description combined. The dialogue is used in such a critical way, and Steinbeck really took advantage of the fact that he could express whatever he wanted through dialogue. This writing style also makes the readers able to suspect things, rather than to be told things. Readers are left to figure it out for themselves, making it more believable as well. At the end of the book, it is hard to understand what is happening until you read the dialogue that followed the action. This was a great aspect of the book. Another clever thing Steinbeck established in the beginning of the book was a theme of a farm with rabbits, in which George and Lennie are to live off the fatta the lan'. It is shown very clearly (also through dialogue) that this is Lennie's dream, what he lives for. It also gives the reader hope, which makes people want to continue reading- they want to find out if this dream or wish ever happens. It is a sign of a good author that he can convey emotions so strongly. One of the most touching books, Of Mice and Men stands out. Steinbeck was gutsy in his choices as a writer, and because of that, the ending doesn't make the reader necessarily feel sad, the reader feels moved. Something Steinbeck does a good job of is making readers change their mind so many times about what they think of Lennie, and if they feel sorry for George, admire George, hope Lennie dies for George's sake... the list goes on. This was one of the best classic novels. It is a good book to read if you're looking for something that can draw you in in a short time, and it is hard to put down once you start. Of Mice and Men is definitely a classic worth reading- and re-reading. It is amazing that Steinbeck was able to write this story with such a compellng writing style, gripping plot, and high level of emotion in so few pages.


.John Steinbeck : The Grapes of Wrath and Other Writings 1938-1941 : The Grapes of Wrath, The Harvest Gypsies, The Long Valley, The Log from the Sea of Cortez (Library of America)


This second volume in the authoritative edition of John Steinbeck (with "Novels and Stories, 1932-1937") features the Pulitzer-Prize winning masterpiece "The Grapes of Wrath" in a newly corrected text based on the author's manuscript, typescript, and galleys. "The Harvest Gypsies is Steinbeck's investigative report on migrant farm workers which laid the groundwork for the novel. "The Long Valley" displays his brilliance with short stories, including such classics as "The Chrysanthemums," "Flight," and "The Red Pony." "The Log from the Sea of Cortez," about a marine biological expedition, combines science, philosophy, and adventure.

Cannery Row

I was pretty much blown away by this book. Unfortunately, I'm coming late to discovering Steinbeck. I read "Travels With Charley" early on and more recently "Tortilla Flat." Of his fictional works "Cannery Row" has far been my favorite to date. From "Tortilla Flat" Steinbeck has come a long way. "Cannery Row" is more cohesive of the two; it's storyline being more linear. It still reads like a series of vignettes but each leading to the next to put together the tale, and what a tale it is. It hangs on to a thread of realism and captures a greater sense of what it is to be human, the interrelatedness of a community, despair, and hope, magnifying all of humanity within a microcosm of Cannery Row. Again, there is a characteristic band of Monterey merry men, but this time there is the offset of people with jobs and responsibilities. Doc, who is based on Steinbeck's great friend Edward Ricketts, leader of the Oceanic Biological Institute, is an endearing character. Steinbeck paints a portrait of someone you would want to meet, instantly respect, and be lifelong acquaintances. There is a strong sense of familiarity here. Chapter 2 is some of the finest writing I've come across. A beautiful two-page poem. "Mack and the boys, spinning in their orbits. They are the Virtues, the Graces, the Beauties of the hurried mangled craziness of Monterey and the cosmic Monterey where men in fear and hunger destroy their stomachs in the fight to secure certain food, where men hungering for love destroy everything lovable about them." Truly elevated writing with a sense of melancholy that presents itself as part of life, hanging in the balance with the parties, grocery stores, tidal pools, whorehouses. Great book. Now on to Tom Joad.


The Grapes of Wrath [UNABRIDGED]

When The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939, America, still recovering from the Great Depression, came face to face with itself in a startling, lyrical way. John Steinbeck gathered the country's recent shames and devastations--the Hoovervilles, the desperate, dirty children, the dissolution of kin, the oppressive labor conditions--in the Joad family. Then he set them down on a westward-running road, local dialect and all, for the world to acknowledge. For this marvel of observation and perception, he won the Pulitzer in 1940. The prize must have come, at least in part, because alongside the poverty and dispossession, Steinbeck chronicled the Joads' refusal, even inability, to let go of their faltering but unmistakable hold on human dignity. Witnessing their degeneration from Oklahoma farmers to a diminished band of migrant workers is nothing short of crushing. The Joads lose family members to death and cowardice as they go, and are challenged by everything from weather to the authorities to the California locals themselves. As Tom Joad puts it: "They're a-workin' away at our spirits. They're a tryin' to make us cringe an' crawl like a whipped bitch. They tryin' to break us. Why, Jesus Christ, Ma, they comes a time when the on'y way a fella can keep his decency is by takin' a sock at a cop. They're workin' on our decency." The point, though, is that decency remains intact, if somewhat battle-scarred, and this, as much as the depression and the plight of the "Okies," is a part of American history. When the California of their dreams proves to be less than edenic, Ma tells Tom: "You got to have patience. Why, Tom--us people will go on livin' when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we're the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people--we go on." It's almost as if she's talking about the very novel she inhabits, for Steinbeck's characters, more than most literary creations, do go on. They continue, now as much as ever, to illuminate and humanize an era for generations of readers who, thankfully, have no experiential point of reference for understanding the depression. The book's final, haunting image of Rose of Sharon--Rosasharn, as they call her--the eldest Joad daughter, forcing the milk intended for her stillborn baby onto a starving stranger, is a lesson on the grandest scale. "'You got to,'" she says, simply. And so do we all.


East of Eden (20th Century Classics)

Novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1952. It is a symbolic recreation of the biblical story of Cain and Abel woven into a history of California's Salinas Valley. With East of Eden Steinbeck hoped to reclaim his standing as a major novelist, but his broad depictions of good and evil come at the expense of subtlety in characterization and plot and it was not a critical success. Spanning the period between the American Civil War and the end of World War I, the novel highlights the conflicts of two generations of brothers; the first being the kind, gentle Adam Trask and his wild brother Charles. Adam eventually marries Cathy Ames, an evil, manipulative, and beautiful prostitute; she betrays him, joining Charles on the very night of their wedding. Later, after giving birth to twin boys, she shoots Adam and leaves him to return to her former profession. In the shadow of this heritage Adam raises their sons, the fair-haired, winning, yet intractable Aron, and the dark, clever Caleb. This second generation of brothers vie for their father's approval. In bitterness Caleb reveals the truth about their mother to Aron, who then joins the army and is killed in France.



America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction

America and Americans is a representative, noteworthy collection of John Steinbeck's journalism, including the title piece, actually his last book. Editors Susan Shillinglaw and Jackson J. Benson, who provide an able, informative introduction as well as succinct sectional prefaces, have wisely organized the book thematically rather than chronologically. There are travel pieces (including the hilariously bittersweet "The Making of a New Yorker"); political reflections (including three articles on California migrant workers, written before the last draft of The Grapes of Wrath, and a short screed on the spiritual oppression of communism, in which he writes, "Communists of our day are about as revolutionary as the Daughters of the American Revolution"); correspondence from both World War II and Vietnam; and snapshots of Ernie Pyle, Henry Fonda, and other friends. Not all the pieces are timeless, but most are sprinkled with bright gems--"Writers are taken seriously in Italy and are accorded the same respect that Lana Turner's legs get in our country"--and everywhere girded by deep concern and anger about social injustices.


The Log from the Sea of Cortez (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)

I have mixed feelings about this book. I was an oceonographer wannabe, so I'm familiar with many of the specimens described in the collection process. But without a visual guide, I think it may be difficult for some readers. It made me want to see the full 600 page text, which was the scientific (not narrative) portion of the Sea of Cortez. I liked Steinbeck's intimate stories within the narrative - the stories of Tiny and Sparky, Tony and Tex, and the villagers and fishermen of Mexico. I tend to dislike the philosophical discussions - tho the intro says that the inner workings of Steinbeck's mind has been revealed. Many of the societal attitudes seem outdated. It's a definite period piece - the gringos visiting the Mexicans and Indios during a time when few gringos came into their isolated world. When Baja California was an unspoiled habitat for marine life, instead of a resort/sportsman area. A time when you could freely collect marine specimens without desimating the species. What a great adventure, though, to make many discoveries (not of unusual species) but of the abundance and variety of species - and to record them for other science lovers. The book jumps in tone, emphasis, and style - showing the variety of Steinbeck's interests, strengths and weaknesses, and makes you want to go back to his classic fiction -where he is strongest in telling the stories of common man. A good read!


The Pearl

I believe The Pearl encapsulates Steinbeck's strengths in its short but rich pages. The structure is remarkably strong in that it delivers compelling characters and events in its condensed space. The symbolism is ever present and, having read this book many times, ever revealing. Steinbeck weaves man and animal, hunter and prey into a suspenseful morality tale. As an author his works were significant in social commentary, particularly in championing the common man while lamenting his lot in a frenzied, materialistic world. The main characters in The Pearl are similarly portrayed and, despite the miles and time apart from them, I feel very conected to their struggle to balance what is good and pure in love and family with what is desired and sought after, sometimes mistakenly in their name.





Steinbeck's the Grapes of Wrath (Cliffs Notes)

Some books are hard to follow. "The Grapes of Wrath" is long, but entrancing. Finishing it more a matter of time than struggle. Granted, Steinbeck's description of the immense dust overtaking Oklahoma might seem overdone, but it sets the environment from which Tom Joad is leaving. It puts the grape fields in perspective. Read "Cliff Notes" if you're in a jam, and need to get the gist of the real book in your system. However, if you have the time, read all 600+ pages of Steinbeck's magnificent story. Be engaged by Joad and his tender family as they plod across America and into dire and complex California grape fields.




The Long Valley (Twentieth Century Classics Series)

This collection of stories, all of them written in the early 1930s, includes several classic Steinbeck tales. The most famous is, of course, "The Red Pony"; all four "parts" appear here and comprise a third of the volume. Some readers mistakenly identify these four tales as a novella, but the stories, while interrelated, are self-contained. (Only the first part is about a red pony; it is also the best of the lot. The fourth part, "The Leader of the People," was added to "The Red Pony" years later, when the four stories were collected into a separate edition.) While often taught in schools, these stories were never meant for very young children--in spite of the title and the subject matter. Concerning a young boy and his relationship with his parents and a wise ranch hand, they are about aging and dying, growing up and growing old, and learning that one's elders are not invincible. But there are other treasures in "The Long Valley" as well; what is unique about a few of the stories is that, for once, Steinbeck creates distinctive female characters. My favorites are "The Chrysanthemums," about a young woman's dashed dreams; "The White Quail," about a husband's betrayal of his wife's trust; "Flight," about a hunted fugitive; and "The Vigilante," about a lynching--told from the point of view of one of the perpetrators. Far less impressive are "The Snake," which aspires to Poe but is mostly unpleasant, and "The Raid," one of Steinbeck's many (and least inspiring) narratives concerning labor conflict. The odd story in this collection is "Saint Katy the Virgin," a satirical fable set in the Middle Ages about a demonic pig that converts to Catholicism. It's a hoot.


Sweet Thursday (Twentieth-Century Classics)

I had read Cannery Row several times before I got my hands on a copy of Sweet Thursday. I was skeptical that a sequel could possibly live up the epic greatness Cannery Row and I was worried that Steinbeck would somehow ruin the wonderful characters of the "palace flophouse." Sweet Thursday is every bit as magical as Cannery Row. The new characters are beautiful and the old characters are so expertly polished that they shine brighter than ever. The book picks up the lives of the Row characters a few years after the events of the first book. Steinbeck masterfully chronicles the rise of an unlikely hero as a frightening crisis threatens the Western Biological Supply. The only mistake I ever made was seeing the movie based on Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. It was horrible - a crime against Steinbeck.




John Steinbeck, Writer: A Biography

I just finished this one this morning, sticking around in bed for an extra twenty minutes to polish off to last chapter or so. What a surprise it is to find you're at page 1,038 and never even tired of the length along the way. It's a tale of an engaging life told in engaging language that grabs your attention and keeps you thoroughly engaged to the end. What a life John Steinbeck had, and what a way to tell it by Jackson J. Benson. Benson must have started with near a mountain of research to draw together such a complete picture of Steinbeck's life. It's a task that could have caught lesser writer's struggling much like Steinbeck did with the translation of Morte D' Arthur in an unfinishable Pandora's Box of a book. But Benson sees it through with apparent love for the writer and care for the detail. In such a private life of a fiercely guarded private man, it's amazing that Benson adds such a degree of minute detail along the way. You realize some of the details have to be largely anecdotal and especially anecdotes loyally told carry a good degree of fiction with them. That's just what makes this book so magical and passionate...a life well told and lived carries a large freedom of fiction along with it. I think that John Steinbeck would have had it no other way. Actually, he probably would have hidden away from anybody trying to capture his life in words. It would have been a horror for him, but thank God we have this book from Jackson and are left with Steinbeck's writing. I made the Haj to Salinas on Steinbeck's 100th Birthday and heard John Jr. speak about his Father and had a little birthday cake to boot. I played a game with the neighbor's kid as he held Benson's paperweight of a book and ran from me as I chased him down. I responded with horror as he launched it flying over the fence landing splayed on the ground. The adult in me told him, we don't throw rocks and we especially don't throw books. But as I wiped the dirt and dust off of the book and later finished the last fifty pages with grass stains burned into the leaves of pages...I was glad. A little California earth to go with Steinbeck. A book well worn is so more sacred than one pristine. I should have thanked the neighbor's son for the unintended connection. Rocks against the earth will never grow, but books picked up from the that's a different thing. For all those Steinbeck-philes don't miss this book. For those who have hardly heard of Steinbeck, there's a good deal of life in this book. I urge you not to miss out on that life. Now I'm off to chase my neighbor's son around the back yard as he carries "The Grapes of Wrath" to the end zone...spike and score.


The Rehearsal

In Willis's second novel (after Some Things That Stay), theater director Will Bartlett has invited the actors in his resident theater company to his family's small upstate New York farm, before the opening of their summer production of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. It's 1971, resident companies are struggling financially and the theater is changing artistically under the influence of new ideas like Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty. In his late 50s, Will is not avant-garde enough for nude rehearsals, but he does want to try something new. So he asks his cast to "live" their characters while offstage as well as on. The pressures created by this effort, together with the strains imposed by communal life in a small house and decrepit barn, exacerbate problems in the Bartlett family. Will's wife, Myra, a musical comedy actress who retired after a severe bout of stage fright that followed marriage and motherhood, is reexamining her life, while his daughter, Beth, is maneuvering to get her first role. The addition of the sexual and professional tensions that inevitably plague actors adds fuel to the fire. The present-tense narrative creates a sense of urgency, but the potentially combustible ingredients don't come together to create an explosion; the few sparks struck ultimately fizzle. Although dramatically unsatisfying, this is true to life, as are the portrayals of Will and the various members of his personal and professional families, especially the angry and confused 16-year old Beth.


The Moon Is Down (Twentieth-Century Classics)

The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck is a classic novel dealing with the emotional effects of war. Set during World War II, we are introduced to the "conquerers" and the town that has been sieged. A once docile, peaceful people, the villagers are quickly changed into a people full of hatred and malice. The Moon Is Down tells us how war can change people for the good, and for the worse. The townspeople become consumed with rage, and want nothing more than to free themselves by killing their conquerers. The conquerers, who were once strictly militant in every move and thought, become affected by what they have done to the once peaceful villagers, and gain more compassion througout the novel. The Moon Is Down is facepaced, and not long length-wise. Contrary to other Steinbeck works, this book is written almost in "play" style. It moves quickly with much of the story being dialog. It reads increadible fast and is very entertaining, as well as thought provoking. It forced the reader to sympathize with the conquerers and become emotionally attached with both the protagonists and the antagonists. This book forces the reader to delve deaper into their own minds and think more deeply about war, and it's effects on all of humanity.


A Russian Journal (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)

This wonderfully written book takes you through post-war Soviet Union, to farms and cities devastated by war but struggling to return to normalcy. Robert Capa not only adds wonderful photos but his role in this story is both funny and illuminating for any Capa fans. Written in the late 1940s, the story provides us with a very human side of the Russian people. The openness and friendliness of everyone they meet contrasts with the paranoia and hatred so present in the US at that time. I read this as both a photographer and one who was recently in Russia and the insight provided was very enjoyable and educating. Capa's mannerisms and method of photography allowed his subjects to open up and feel comfortable in his lens -- not an easy thing since so many of the people had lost family and suffered terribly. Steinbeck's writing is honest, funny and his skills as a non-partisan reporter really shine in this work.




Tortilla Flat

John McDonough's reading of this marvelous Steinbeck novel is not without its flaws, but they don't much diminish the charm of the performance. Tortilla Flat follows the exploits of Danny and his paisano friends, who live in squalid poverty and blissful idleness near Monterey, California. McDonough does not overact, and his gentle touch is well suited to the story. His accents and voices, however, are strangely inconsistent, as if he eventually tires of giving each character his own. Nonetheless, McDonough makes it work by bringing out the novel's humor and poignancy in all the right places.



The Other Side of Eden : Life With John Steinbeck

Addiction, abuse, and alcoholism all figured in the life of Nobel laureate John Steinbeck, and John Steinbeck IV (1946-91) followed in his father's footsteps. Not as a soldier in Vietnam in 1966--the accident of birth kept his father out of combat in both big wars--but as a writer who returned to Vietnam in '68 as a freelance journalist--experience that accounts for some of this memoir's most interesting chapters. He won acclaim for a Vietnam memoir, In Touch, as well as an Emmy for his work on the CBS documentary, The World of Charlie Company. And he became alcoholic and otherwise addicted, just like his parents. He kept mum about the family secrets almost to the end, starting to acknowledge them only shortly before his death following back surgery. His widow, Nancy, completes this insightful account of a chaotic upbringing and its consequences, rounding it out with her memories of life with him and her thoughts on the truncated journey with him toward a new life.



A Winter of our Discontent

This novel was one of Steinbeck's last, and delves heavily into themes of disillusionment with one's country and one's lot in life. While The Grapes of Wrath was arguably a more heartbreaking book, in that novel, at least the characters still cared and still maintained ideals. In this book, the character of Ethan Allen Hawley has lost hope for the future and lapsed into a great abyss of depression and despair. In this way, Steinbeck seemed much more Hemingway-esque than he had in his earlier, and in my opinion greater, works of fiction.

While I did not enjoy this book as much as earlier works like The Grapes of Wrath, there is still much to appreciate in this tale about an American patriarch who has lost his way. Ethan lives in New Baytown, a fictional New England town, with his dissatisfied, materialistic wife, daughter and son. Both children are writing an essay regarding why they love America, though only the son is able to finish it--and he does so by plagiarizing speeches by Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln. Ethan's family was once well-to-do but lost their fortune with speculative investments after WWII, relegating Ethan to working as a grocery clerk at the store he once owned. His boss is an illegal Italian immigrant who encourages Ethan to be less generous with the customers.

New Baytown itself is a major character in the novel. The entire town operates within a realm of corruption. Yet things have operated that way so long that no one remembers it is corrupt anymore. All of the major and minor characters are seriously flawed--Margie Young-Hunt, the town seductress and witch; Mr. Baker, the greedy banker; Joey Morphy, the bank clerk who describes the perfect way to rob a bank. Gradually Ethan realizes that the only way to be happy is to get money. The only way to get money is to bend his own moral standards. And once he bends his moral standards, he is more miserable than ever.

This short novel is delightfully written, with superb dialogue and clever references to religion and American history. It is basically an indictment of America's materialistic lifestyle as it entered the 1960's. I enjoyed it very much on that level, but did not feel it withstood comparison to Steinbeck's earlier, more emotional novels. This story was more allegory than novel, which is fine--but which one should keep in mind while reading this little gem. --This text refers to the Paperback edition



John Steinbeck : Novels and Stories, 1932-1937 : The Pastures of Heaven / To a God Unknown / Tortilla Flat / In Dubious Battle / Of Mice and Men (Library of America) by John Steinbeck, Robert DeMott, Elaine A. Steinbeck

For the first time in one volume, the early California writings of one of America's greatest novelists have been collected, including the seminal works, Tortilla Flat and Of Mice and Men, tracing his early growth and evolution. 20,000 first printing.



Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck's travels feel timeless. He has the skill to grasp the experience of yesterday and make it seem like it is today. It was with extreme pleasure to read of him simply packing up for his trip in his very new, custom made camper that he named Rocinate. He delights in explaining the intricate features of the camper, running water, stove, bedding and water tank. As he kisses his wife goodbye, he and his poodle, Charley take off to see the United States and the people that live there.

Of extreme delight is getting to know the moods and habits of Charley. Before long, you feel as if he is sitting beside you, fftting you to go out. He was an attraction, the ice breaker that brought many of the characters Steinbeck writes about to life. As Steinbeck moves from state to state, he relishes his friendship with this dog. He writes down his memories and feelings and these beautiful, funny, timeless reminisces feel just as fresh today as they were yesterday.



The Wayward Bus (Twentieth Century Classics Series) by John Steinbeck

I know that the Grapes of Wrath is Steinbeck's most lauded work, but in my opinion The Wayward Bus is by far the superior writing. In this book, Steinbeck displays his understanding of the many types of personalities. The star-struck waitress, the dancer pulsating with sensuality, the repressed businessman, the proper but passionless wife. Grapes of Wrath may have dealt with more popular social issues - the repression of a whole class of people, but The Wayward Bus deals with universal issues - the hunger inside of us to be important. Several of the reviews stated that they didn't like the characters. If you show the complete picture of each and every one of us, we all have our flaws and strengths. I didn't dislike any of the characters. To me they were no better and no worse than the majority of people I meet. They were just real people. Steinbeck's power is in his ability to see reality rather than the idealized version of human nature which most of us accept. We do so because it is easier to make sense out of this world if we can readily define and segregate the good from the not-so good. Seeing people as a mixture of good and evil demands from us a much more complex picture of the purpose of life.



Once There Was a War (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) by John Steinbeck

This compilation of reports from England, North Africa and Italy in 1943 provides excellent descriptions of what life was really like during the war. There are very few recounts of battles and strategy. But there are stories of the people that were involved in the war - the souls behind the uniforms. Steinbeck does an excellent job showing that the war wasn't just made up of nameless soldiers - it was made up of people, each with personalities, each scared, each struggling to deal with life in such hostile conditions.

Aside from the historical value, these posts are amazingly well written. I have to admit I was reasonably surprised by the quality of writing. Steinbeck is an accomplished author, and on that I think everyone can agree, but to be able to put pieces like this together in London during the Blitz, in the deserts of North Africa or on a troop ship heading into the European theater is amazing to me.

Bottom line: I've got a new respect for John Steinbeck and an added appreciation and understanding of WWII. For both of those, I am grateful for having read this book.



The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

Book of four related stories by John Steinbeck, published in 1937 and expanded in 1945. The stories chronicle a young boy's maturation. In "The Gift," the best-known story, young Jody Tiflin is given a red pony by his rancher father. Under ranch hand Billy Buck's guidance, Jody learns to care for and train his pony, which he names Gabilan. Caught in an unexpected rain, Gabilan catches a cold and, despite Billy Buck's ministrations, dies. Jody watches the buzzards alight on the body of his beloved pony, and, distraught at his inability to control events, he kills one of them. The other stories in The Red Pony are "The Great Mountains," "The Promise," and "The Leader of the People," in which Jody develops empathy and also learns from his grandfather about "westering," the migration of people to new places and the urge for new experiences.



A Russian Journal by John Steinbeck

After the Iron Curtain was established following World War II, Steinbeck, along with photographer Bob Capa, ventured into the Soviet Union on behalf of the New York Herald Tribune. This 1948 volume collects the full run of his reports with numerous pictures. Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.