Sunday 27 February 2011

John Steinbeck, 109 Today

How many of our earliest literary enthusiasms stay with us? I think very few in my case (Samuel Beckett among the handful). One early passion that definitely fell by the wayside was my love of John Steinbeck - born on this day in 1902. Fired by a first reading of Of Mice and Men at about the age of 14, I sought out all I could find of Steinbeck, reading my way through The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Cannery Row, In Dubious Battle, Sweet Thursday and the rest, my enthusiasm rarely flagging. I still remember the thrill of finding Travels with Charley in a small display of paperbacks in a back-street newsagent's shop... Even early in my period of Steinbeck mania, I never felt the urge (as I did with others) to reread and reread - a suggestion that the passion was shallow-rooted - and certainly, as the years passed, I never thought of revisiting Steinbeck. I doubt I would find much to my taste if I did (perhaps Of Mice and Men stands up - but the longer works, would they be worth the effort?). But I like to think that everything I've read has somehow fed into something somewhere in me, hopefully to good effect, and that nothing in the complex ecosystem of our reading selves goes entirely to waste. So hats off to the birthday boy - he gave me a lot of pleasure and excitement. At the time.


  1. I've always been a big Steinbeck fan, but only of his shorter works, travels with charly, cannery row, the log from the sea of cortez, the pearl and OMAM, all of which I've re-read numerous times. The thing I like about his writing is the spareness of the sentences. Everything seems calm and measured

  2. I'm a fan of Tortilla Flat, which I find very funny and clever (being a parody of saints' lives or so I assume) - though I learn it's not well thought of by the correct.

  3. Interesting - perhaps I should look again at Steinbeck...