A Life in Letters Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck was a prolific correspondent Opening with letters written during Steinbeck s early years in California and closing with an unfinished note written in Sag Harbo

  • Title: A Life in Letters
  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • ISBN: 9780141186290
  • Page: 386
  • Format: Paperback
  • Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck was a prolific correspondent Opening with letters written during Steinbeck s early years in California, and closing with an unfinished, 1968 note written in Sag Harbor, New York, this collection of around 850 letters to friends, family, his editor and a diverse circle of well known and influential public figures gives an insight into theNobel Prize winner John Steinbeck was a prolific correspondent Opening with letters written during Steinbeck s early years in California, and closing with an unfinished, 1968 note written in Sag Harbor, New York, this collection of around 850 letters to friends, family, his editor and a diverse circle of well known and influential public figures gives an insight into the raw creative processes of one of the most naturally gifted and hard working writing minds of this century.

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    One thought on “A Life in Letters”

    1. John Steinbeck was a compulsive writer. In a letter to his editor and friend Pat Covici in 1960, he recorded his excitement about a planned trip by campervan around the United States.* Steinbeck wrote: "I nearly always write - just as I nearly always breathe". The association of writing with life itself defines Steinbeck. He wrote novels, plays, screenplays, opinion pieces, political speeches, travel journalism and war reportage. And, of course, letters. From his days as a struggling writer in t [...]

    2. John Steinbeck never wrote an autobiography, but his letters probably reveal more about the writer and the man than an autobiography could have hoped to.John Steinbeck was everyman, suffered every weakness, stood up to every duty, doubted his own talent, feared the beginning of every new work, and grew with each experience.In one of his early letters he admitted his shortcomings when he was cornered by academia. He hated the idea of proper spelling and punctuation for a clean manuscript in his f [...]

    3. I've been working on this book a long time-- a year or better. I would read a little here and there. I found it fascinating and couldn't put it down at times. But, I would force myself to only read a letter or two at a time because it was just something to be savored. Last night, I decided to just go ahead and finish it-- I had 200 pages left. It's good I finished the last 200 pages so quickly. It was depressing. I mean, it's hard to finish a book you have been reading so long and enjoying so mu [...]

    4. Steinbeck never got around to writing an autobiography. He mooted it many times but the impulses never energized him to write about himself or to frame his life within a narrative structure.This massive project is the equivalent, perhaps better, than conscious self conceptualization because it catches Steinbeck at his most unguarded. Hundreds of letters were gathered just after his death to complete this project, and there are countless gems within its pages. In fact, Steinbeck was our most eleg [...]

    5. This is the kind of book you own and pick it up and read randomly every night or day. I absolutely loved it but had to give it back to the library :(. I admit that the only Steinbeck I've read is Of Mice and Menbut oh, how fascinating to read about his life in his own words! Amazing!

    6. Well this book was everything I hoped it would be. I said most of the things I wanted to say in my updates as I worked through the book. Some of Steinbeck's offhand remarks were a little questionable /dated (mostly regarding women /people of colour) but I'm not going to make a big fuss about that because the letters were written y e a r s ago and a lot of things have changed. (And they were offhand remarks. Without much context or explanation.) I'm glad I picked this up and I'm glad I took so mu [...]

    7. Recommended as a "staff pick" by the worker at the book store in Pacific Grove. The trip to Pacific Grove, learned that that little coastal town that I had never been to was really integral to the John Steinbeck story. Yes he was born and raised in Salinas. Yes, his childhood Victorian remains there and can be visited and also, in the center of town, is the imposing "International Steinbeck Center." Yet to read his letters, one sees how his life evolved around Salinas and most happily, and most [...]

    8. Well, he's in here--warts and all. This is a hugely large collection but it seldom lags. I read it in short, concentrated doses over the course of a couple of months. Very enlightening and endlessly fascinating. I learned quite a bit about the man, the writer, the process, and the world as he saw it. My greatest disappointment: So many times I wanted to hear both sides of the epistolary conversation, but that's not generally how these things work. My greatest sadness at its end: That he never fi [...]

    9. I don't just love this book because I love Steinbeck -- I think anybody who wants to be a writer should read it. From the very first letter to the last Steinbeck talks about his process of writing and how his work defines every day of his life. It's amazing and inspiring and I am so grateful that people used to write letters like this and that records of people's lives exist in this way. It makes me sad that the best modern equivalent we have is someone's blog or Facebook page. We should all be [...]

    10. This is an odd book to have on a list of personal standouts, but it's there because, quite apart from being a terrific collection of correspondence from a man who dealt with everything including his own psyche by expressing it in writing to other people, I happened to be reading it during a very bad and lonely patch and suddenly found him articulating exactly what I was feeling and going through. I can still remember the revelation and the relief of discovering someone else had been there and ma [...]

    11. There is a want to say the most perfect thing as it was one of the best reads of my life. A Five Star for sure. The fact that it is through his letters to others makes it all that much more precious. It is a very intimate and detailed portrait of a Great man. It progresses slowly and offers the feel of sitting on a train with John sitting across from you sharing his life story as you go along. His voice is strong, yet gentle and kind and does not rush to tell things, but profoundly makes his poi [...]

    12. So happy to have gotten to see a glimpse of his early life. The book went much farther but I'm stopping now. I'm no prude, it isn't that he is going to break up his marriage. It is the realization that men have their breaking point. Women and men need what that are missing and cannot be satisfied any other way, then, ey we get greedyI liked that he accepted poverty. It never got him down, not like money did. But the money just gave him the opportunity to want more. It's greed, not money or love [...]

    13. I feel as though I have been trespassing. The letters are so personal and revealing of John Steinbeck's character, I feel as though I know the author personally.

    14. I remember gasping when I opened the box and saw the book was almost two inches thick. I remember carrying it with me on a bus to Toronto. I remember after spending the days chasing down little kids that did not want to: eat, nap, or stop picking on their siblings, i would crash into my bed at night and read John's beautiful correspondences. I told a friend the language that John Steinbeck used at twenty-three writing casually to his friends will make you feel like a moron. I fell in love with h [...]

    15. This collection of letters makes for a great book. Not only does it give insight into the mind of a fantastic author, but also a fresh perspective on the world in his time. What caught me most of guard was the realization that I had only read bios from the first half of his career. I aim to rectify that now, and thanks to the authors own thoughts and opinions I know just where I want to start. This was a long read, difficult at times but satisfying. The one drawback is the decision by the editor [...]

    16. This 900-page tome contains rare insights into Steinbeck's life and his views on writing and the creative process. Well worth the time if one is interested in these subjects.The content is chiefly Steinbeck's letters; so he is the author, but editorial comments are carefully distributed throughout, along with occasional excerpts from related correspondence. This is a selection of correspondence initiated by Steinbeck, chosen and edited with loving care by Elaine, his third wife, and Robert Walls [...]

    17. The first time I read this, I could not put it down. This time I decided to savor it awhile, but I was still sad when it was over. Usually with a biography/autobiography, you only see the face the author decides to show. Through reading someone's letters to their closest friends and family members you get to see who they really were. I almost felt guilty reading about some of the more private experiences, because it was not intended for me, but it allowed me to see who John Steinbeck was more ac [...]

    18. I don't think I would have ever guessed that 800 pages of personal letters would be a fascinating read, but luckily a wise woman gave me this book for Christmas so I was compelled to read it. It turned out to be really interesting to watch the arc of a man's life from starving artist to world renowned author. Along the way he goes through the standard life changes of marriage, divorce, affairs, kids, moving, etc. He's no different than the rest of us, but because he's a great author with tremend [...]

    19. Well, it took me several months and three separate times checking it out of the library, but I finally finished this! There's something I love about reading collected letters--it lets you in to someone's life in a way that an autobiography or memoir, written in one go with one specific audience in mind, never does. And Steinbeck is so fricken cool, and he's so good at the short, intensely insightful comments. If I owned this book, it would be full of underlining and notes; since I got it from th [...]

    20. A rich, engaging and revealing self-portrait of the artist as a man, warts and all.The life John Steinbeck led -- adventurer, writer, wanderer, philosopher-- is here immortalized in Steinbeck's own characteristic prose, unpretentious and true and with each sentence rationed with just as much wisdom and humor as it might bear.Comprised only of letters, and most of those one-sided, the whole coalesces into so much more -- snippets and musings of war and injustice, weather and politics, friendships [...]

    21. A rich, engaging and revealing self-portrait of the artist as a man, worts and all.The life John Steinbeck led -- adventurer, writer, wanderer, philosopher-- is here immortalized in Steinbeck's own characteristic prose, unpretentious and true and with each sentence rationed with just as much wisdom and humor as it might bear. Comprised only of letters, and most of those one-sided, the whole coalesces into so much more - snippets and musings of war and injustice, weather and politics, friendships [...]

    22. What a gift to be able to read the thoughts of an author as he wrote them! What a fascinating life he led. I am so thankful to his wife for putting this together. As a woman, it was especially interesting to read his thoughts on women. Interesting. I am continually fascinated by why people do what they do, so being able to actually "hear" from the source was wonderful. This method of telling a story is compelling - I wish there were more of them! This quote is one of my favorites from the book: [...]

    23. Steinbeck has always seemed to be Hemmingway with a heart, and this lengthy collection of letters to friends, agents, sons, presidents (LBJ, Kennedy, FDR) wives and other family and colleagues is full of his philosophies. His letters to his sons, John and Thomas, are most touching in his wise advice, particularly those in which he discusses the Viet Nam war with deployed soldier John. The trajectory takes a reader from the hungry hearted, idealistic writer to the weary sage. The collection was c [...]

    24. Say what you may about the accessability of today's digital correspondence, but there's something about the letters of a bygone era that you simply don't see today. I was struck by this passage in a letter from Steinbeck to his friend and Manhattan neighbor, film director Elia Kazan: "And then, without announcement they (words) began assembling quietly and they slipped down my pencil to the paper My love and respect and homage for my language is coming back. Here are proud words and sharp words [...]

    25. Not only did this book enhance my relationship with the author, it enhanced my understanding of his complex characters and their universal struggles. For example, having taught Of Mice and Men well over 30 times, it wasn't until his letter about Curly's Wife that I truly understood her motivations. She has grown less static after every read; but using that letter in my classroom has been thought provoking for my students as well. Steinbeck's portrayal of women has been "talked about", but I beli [...]

    26. This is one to dip into and savor from time to time. What a spectacular glimpse into the mind of John Steinbeck. Here's two excerpts:“It is snowing again. Confound it, will the winter never be over? I crave to have the solid ground under my feet. You cannot understand that craving if you have never lived in a country where every step was unstable. It is very tiresome and tiring to walk and have the ground give way under you at every step.” and“Oh! honey–I feel sick. I guess maybe it is t [...]

    27. Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten have given a picture not only of Steinbecks life but a history of the country from 1923 thru 1968. They have published his letters to friends, family and the famous. My favorite line will be paraphrased. He could not spell, but said, plenty of people can spell and type, I can write.

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