I love John Steinbeck’s writing. It is clever and intelligent. No word is a waste of time or ink or space or paper. I reckon I’ll never forget the first time I read Grapes of Wrath. I was an undergrad, in my twenties, and rarely, if ever, used profanity. But when I read the last line of the last paragraph of the last page of Grapes of Wrath, I’m pretty sure I uttered a profane word of language. If the only thing you know of Grapes of Wrath is the movie, you don’t know. If you fake-read the book, you don’t know. But if you read the book, you know precisely what I’m talking about.
Right now I’m reading ”Travels with Charley.” It is non-fiction. I only heard about this book earlier this year, and the subjects he writes about—all of them—intrigued me. I immediately bought it. Steinbeck says that he felt like he’d lost touch with America, so he spent several months driving around the country in a pickup with a camper on it, talking to people everywhere and hanging out with this dog, Charley. It is pretty good—how could it not be? One of America’s greatest authors, camping out and hanging out with his dog. Writing. Camping. Dogs. That’s good stuff, right there.
Yesterday a friend posted a letter written by Steinbeck. The letter was written to Marilyn Monroe, asking her to send an autographed picture to his nephew. Check it:
My first question when I read this was, ”did Steinbeck really write this?” Snopes says he did, although he never typed letters, preferring instead to handwrite them. And this is not his signature, his secretary typed it and signed it as well. But reliable sources say that he did write the letter. My second question is ”did Marilyn Monroe send the autographed picture?” The answer is no, she didn’t. I’m disappointed.
The biggest takeaway, for me anyway, is the way the letter is written. Good writers are good writers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Steinbeck’s grocery list makes compelling reading. To Monroe, he says, ”He has his foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other.”
After asking her for the autographed picture, he says, ”He is already your slave. This will make him mine.” Steinbeck’s nephew never knew about the letter. He doesn’t remember being infatuated with Marilyn Monroe. But that doesn’t matter.
How long has it been since you read a book by one of the great authors? There aren’t that many of them. Steinbeck is one. Clancy, Grisham, King. Those are the ones I am partial to. Who do you consider to be among the greatest authors of the last hundred years? Why do you like them?