John Steinbeck Still Speaks
“The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.” — Robt. Burns
When I was younger I went through a John Steinbeck phase in which I read everything I could put my hands on by the 1962 Nobel Prize-winning author whose memorable stories painted life-long images in my head. The Grapes of Wrath enabled a whole generation to feel the anguish of the dust bowl.
In fact, as we sit quarantined and in lockdown, many pundits are telling us that the unprecedented unemployment, business failures and loan defaults will produce an even greater depression today that when this country was rocked by the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Whether this be true or not, we do know that this kind of economic upheaval hurts the poor and the common man more than the rest. For this reason I turned to Steinbeck for insights to chew on this mid-week day.
Steinbeck wrote 33 books, 16 of which were novels, and two volumes of short stories. His Grapes of Wrath has sold more than 14 million copies as of this writing.
I have cousins who grew up on the West Coast, one of whom ended up in Monterey. When we visited him a dozen years back we saw a memorial to John Steinbeck there in the vicinity of the Monterey Bay Aquarium near the waterfront.
Here are some excerpts from his books and letters:
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.”
“In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.”
“Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not know he has any other name. He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people.” (Reference to Woody Guthrie)
“No one wants advice, only corroboration.” — The Winter of Our Discontent
“To be alive at all is to have scars. “— The Winter of Our Discontent
“A little hope, even hopeless hope, never hurt anybody.”
“Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.”
“Time is the only critic without ambition.”
“A question is a trap, and an answer your foot in it.”
“There are no ugly questions except those clothed in condescension.”
— East of Eden