It would be impossible to overstate John Steinbeck's enduring influence on American letters. Profuse with a richness of language, sly humor, and empathy for even his most flawed characters, Steinbeck's books are still widely read and deeply relevant today. The Portable Steinbeck is a grand sampling of his most important and popular works. Here are the complete novels Of Mice and Men and The Red Pony, together with self-contained excerpts from several longer novels, the text of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, a fascinating introduction by Pascal Covici, Jr., son of Steinbeck's longtime editor, and brand new introduction from leading Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw that puts Steinbeck in the context of the 21st century. John Steinbeck (1902-68), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature, is remembered as one of the greatest and best-loved American writers of the twentieth century. During the Second World War Steinbeck served as a war correspondent, his journalism later collected in Once There Was a War (1958), and he was awarded the Norwegian Cross of Freedom for his portrayal in The Moon is Down (1942) of Resistance efforts in northern Europe. His best-known works include the epics The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and East of Eden (1952), and his tragic novella Of Mice and Men (1937). John Steinbeck's complete works are published in Penguin Modern Classics.
After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Montereys paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own familys history.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.
Pascal Covici, Jr., son of John Steinbeck's long-time editor and friend at The Viking Press, received his Ph.D. from Harvard and taught at Southern Methodist University.
Susan Shillinglaw is director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.
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