One of the best known American authors, is John Steinbeck. To learn some facts about this literary legend, scroll below.
There are few novels that talk about the working man and his struggles and hardships to make two ends meet. Out of those, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men are must reads. The author of such classics, and of other literary gems, is none other than John Steinbeck. The working man’s bard, his novels and short stories detail hate, love and hardship against the beautiful landscape of farmland America. Many of his literary works have been adapted into award-winning films and plays.
John Steinbeck Facts – Brief Look
Full Name : John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr.
Born : February 27, 1902
Birthplace : Salinas, California
Deceased : December 20, 1968 (aged 66)
Spouses : Carol Henning (divorced); Gwyndolyn “Gwyn” Conger (divorced); Elaine Scott
Children : Thomas “Thom” Myles Steinbeck; John Steinbeck IV, both with Gwyndolyn Conger
Works : 27 (16 novels, 6 non-fiction books, 5 short stories collections)
Major awards : Pulitzer Prize Fiction Award – The Grapes of Wrath (1940); Nobel Prize for Literature (1962); United States Medal Of Freedom (1964); Trustee of John F. Kennedy Memorial Library (1964)
Major Facts about John Steinbeck’s Life
- He is of German and Irish descent.
- His actual family name was “Großsteinbeck”, which his paternal grandfather shortened to “Steinbeck”, when he first came to the United States.
- The trials and woes of migrant workers and farmers, a central theme in many of his works, was inspired by his childhood days spent on a farm in a rural town.
- He applied to Stanford University, and took admission, but left mid-term to go to New York to become a writer.
- John Steinbeck worked as a tour guide and caretaker in Tahoe City, California, while trying to get his work published in 1928.
- He worked as a World War II correspondent in 1943, and was stationed in the Mediterranean. But he was injured in North Africa by an explosion and returned home in 1944.
- He traveled regularly to Soviet Union; his first trip was in 1947. At that time, he was amongst the few Westerners to visit the USSR, after the Communist revolution. One of his works A Russian Journal, is about his experiences in the Soviet Union, with photos by fellow traveler and famous photographer, Robert Capa.
- Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist and philosopher was one of John Steinbeck’s closest friends. He was a major influence on John’s writing style. They wrote The Log from the Sea together. When he died in 1948 from a car accident, John Steinbeck couldn’t make it in time to see him, and his 2nd wife Gwyn divorced him that very day. Ed’s death deeply depressed John for a year, and his writing quality suffered drastically during that time period.
- Steinbeck had a left-wing political stance and was a member of the League of American Writers. He regularly attended strikes and meetings of worker unions. He stood up for Arthur Miller, during the “House Un-American Activities Committee” trials. His visits to Russia and suspected pro-commie attitude, made him an FBI target (which they deny to this day), and he was repeatedly audited by the U.S. IRS.
- John Steinbeck was a chain smoker till his death. He liked to have late-night snacks of chili, tuna fish on crackers and red wine.
John Steinbeck Facts – Novels & Legacy
- While his first 4 novels went unnoticed, it was Tortilla Flat(1935) that propelled John Steinbeck into the public’s eye. It won the California Commonwealth Club’s Gold Medal that year.
- 2 of John Steinbeck’s “California novels” are his most famous and acclaimed works. Of Mice and Men (1937) told the tale of 2 farm workers, and their struggle to have a land of their own. The key theme was racism and prejudice towards the mentally ill, with an underlying note of lost dreams and independence. The Grapes of Wrath (1939) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940, for its gripping Great Depression story, of a working class family’s journey to a better land. Both stories are sympathetic to the ordinary man and workers, with a cynical view of capitalism. Other popular works are: East of Eden (1952),Cannery Row (1945),The Pearl (1947) and Travels with Charley (1962).
- 14 of John Steinbeck’s works, have been adapted into films and plays, out of which The Grapes of Wrath won 2 Oscars.
- At present, John Steinbeck’s novels are regarded as literary classics, and their sales are approximately 700,000 copies a year.
- John Steinbeck has his own museum, The National Steinbeck Center, located in Salinas, California which is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to a single author.
- In 2007, John Steinbeck was officially inducted into the California Hall of Fame.
John Steinbeck Quotes
“Give a critic an inch, he’ll write a play”“
“I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession“
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen“
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it“
The above facts are just a brief glimpse into the life of a dedicated writer, who shunned the limelight. Indeed, Steinbeck was said to be so focused on his work, and would let nothing interfere with it, not even relationships. That being said, his bodies of work have made a powerful print, on the ever-changing canvas of literature.