I love John Steinbeck. He’s my favorite author and a huge inspiration, not just for his work, which is excellent, but his ideals. Steinbeck wrote about the oppressed people of his time. Telling their stories in a way that draws you in and makes you care about them and their plight. I find his stories captivating, his characters full and rich. And the stories have meaning. His writing is simple and clear; he doesn’t try to make things more complex than they are, even when they’re very complex.
My favorite Steinbeck novel is In Dubious Battle. I’d highly recommend checking it out.
This passage is from Sweet Thursday, and I think it captures well the essence of his work:
“Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger knaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there’s time, the bastard Time. The end of life is now not so terribly far away – you can see it the way you see the finish line when you come into the stretch – and your mind says, “Have I worked enough? Have I eaten enough? Have I loved enough?”All of these, of course, are the foundation for man’s greatest curse, and perhaps his greatest glory. “What has my life meant so far, and what can it mean in the time left to me.” And now we’re coming to the wicked, poisoned dart: “What have I contributed to the great ledger? What am I worth” And this isn’t vanity or ambition. Men seem to be born with a large debt they can never pay no matter how hard they try. It piles up ahead of them. Man owes something to man. If he ignores the debt it poisons him, and if he tries to make payments the debt only increases, and the quality of his gift is the measure of the man (Steinbeck, 1954, p.16).
Steinbeck, J. (1954). Sweet thursday. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
I can only imagine how cool it would’ve been to sit with him, have a drink, and talk about writing and life.