Steinbeck wrote the lengthy EAST OF EDEN saga straight through, from January to the first of November, in 1951. Every weekday, he sharpened his beloved pencils, sat down and warmed up, writing in the form of a letter to his friend and publisher, Pascal Covici. The letters he entered on the left side of the manuscript book Covici hand given him; on the right side, after clearing his mind and setting out the days' goals, he'd write his story, averaging about 1,500 words a day. JOURNAL OF A NOVEL collects those daily addresses to Covici, to whom EAST OF EDEN is dedicated.
On the one hand, JOURNAL OF A NOVEL is instructive in how to use journaling to order one's demons, to focus and forge ahead. More important, it brings the reader right up to the man, and Steinbeck is a fascinating person to know. At age 48 when he produced this, he is twice divorced, happily remarried a third time, engaged in fatherhood and transplanted to New York. He is a whittler, a tinkerer, an inventor. His credo is, why pay someone to do something badly that he can do just as badly himself. He maintains an active family, professional and social life that he chattily reports and offers some prescient observations on the Marshall Plan and MacArthur. He is not without his depressive cycles, but at this point in his life he is more understanding of them and never lets them interfere with his work. His resolve is extraordinary.
It is especially rich to read this following WORKING DAYS, the journal he kept as he wrote THE GRAPES OF WRATH. You get a sense of personal growth and a fuller sense of the middle of the 20th century through his eyes.