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Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters [Kindle Edition]

John Steinbeck
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Each working day from January 29 to November 1, 1951, John Steinbeck warmed up to the work of writing East of Eden with a letter to the late Pascal Covici, his friend and editor at The Viking Press. It was his way, he said, of "getting my mental arm in shape to pitch a good game."

Steinbeck's letters were written on the left-hand pages of a notebook in which the facing pages would be filled with the test of East of Eden. They touched on many subjects—story arguments, trial flights of worknamship, concern for his sons.

Part autobiography, part writer's workshop, these letters offer an illuminating perspective on Steinbeck's creative process, and a fascinating glimpse of Steinbeck, the private man.

Product Description

About the Author

Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck is remembered as one of the greatest and best-loved American writers of the twentieth century. His complete works are available in Penguin Modern Classics.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 297 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (1 Dec. 1990)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001QL5MSC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #476,488 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

John Steinbeck is perhaps best known for Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, which led to his Nobel Prize for Literature award in 1962. Born in Salinas, California in 1902, Steinbeck grew up in a fertile agricultural valley about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast: both valley and coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a labourer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929). 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 Monterey's paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California labouring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

Being partly based on his own experiences as a travelling worker, Steinbeck originally wanted Of Mice and Men to be titled 'Something That Happened'. The book explores themes of powerlessness, loneliness and empathy and received the greatest positive critical response of any of his works up to that point. It has achieved success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films.

Steinbeck's compassionate depiction of the poor in The Grapes of Wrath helped the book become an immediate publishing phenomenon, discussed on a national scale and becoming an instant bestseller. The book was described by the Nobel Prize committee as a "great work" and stated that it was one of the main reasons for granting Steinbeck the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

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)East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family's 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).

He died in 1968, having won a Nobel Prize in 1962.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book provides great insight into the mind of John Steinbeck as he wrote "East of Eden". It is told by way of letters Steinbeck wrote to his editor when he was writing the book, describing various elements of his life at the time as well as the ups and downs he encountered when penning "East of Eden".

It is not specifically a book about writing (such as Stephen King's "On Writing" is) but it is nevertheless instructional if you are an aspiring novelist. That's not to say you have to be a writer to enjoy it - anyone interested in Steinbeck will find this book interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into a great writer 26 Mar. 2014
By Emma B
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
East of Eden is my favourite Steinbeck novel, and this gives a fantastic insight into the writer's life while he was writing it, including family distractions, his worries and frustrations with the writing process, and treats such as possible titles the author was considering before East of Eden,
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4.0 out of 5 stars East of Eden Letters 25 Aug. 2012
By jbroad
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is interesting to have further insights into Steinbeck's thinking while he was writing 'East of Eden'; the Journal is a good thing to read before you try to read East of Eden for a second time.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See inside a writer's mind 11 Oct. 2011
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are a writer, wannabe or published, get it - it is a fascinating document of Steinbeck's daily routine while writing East of Eden.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
66 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended 7 Mar. 2001
By C. Ebeling - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
Highly recommended.
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not revealing 20 Sept. 2001
By Kenneth Blum - Published on
I am a major John Steinbeck fan, and rate Mr. Steinbeck as the finest writer in American history. However, I am lukewarm about "Journal of a Novel," Steinbeck's daily account of the trials of writing his most difficult work, East of Eden, from January through October, 1951.
I was hoping that the journal, addressed to his good friend and editor Pascal Covici, would reveal much about Steinbeck the writer and the man.
However, there is very little of the former except repeated brief accounts of the self-doubt and ups and downs a writer endures while creating a long and complex piece of literature. There are only hints of the technical or mental processes involved his writing.
And the same applies to autobiographical information about this period of his life. There is a lot of the trivia of daily life without the real depth of observation and feeling that is shown in other books of his letters.
He was a master at letter writing, and to find and know the real John Steinbeck, I strongly suggest "Steinbeck: A Life in Letters" edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Writer at Work 3 Aug. 2000
By Samuel W. Harnish, Jr. - Published on
The things that writers do to get to the point where they can write good fiction are almost as interesting as the novels they create.
If you have ever wondered what the dedication in East of Eden means (or what Steinbeck originally called the book) this is the place to find it. Peek into the relationship between a great writer and his publisher. Marvel as he discusses the problems that come up from day to day during the process of writing (including finding the right kind of pencil).
This book provides a unique insight into what it must be like to live with genius.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Insight into Workings of a Writer's Mind 28 Sept. 2003
By Larry Triesman - Published on
This book gives the reader a unique insight into the day-to-day thoughts and workings of a writer's mind. Steinbeck may not be to everyone's taste, but he can't be denied his place in American literary history. It's difficult to imagine any writer being so honest about the problems he faced in trying to produce a book of this kind - an effort that is recorded every step of the way by this determined but troubled writer
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Fans and Fiction-Writers 15 Oct. 2011
By Eric Wilson - Published on
I've been a long-time fan of Steinbeck's writing. From thin volumes like "The Red Pony" and "Of Mice and Men" to more substantial novels such as "The Grapes of Wrath," Steinbeck has always impressed me with his muscular prose, his attention to human characteristics, and his fearlessness--as opposed to Hemingway's avoidance--of emotion. What a treasure then to read through the letters he wrote to his friend and editor while working on his greatest novel, by his own reckoning, "East of Eden."

Starting in the days leading up to the actual writing, Steinbeck shares his hopes for his book, his concerns for his children, and his thoughts about critics. As he gets deeper into the writing process, we see how the working title changed from "The Salinas Valley" to "My Valley" to "East of Eden." We smile as he shares his newest inventions and talks about how inventors are seen as crazy--until they make some money at it. We also get insights into the naming of his characters, the themes stemming from the book of Genesis and the story of Cain and Abel, and the ways his own family history overlapped those biblical stories.

All in all, it's a highly readable and enjoyable collection for those who are Steinbeck fans, particularly those like me who love "East of Eden," and also for those who like to write fiction. He gives many peeks at the creative mindset and the practical matters that are part of the writing process. I laughed, smiled, dog-eared pages, and turned nostalgic as I read through this gem of a journal.
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