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A Life in Letters (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 5 Jul 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (5 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141186291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141186290
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 5.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 156,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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When John Steinbeck was twenty-four and broke, he found a way to support himself while working at what mattered most to him-becoming a writer. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Nov 2001
Format: Paperback
This 'Life in Letters', edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten is an incredibly fascinating read, a personal insight into one of America's greatest writers who was instinctively a private man who never in his life played the 'public personality card'. For this reason all the scraps of notes, private letters and official correspondences that have been gathered here, along with some poignant notes from the editors, make this book a storehouse of information and insight, a patchwork of American history from 1923 to the late sixties through the eyes of a private man.
There are notes to friends charting the early years of obscurity and poverty, his self belief the only fuel behind him. Then troubled letters complaing of the diffulculties of the popularity that swept over him with the success of 'Of Mice and Men' and 'The Grapes of Wrath'.
It is ironic that the thing that most disturbed him about his popularity was the amount of letters he received, tragic letters pleading for money. As Steinbeck professed himself in one of his early letters he was a man who could only communicate in print hence his disturbance at receiving these pleas in his beloved form.
For a man who found telephones 'terrifying' and 'horrific', his whole life he leant on the 'letter' as a way of combatting the isolation that he felt must be the way of life for a novelist. Sometimes they are weapons to cut through crap to friends who are more familiar with his face in life magazine than his real identity, soemtimes they are encoded messages arranging liasons with lovers. There are evn several letters to The President offering his help in concern with the coming Second World War.
They reveal a man who lived to write, and these documents remain evidence of the man outside the novel's that he kept for himself and his close friends.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amy on 14 Feb 2003
Format: Paperback
I bought this book after reading "Travels With Charly" and I was not disappointed. Through these letters you get an amazingly complete picture of Steinbeck's life, this book follows him through his first publication, his many others that were to follow, right up to his death. If you like Steinbeck then you MUST read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jean Mayze on 8 Sep 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Gripping - either that or I'm very nosey. Didn't know anything about his life but now feel very close to knowing what made him tick.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hedley Mayze on 10 Sep 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have reviewed it once but eh - its worth giving 5 stars
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By biscuit on 23 Dec 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Arrived totally protected in excellent condition. It was a present for a friend and she was absolutely thrilled with it.
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