STEINBECK, JOHN

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STEINBECK, JOHN - A Lazy John Steinbeck Confesses: 'I had better start [work] soon or my dependents may begin howling'
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STEINBECK, JOHN - A Lazy John Steinbeck Confesses: 'I had better start [work] soon or my dependents may begin howling'

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“I have not done any of my own work for so long that I had better start soon or my dependents may begin howling”

 

STEINBECK, JOHN. (1902-1968). American author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men; winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize for Literature. ALS. 1p. Folio. N.p. January 18, 1964. To HOWARD GOSSAGE (1917-1969), an advertising executive known as the “Socrates of San Francisco.”

 

“I have your forwarded letter, I mean the letter of Holt, Reinhart and Winston to you. And I’m going to let it go at that. If they approach my agent they will be asked for simple money which is the reason one has an agent and I rather gather that this is a matter too delicate for that. We are still writing the literally hundreds of letters to the people we saw on our recent trip. I have not done any of my own work for so long that I had better start soon or my dependents may begin howling. But I do kind of like the idea of having an outlet for the small but crazy things that cross my mind. And do not forget that Field and Stream caters to a huge number of the last of the romantics in the world. Both written and read by people who are sickened by their normal lives of “quiet desperation.” They have long since given up philosophy for small experiences, however, I would rather a good fly tyer than a bad economist. I don’t know – perhaps the letter form is a very good one. Anyway, let’s see what they want and what they will do about it. We still haven’t had the rest we need. Maybe we’ll have to get along without it. Let us hear if you are in town. There are some changes with us…”

 

A native of California, Steinbeck used his first-hand knowledge of ranch and farm work to portray the social situation of migrant workers, farmers and other downtrodden groups of mid-20th century America. His Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath, recounts the Joad family’s struggle for survival when they are uprooted from their farm during the Great Depression. Steinbeck continued to write fiction mixed with social commentary including Cannery Row, East of Eden, The Winter of Our Discontent, and Travels with Charley: In Search of America.

In 1947, Steinbeck traveled through the Soviet Union working as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune,collecting his experiences in his 1948 book A Russian Journal. “In the early spring of 1963, President Kennedy asked Steinbeck to visit the Soviet Union as part of a cultural exchange program, designed to diminish the tensions of the Cold War. However, the trip had to be postponed for several months when Steinbeck woke up one morning, unable to see out of one eye. He needed an immediate operation for a detached retina, and was forced to lie in bed for weeks, blindfolded and immobilized by sandbags designed to prevent him from moving his head. In late September of that year, fully recovered at last from eye surgery, Steinbeck flew with [his wife] Elaine to Washington for a briefing at the State Department. When he met with the President, he said, ‘I hope you don’t mind if I kick up some dirt while I’m there?’ Kennedy laughed and said, ‘I expect you to,’” (John Steinbeck, Bloom). The Steinbecks were in Warsaw and decided to cut their trip short when they learned of President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. “The State Department suggested that the couple go to Vienna, where a funeral service for Kennedy was held at a cathedral, and then they returned home in the middle of December,” (ibid.). 

In our letter, Steinbeck seems to be contemplating an offer to write a column for Field & Stream magazine, which Henry Holt and Company purchased in 1951. By 1960 Holt had merged with Rinehart & Company and the John C. Winston Company to form Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

 

Beginning in 1965, Steinbeck wrote a series of letters that were published in the Long Island newspaper Newsday and its syndicates. Entitled “Letters to Alicia,” in honor of the founder’s recently deceased wife, the published letters totaled 77 over the course of four years. It was likely the kind of “outlet for the small but crazy things that cross my mind”that Steinbeck describes, with subjects ranging from Israel and stopping smoking to Vietnam and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

 

In our letter, Steinbeck references Transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau who wrote in his 1854 Walden: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

 

Written in black ink on lined yellow paper. Folded and in very good condition. Archivally matted with a photogravure of Yousuf Karsh’s famous portrait of Steinbeck.

 


This autograph will be auctioned live on May 23, 2018. For more information and to place your bid click the "BID NOW!" button above.
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