Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hanging Out with Steinbeck

This post was scheduled to be about the lost month of December, for me a complete blur. However, today I really dug into Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, given to me for Christmas by my lovely daughter, so the nature and tone of today’s post has altered greatly, thank goodness.

If there were one author I’d most love to emulate it would be John Steinbeck. I find hope, for myself and all humanity, in his writing. I confess I cannot read Hemingway because of his generally bleak, and inevitably (at least for me) depressing storylines. Steinbeck, on the other hand, views life and people with a realistic eye, but not a jaundiced one. For most downsides there is an equal and companionable upside in the nature of man. We are not destined to anything, but rather hold the keys to our salvation in our own hands, according to my interpretation of Steinbeck’s works that I’ve read.

I’m sad to say that I’ve only read three and of those I only truly remember Tortilla Flats, because I now recall the film versions of Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, rather than the books. I’ve made reading all of his novels one of this year’s resolutions and I’m looking forward to working my way through them, even those I’ve already read. His stories lift me up and that is the quality I wish to capture most of all in my own writing. I have no wish to be maudlin or preachy, but instead to tell tales that are true to the human spirit, both soaring and frail, and in many instances triumphant; real people living real lives, even if they are made up, and coming out whole on the other side. This is as good an ambition in authoring as any, I think.

So, I will happily return to my reading of Steinbeck's adventures with his poodle Charley as he crossed the United States in 1960, in perhaps one of the first truck-bed campers. Fair warning, I’ve already found several quotes I love, so you’ll be hearing more from Mr. Steinbeck in the future.  Here’s a sample to chew on until then: “A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.”


  1. You've inspired me to read and re-read some Steinbeck. And I love the quote you shared at the end. How true that sadness is like a disease. These dark days of winter are the perfect time for an emotional pick-me-up!

  2. I found my spirit soaring. Also, I've always had the wanderlust. I'd so love to do what he did. In fact, I've often envisioned such a trip with photos and interviews along the way. Thanks Diane!

  3. I read Of Mice and Men and the Grapes of Wrath as a young man and Steinbeck's voice and stories amazed. You've picked a good start for the year, Kathy. There is always hope for mankind to be better. I too enjoy works of desperation followed by hope.

    1. Since I began selling on Amazon I've had so many other self-published authors on my Kindle that I haven't done much "intentional" reading. Last year I tackled Jane Austen and loved it. Steinbeck really speaks to me and I'm almost done with Travels with Charley which I expect to re-read before long. I love this book!!

      Happy New Year, Dannie!