Just a few moments ago Google showed me that today would be John Steinbeck’s 112th birthday. Sure, he has been dead for a third of that time but the warmth and wisdom with which he wrote about people is a timeless thing. Those who approach his work will find much to consider as Mr. Steinbeck was unafraid to write critically about government, family, politics, religion, you name it. One of the first authors I was truly moved by I will always hold Mr. Steinbeck’s two indisputable masterpieces, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, as two of the most meaningful books that I have ever read. Take a look at a few quotes I have shared from an author who was not afraid to question the structures of the world around him and who gave voice to those people who find themselves on the wrong side of tough situations. I hope you take a minute to go through Google’s homage to the great American author, as well.
The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.
-from The New York Times (June 2, 1969)
Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.
-from Nobel Prize Speech (December 10, 1962)
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
–East of Eden, 1952
Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breath is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then -the glory- so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man’s importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories. It is a lonely thing but it relates us to the world. It is the mother of all creativeness, and it sets each man separate from all other men.
– East of Eden, 1952