Journeys

californian-road

Reviewing a book collection seems relatively straight forward. There’s no searching for suitable books or ditching writing because the story doesn’t work for you. With entire works, what matters is that you read and review each book from A to Z. How hard can it be?

After acquiring John Steinbeck’s books, I had to sort them in order. I went online, found a reliable source and started my project. But something wasn’t right – the books on my bookshelf cited contradictory information.

Luckily, I came across the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, a museum dedicated to the author. By referring to the most complete listing of his work, John Steinbeck Bibliography by Goldstone and Payne, the lovely staff there including archivist Lisa Josephs showed me how the other lists were incorrect and confirmed the chronological order.

National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, California, US
National Steinbeck Center. Image courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center.

However, there is more to a book collection than publication dates.

In John Steinbeck’s case, some of his work was published in instalments as newspaper articles or chapter releases in literary magazines significantly earlier than the book became available. Therefore, I had to assign the correct publication date for these books, which can be tricky.

So what have I learned from this exercise?

  • Published information can be wrong. Search for that gold standard.
  • Subjective decisions need to be made.

Although these decisions I make affect the direction I take, ultimately it doesn’t matter what I do. That’s because there’s no right or wrong way to review an author’s life work.

I cannot be Steinbeck’s contemporary 46 years after his passing.

But what I can do is travel back in time to see how the great events of the day shaped his work and convey what I have learned.

With so much to explore, how can this journey not be rewarding?

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2 thoughts on “Journeys

  1. I absolutely adore the basis of your blog Vicki. I remember trying to wade through the Grapes of Wrath as a child and lost some interest with the monolithic scenic descriptions that seemed to last for pages before any characters even said a word! You have inspired me to maybe rethink my stance and Steinbeck and give it a go. And I must admit, I had never considered that publication dates could be wrong, so that is certainly something to consider. Thanks for sharing xx

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    1. Thanks Sarah for your lovely comments. I loved Grapes of Wrath as a teenager and that feeling hadn’t diminished when I read the book this year. And I will have to do this a second time later this year when I write my review. Steinbeck writes simply, maybe too simply for some, but in the descriptions there is a lot of feeling, a lot of care and compassion for those on the margins, the dispossessed. You see it very early in his 2nd book The Pastures of Heaven as vignettes and I imagine builds up his confidence as he progresses. A lot of people felt that he didn’t deserve a Nobel Prize in Literature. They didn’t like his views but for me he is a giant and ahead of his time.

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