Wednesday, October 10, 2007
John Steinbeck wrote a blog
Another sleepless night.
"The East of Eden Letters – Journal of a Novel."
Glimpses of what might have been cooking in Steinbeck's head.
The blurb states "...gives a truly fascinating insight into Steinbeck the author and Steinbeck the man."
Maybe I'm a lousy reader but I don't think it revealed all that Steinbeck was.
The letters were warm-ups.
I felt he was talking to himself rather than to his friend and editor Pascal Covice to whom the letters were addressed.
Although, I guess talking to a dear and near friend is like talking to yourself.
The letters were written on the left page of the same notebook he wrote the novel in.
Which meant that it wouldn't be read by his friend and editor before the book was finished.
I don't know if this book of notes should have been published.
I can understand the the temptation.
It's very repetitive and we don't actually get
to know that much about who Steinbeck was.
He referred to the book he was writing as the book of E's.
East of Eden.
I don't think he meant E as in easy.
Although he wanted the book to flow easily.
I don't think he meant it to be published.
He scrapped too much of his writing while alive, so why would he want to publish notes about his writing?
I don't know how vain he was.
But it seems unlikely given the messages his novels sent.
However repetitive and partly boring I found the "letters" book,
I have to admit there are are few passages that struck me as brilliant.
Observations that are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them down"
" A strange and mystic business, writing. Almost no progress has taken place since it was invented. The Book of the Dead is as good and highly developed as anything in the 20th century and much better than most. and yet in spite of this lack of a continuing excellence, hundreds of thousands of people are in my shoes – praying feverishly for relief from their word pangs.
And one thing we have lost _ courage to make new words or combinations. Somewhere that old bravado has slipped off into a gangrened scholarship. Oh! you can make words if you enclose them in quotation marks. This indicates that it is dialect and cute."
What a weird feeling typing the words of Steinbeck.
I've copied greatness.
Let's give it another shot.
It may rub off. Ever so slightly.
"Well, I opened Book 4 yesterday with general statement and also with specific statement which can only be known when one finishes the book. i think when Harold say the book is ambitious he doesn't know how ambitious it is. Only you and I and Elaine know that. And maybe we are the only ones who will ever know it. It has things in it which will probably never come out because readers do not inspect very closely and when they do, like as not they find things which aren't there. The hell with it. I'll just do my work and forget everything else."
As the devil reads the bible, we all read thru our own lenses.
He wrote this book for his two sons to read when grown up:
" And now i would engage your prayers for me because I am going to try to go into the minds of children, but more than that, I am going to try to set those minds down on paper. And these are not children as they are conceived by adults but children as they are to and among themselves. I hope i can do that. Most of what i read about children is crap. Grown people forget. They feel at a certain age the got insight and awareness and wisdom. And as a rule the opposite is true to a certain extent."
Finished with the manuscript another battle begins:
"As you know better than most, Pat, the book does not go from writer to reader. It goes first to the lions – editors, publishers, critics, copy readers, sales department. It is kicked and slashed and gouged. And its bloodied father stands attorney.
The book is out of balance. the reader expects one thing and you give him something else. You have written two books and stuck them together. The reader will not understand.
No, sir. It goes together. I have written about one family and used stories about another family as well as counterpoint, as rest, as contrast in pace and color.
The reader won't understand. What you call counterpoint only slows the book.
It has to be slowed – else how would you know when it goes fast.
You have stopped the book and gone into discussions of God knows what.
Yes, I have. I don't know why. Just wanted to. Perhaps I was wrong.
Right i the middle you throw in a story about your mother and an airplane. The reader wants to know where it ties in and, by God, it doesn't tie in at all. That disappoints a reader.
Yes, sir. I guess you're right. Shall I cut out the story of my mother and the airplane?
That's entirely up to you.
The book's too long. Costs are up. We'll have to charge five dollars for it. People won't pay five dollars. They won't buy it.
My last book was short. You said people won't buy a short book.
The chronology is full of holes. The grammar has no relation to English. One page so-and-so you have a man look in the World Almanac for steamship rates. They aren't there. I checked. You've got the Chinese New Year wrong. The characters aren't consistent. You describe Liza Hamilton one way and then have her act a different way.
You make Cathy too black. The reader won't believe her. you make Sam Hamilton too white. The reader won't believe him. No Irishman ever talked like that.
My grandfather did.
Who'll believe it.
No children ever talked like that.
(losing temper as a refuge in despair)
God dam it. This is my book. I'll make the children talk any way I want. My book is about good and evil. Maybe the theme got into the execution. Do you want top publish it or not?
Let's see if we can't fix it up? It won't be much work. You want it to be good, don't you? For instance the ending. The reader won't understand it.
Yes, but the reader won't."
End of quote.
I wish for my kids to read Steinbeck when they're old enough.
Have lived a little.
A little tousled.
Then I'm sure they will understand it.