John Steinbeck Jr. (1902 – 1968) won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature „for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.“
He has been called „a giant of American letters,“ and many of his works are considered classics of Western literature.
During his writing career, he authored 33 books, including 16 novels, six non-fiction books, and two collections of short stories.
He is widely known for the comic novels Tortilla Flat (1935) and Cannery Row (1945), the multi-generation epic East of Eden (1952), and the novellas Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Red Pony (1937).
The Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath (1939) is considered Steinbeck‘s masterpiece and part of the American literary canon.
In the first 75 years after it was published, it sold 14 million copies.
It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.
I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught – in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too – in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well – or ill?
There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you – of kindness and consideration and respect – not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.
Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
I know now why confusion in government is not only tolerated but encouraged. I have learned. A confused people can make no clear demands.
Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.
If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need – go to the poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.
I am happy to report that in the war between reality and romance, reality is not the stronger.
Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do… Try to be better than yourself.
The last clear definite function of man – muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need – this is man.
Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.
An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There’s a punishment for it, and it’s usually crucifixion.
Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
No single organism could be understood without observing and comprehending the entire colony.
Maybe we all have in us a secret pond where evil and ugly things germinate and grow strong. But this culture is fences, and the swimming brood climbs up only to fall back. Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fence and swim free? Would not such a man be our monster, and are we not related to him in our own hidden water? It would be absurd if we did not understand both angels and devils, since we invented them.
Men don’t get knocked out, or I mean they can fight back against big things. What kills them is erosion; they get nudged into failure. They get slowly scared. It’s slow. It rots out your guts.
And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.
When a child first catches adults out – when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just – his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.
When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influences and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror.
To a man born without conscience, a soul-stricken man must seem ridiculous. To a criminal, honesty is foolish. You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.
Some men are friends with the whole world in their hearts, and there are others that hate themselves and spread their hatred around like butter on hot bread.
I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt- and there is the story of mankind.
What a frightening thing is the human, a mass of gauges and dials and registers, and we can only read a few and those perhaps not accurately.
Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don’t believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it.
We value virtue but do not discuss it. The honest bookkeeper, the faithful wife, the earnest scholar get little of our attention compared to the embezzler, the tramp, the cheat.
Only let a man say that he will do something and a whole mechanism goes to work to stop him.
After the bare requisites to living and reproducing, man wants most to leave some record of himself, a proof, perhaps, that he has really existed. He leaves his proof on wood, on stone or on the lives of other people. This deep desire exists in everyone, from the boy who writes dirty words in a public toilet to the Buddha who etches his image in the race mind. Life is so unreal. I think that we seriously doubt that we exist and go about trying to prove that we do.
So much there is to see, but our morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes, and surely our wearied evening eyes can report only a weary evening world.
People need responsibility. They resist assuming it, but they cannot get along without it.
If we could learn even a little to like ourselves, maybe our cruelties and angers might melt away.
Oh, we can populate the dark with horrors, even we who think ourselves informed and sure, believing nothing we cannot measure or weigh. I know beyond all doubt that the dark things crowding in on me either did not exist or were not dangerous to me, and still I was afraid.
I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.
Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic? …Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience.
I see too many men delay their exits with a sickly, slow reluctance to leave the stage. It’s bad theater as well as bad living.