America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction

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There is no writer more quintessentially American than John Steinbeck. More than three decades after his death, he remains one of America's most beloved authors. Yet his nonfiction - the writings in which he spoke directly about his world - have long been overlooked. Now, in celebration of the centennial of his birth, this original collection brings together for the first time more than fifty of Steinbeck's finest essays and journalistic pieces, from his 1936 series of newspaper...
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There is no writer more quintessentially American than John Steinbeck. More than three decades after his death, he remains one of America's most beloved authors. Yet his nonfiction - the writings in which he spoke directly about his world - have long been overlooked. Now, in celebration of the centennial of his birth, this original collection brings together for the first time more than fifty of Steinbeck's finest essays and journalistic pieces, from his 1936 series of newspaper articles.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
February 27, 2002, marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of this great American novelist. To mark the occasion, Viking repackaged six of his fiction works and published this reconstructed book of his selected nonfiction. America and Americans includes stunning pieces about the Great Depression, crisp World War II journalism, and terse word-portraits of fellow Americans Robert Capa and Woody Guthrie.
Louisville Courier-Journal
...captures Steinbeck's fierce and unrelenting moral vision, while providing an intriguing glimpse of the writer's life and work.
From The Critics
These days it's high school kids who devour Steinbeck's books: Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden. It's a pity that older readers are missing out. Perhaps this collection of Steinbeck's nonfiction will help dust off his star. The book includes the author's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, recollections of friends from Woody Guthrie to Adlai Stevenson, war correspondence from the Blitz to Vietnam and elegies and celebrations of all things American. A bit constrained by topicality, this isn't the best of the man, but it gives us enough of his remarkable voice: clear, strong, colorful, careful. And it hints at the scope of his vision—an earnest one, blessedly free of the irony, convolution and cleverness that came after him. He damns all "bored and slothful cynicism" and lauds "the enormous sweetness and violence of the country." It's been too long since any American writer sounded that proud and loving note.
—Paul Evans

Publishers Weekly
Few may remember that the Nobel Prize-winning novelist pursued a parallel 30-year career in journalism, but this collection (timed to mark the centennial of Steinbeck's birth) demonstrates that the author was a major journalistic voice in the mid-20th century. Of course, the pieces vary in quality: Steinbeck's travel writing, personal recollections and political journalism are more entertaining than his essays on craft or dated dispatches from war zones, and one questions why the editors, both Steinbeck scholars, chose certain brief reports. Still, Steinbeck's humor shines through in a number of fine essays, especially in one about a visit to his Sag Harbor cottage with two teenage sons, and another on his battles (in print) with a Communist newspaper in Italy. Three reports on the plight of California's migrant workers written in the mid-1930s before Steinbeck had finished The Grapes of Wrath shed light on the novel's roots. A particularly moving essay details the author's long friendship with Ed Ricketts, the man who found his way into Steinbeck's Cannery Row and The Sea of Cortez. The last 100 pages of the collection reprints his final book, America and Americans, in which the author offers a wide-reaching commentary on the American 20th century. "Journalism not only is a respected profession, but is considered the training ground of any good American author," wrote Steinbeck in 1966. Though this statement is no longer true, the collection shows that it certainly once was. (On sale Feb. 4) Forecast: No doubt publicity around Steinbeck's centennial will help sales to new readers as well as devotees. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Just in time for the centenary of Steinbeck's birth: a reissue of his last published book and a collection of his journalism. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
February of next year is the centennial of Steinbeck's birth and, along with new Penguin editions of six of his novels, Viking is offering up this collection from the other, lesser-known, side of his career. A lifelong journalist, Steinbeck observed and commented on what he saw around him in essays, letters, and criticism; here is some of the best of it. There's war writing from England and Vietnam; reflections on his own work, including his Nobel acceptance speech; travel pieces from Italy, France, and Ireland; pieces on Henry Fonda, Adlai Stevenson, and Woody Guthrie. While Steinbeck wanders all over the world, most of the material directly addresses America, including the final section, a reprint of his last, now out-of-print book, the heartfelt America and Americans. More than his familiar, iconic fiction, this collection conveys a real sense of one of our best-and best-loved-writers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670030620
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 1/31/2002
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Shillinglaw is a professor of English at San Jose State University and the 2012-13 President's Scholar. She has published widely on Steinbeck, including introductions to Penguin Classics editions of Steinbeck's works as well as A Journey into Steinbeck's California (2006) and Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage (2013). From 1987 to 2005 she was the Director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State.


John Ernst Steinbeck, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in Salinas, California February 27, 1902. His father, John Steinbeck, served as Monterey County Treasurer for many years. His mother, Olive Hamilton, was a former schoolteacher who developed in him a love of literature. Young Steinbeck came to know the Salinas Valley well, working as a hired hand on nearby ranches in Monterey County. In 1919, he graduated from Salinas High School as president of his class and entered Stanford University majoring in English. Stanford did not claim his undivided attention. During this time he attended only sporadically while working at a variety jobs including on with the Big Sur highway project, and one at Spreckels Sugar Company near Salinas.

Steinbeck left Stanford permanently in 1925 to pursue a career in writing in New York City. He was unsuccessful and returned, disappointed, to California the following year. Though his first novel, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929, it attracted little literary attention. Two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To A God Unknown, met the same fate.

After moving to the Monterey Peninsula in 1930, Steinbeck and his new wife, Carol Henning, made their home in Pacific Grove. Here, not far from famed Cannery Row, heart of the California sardine industry, Steinbeck found material he would later use for two more works, Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row.

With Tortilla Flat (1935), Steinbeck's career took a decidedly positive turn, receiving the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal. He felt encouraged to continue writing, relying on extensive research and personal observation of the human drama for his stories. In 1937, Of Mice and Men was published. Two years later, the novel was produced on Broadway and made into a movie. In 1940, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Grapes of Wrath, bringing to public attention the plight of dispossessed farmers.

After Steinbeck and Henning divorced in 1942, he married Gwyndolyn Conger. The couple moved to New York City and had two sons, Thomas and two years later, John. During the war years, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches reappeared in Once There Was A War. In 1945, Steinbeck published Cannery Row and continued to write prolifically, producing plays, short stories and film scripts. In 1950, he married Elaine Anderson Scott and they remained together until his death.

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "...for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and keen social perception.." In his acceptance speech, Steinbeck summarized what he sought to achieve through his works:

"...Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it and it has not changed except to become more needed. The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species...Further more, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity of greatness of heart and spirit—gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and emulation. I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature..."

Steinbeck remained a private person, shunning publicity and moving frequently in his search for privacy. He died on December 20, 1968 in New York City, where he and his family made a home. But his final resting place was the valley he had written about with such passion. At his request, his ashes were interred in the Garden of Memories cemetery in Salinas. He is survived by his son, Thomas.

Author biography courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Amnesia Glasscock
      John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (full name); Amnesia Glasscock
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 27, 1902
    2. Place of Birth:
      Salinas, California
    1. Date of Death:
      December 20, 1968
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Table of Contents

I Places of the Heart 1
Always Something to Do in Salinas 4
The Golden Handcuff 13
A Primer on the '30s 17
Making of a New Yorker 32
My War with the Ospreys 41
Conversation at Sag Harbor 50
II Engaged Artist 65
Dubious Battle in California 71
The Harvest Gypsies: Squatters' Camps 78
Starvation Under the Orange Trees 83
From Writers Take Sides 88
I Am a Revolutionary 89
Duel Without Pistols 91
The Trial of Arthur Miller 101
Atque Vale 105
Dear Adlai 108
G.O.P. Delegates Have Bigger, Better Badges 110
L'Envoi 112
III Occasional Pieces 117
Then My Arm Glassed Up 125
On Fishing 132
Circus 136
Random Thoughts on Random Dogs 139
... like captured fireflies 142
The Joan in All of Us 144
A Model T Named "It" 147
IV On Writing 151
The Play-Novelette 155
My Short Novels 158
Rationale 161
Critics-from a Writer's Viewpoint 163
Some Random and Randy Thoughts on Books 167
Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech 172
V Friends 175
From About Ed Ricketts 179
Ernie Pyle 213
Tom Collins 215
Robert Capa 217
Adlai Stevenson 219
Henry Fonda 223
Woody Guthrie 225
VI Journalist Abroad 227
The Soul and Guts of France 233
One American in Paris (fourth piece) 246
One American in Paris (thirteenth piece) 248
Positano 251
Florence: The Explosion of the Chariot 259
I Go Back to Ireland 262
The Ghost of Anthony Daly 270
VII War Correspondent 275
Troopship 282
Waiting 285
Stories of the Blitz 288
Lilli Marlene 291
Bob Hope 293
Vietnam War: No Front, No Rear 296
Action in the Delta 299
Terrorism 304
Puff, the Magic Dragon 307
An Open Letter to Poet Yevtushenko 311
VIII America and Americans 313
Foreword 317
E Pluribus Unum 319
Paradox and Dream 330
Government of the People 339
Created Equal 346
Genus Americanus 354
The Pursuit of Happiness 369
Americans and the Land 377
Americans and the World 383
Americans and the Future 392
Afterword 403
Works Cited 405
Selected Bibliography of Steinbeck's Nonfiction 407
Index 417
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    America and Americas and Selected Nonfiction

    I didn't know that John Steinbeck wrote nonfiction. In fact, many readers might only recognize Steinbeck's most popular works, such as The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl, and Of Mice And Men. However, this collection of short stories and anecdotes proves that Steinbeck also has the gift of nonfiction writing. Many of these short stories were written when he was a news journalist in the Vietnam War. Many reporters were only documenting the actual events of War; however, Steinbeck chose to travel with the soldiers and document the feelings and attitudes associated with War. This opened up a whole new aspect of War journalism. While most of these selections were written in the 60's, his views on politics come full circle today as we see many of his predictions based on human behavior come alive today.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2007

    Still Piercingly Perceptive

    Steinbeck's insights into American culture seem prescient. His description of what we were seems to be a prophecy of what we have become.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2003

    Great Read!

    John Steinbeck was a great American author who truly wrote some of the most readable novels. I had not read any of his non-fiction until this book. I can say without a doubt that his non-fiction is equally as enjoyable as his fiction.I think everyone should read this. The problems and situations he talks about in his writing, read as if they were written about today's world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 2, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2008

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