Looking for Steinbeck's Ghost

Overview

In 1968, Jackson J. Benson, then a naive young literature professor, set out to write a critical appraisal of John Steinbeck, a writer who Benson felt was greatly undervalued by the scholarly establishment. To Benson's amazement, he shortly found his project turning into an authorized biography. Looking for Steinbeck's Ghost is Benson's engaging account of his experiences over the fifteen years he devoted to writing that biography. On one level, the book is a rich collection of anecdotes, character sketches, and ...
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Overview

In 1968, Jackson J. Benson, then a naive young literature professor, set out to write a critical appraisal of John Steinbeck, a writer who Benson felt was greatly undervalued by the scholarly establishment. To Benson's amazement, he shortly found his project turning into an authorized biography. Looking for Steinbeck's Ghost is Benson's engaging account of his experiences over the fifteen years he devoted to writing that biography. On one level, the book is a rich collection of anecdotes, character sketches, and memories of Steinbeck and the people with whom he shared his life -- wives and children, siblings, friends. On another level, Looking for Steinbeck's Ghost is a fascinating account of the biographer's task, with all its triumphs large and small and its numerous pitfalls and frustrations. We follow Benson as he struggles to master the skills of the biographer to find out just who John Steinbeck was.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Benson's haphazard, self-indulgent chronicle is mostly about how he spent 15 years researching and writing an authorized biography of John Steinbeck. On that level, it offers instructive commentary on the pitfalls of the biographer's craft, as the author interviews the novelist's ex-wives, digs for lost correspondence, evaluates evidence and tracks down material on the migrant worker who supplied Steinbeck with much of his information for The Grapes of Wrath. A professor of English at San Diego State University, Benson is sometimes acerbic in recounting his dealings with rival biographers, publishing lawyers and copy editors. He notes that Steinbeck preached ecology and condemned a false sense of progress as early as the mid-1930s, but disagrees with critics who feel Steinbeck's fiction declined after the populist The Grapes of Wrath , arguing that they unfairly want his novels to fit their own left-leaning political scheme. (Nov.)
Booknews
At the time of the 50th anniversary of Grapes of wrath, award- winning biographer Benson (English, San Diego State U.) has given us a behind the scenes look at the people closest to Steinbeck, with interview material and anecdotes never before published. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806121550
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1988
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi
Preface xiii
Acknowledgments xv
Prologue: Would You Trust this Man? 3
1 In the Big City 21
2 Losts in High Tech 35
3 The Search for the Early Life 51
4 High Anxiety 65
5 Biographer as Detective 79
6 Gwyn and Kate: Two Women in His Life 95
7 Coping with the Famous 116
8 Fear, Envy, and Loathing 125
9 Looking for Steinbeck's Ghost 145
10 The Joys of Being Threatened 161
11 Pride and Prejudice 182
Epilogue: The Spirit of a Writer 203
Index 227
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