The Pastures of Heaven (1932), a collection of interrelated stories, delineates the troubled inner lives and sometimes disastrous fates of families living in a seemingly tranquil California valley. The surface realism of Steinbeck’s first mature work is enriched by hints of uncanny forces at work beneath.
“Deep down it’s mine, right to the center of the world,” says Salinas Valley farmer Joseph Wayne about his land in John Steinbeck’s To a God Unknown (1933). A sense of primeval magic dominates the novel as the farmer reverts to pagan nature worship and begins a tortuous journey toward catastrophe and ultimate understanding.
Steinbeck’s sympathetic depiction of the raffish paisons of Tortilla Flat (1935), a ramshackle district above Monterey, first won him popular attention. The Flat’s tenderhearted, resourceful, mildly corrupt, over-optimistic characters are a triumph of life-affirming humor.
In Dubious Battle (1936) plunges into the political struggle of the 1930s and paints a vigorous fresco of a migrant fruit-pickers’ strike. Anticipating the collective portraiture of The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck poignantly traces the surges and shifts of group behavior.
With Of Mice and Men (1937), Steinbeck secured his status as one of the most influential American writers. Lennie and George, itinerant farmhands held together in the face of deprivation only by the frailest of dreams, have long since passed into American mythology. This novel, which Steinbeck called “such a simple little thing,” is now recognized as a masterpiece of concentrated emotional power.
About the Author
One of the leading American novelists of the 20th century, John Steinbeck (1902-1968) grew up in the fertile Salinas Valley in California, an environment that served as a setting for some of his best-loved books. Several of his most powerful novels, including Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath, focus on the plight of California’s laboring class, while East of Eden is an ambitious family saga. Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.
Date of Birth:February 27, 1902
Date of Death:December 20, 1968
Place of Birth:Salinas, California
Place of Death:New York, New York
Education:Attended Stanford University intermittently between 1919 and 1925
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What's not to love about a collection of stories that contains the classic Of Mice and Men? But this typically beautiful edition from the Library of America is so much more. It contains Steinbeck's earliest writings, ranging from the the pastoral (The Pastures of Heaven)and the poetic (To A God Unknown), to outright slapstick (Tortilla Flat). But the real sleeper in here is one of the longest stories, In Dubious Battle, the story of two self-proclaimed radicals who help organize apple pickers in California. This is the darker side of The Grapes of Wrath, and Steinbeck's politics are at their most visible, volatile and exciting. From the very start, Steinbeck's narrative voice was already distinctly his own. You'll hear the storm clouds roll in through the Salinas valley, spit the arid soil out of your mouth, and smell the beans and beef cooking in worker camps. Terrific stuff.
Gave a place for those less Christian to lay their plate, and use a linen napkin too! Breathe in slowly.