Literary Birthdays

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true. John Steinbeck

Today is John Steinbeck’s 105th birthday, if he were alive. He was born in Salinas, California, of which he wrote about in his novels. He seems to have loved his part of the country but the people in the area turned against him. When he bought a house in Monterey, no one would rent him office space. This dislike was sparked by his work The Grapes of Wrath, in which he criticized landowners. It got so bad he moved his family to New York and said, "This isn't my country anymore. And it won't be until I am dead. It makes me very sad." It makes me sad too. He was so attached to his home. It’s a sin that he felt he couldn’t live there. And now he is celebrated there. The National Steinbeck Center is celebrating his birthday this week. The Big Read is also starting this week (Feb 24-Mar31) People are encouraged to read The Grapes of Wrath, the novel that gave him such trouble.

I remember reading The Pearl in school. That book was so sad. When Oprah was reading East of Eden for the book club, I bought the book for my mom and ended up reading it myself. I’m glad I did. What a beautiful book. There was such a contrast between good and evil: Adam and Cathy. She was a sociopath, if ever there was one. I also loved the history of the area and Steinbeck’s family woven into the story. It was a real labour of love. It’s considered his greatest work and I agree.

Also on this day in 1807, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born. He wrote the epic poem Evangeline, the tragic love story based on the Expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia in 1755. Evangeline is separated from her lover and spends the rest of her life searching for him. The story of the expulsion is a real event, though Evangeline is a fictional character. It hasn’t stopped people from erecting statues of her however. I love this part of the poem:

THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

Paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it?

And Happy Birthday to Susan from A Writer’s Tale (Hope Steinbeck’s quote gives you some encouragement!)


  1. "Of Mice and Men" is my favorite book. As soon as I finished, I had to have another so I read "The Pearl." There are three on my "Book of Great Books" list so I still have "The Grapes of Wrath" to go. I'm looking forward to it. Kimmie

  2. Chris:

    Just saw this. Thank you!! :)

  3. I love his books. I'm re-reading Grapes of Wrath now, but didn't know about The Big Read! I'll definitely have to check that out.


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