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When he failed to publish his work, he returned to California and worked in as a tour guide and caretaker [15] at Lake Tahoe , where he met Carol Henning, his first wife. When their money ran out six months later due to a slow market, Steinbeck and Carol moved back to Pacific Grove, California , to a cottage owned by his father, on the Monterey Peninsula a few blocks outside the Monterey city limits.

The elder Steinbecks gave John free housing, paper for his manuscripts, and from , loans that allowed him to write without looking for work. During the Great Depression , Steinbeck bought a small boat, and later claimed that he was able to live on the fish and crab that he gathered from the sea, and fresh vegetables from his garden and local farms.

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When those sources failed, Steinbeck and his wife accepted welfare, and on rare occasions, stole bacon from the local produce market. In , Steinbeck met the marine biologist Ed Ricketts , who became a close friend and mentor to Steinbeck during the following decade, teaching him a great deal about philosophy and biology. Ricketts had taken a college class from Warder Clyde Allee , a biologist and ecological theorist, who would go on to write a classic early textbook on ecology. Ricketts became a proponent of ecological thinking, in which man was only one part of a great chain of being, caught in a web of life too large for him to control or understand.

Between and , Steinbeck and Ricketts became close friends. Steinbeck's wife began working at the lab as secretary-bookkeeper. Steinbeck's first novel, Cup of Gold , published in , is loosely based on the life and death of privateer Henry Morgan. It centers on Morgan's assault and sacking of the city of Panama , sometimes referred to as the 'Cup of Gold', and on the women, brighter than the sun, who were said to be found there. Between and , Steinbeck produced three shorter works.

The Pastures of Heaven , published in , consists of twelve interconnected stories about a valley near Monterey, which was discovered by a Spanish corporal while chasing runaway Indian slaves. In Steinbeck published The Red Pony , a page, four-chapter story weaving in memories of Steinbeck's childhood. Although he had not achieved the status of a well-known writer, he never doubted that he would achieve greatness.

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Steinbeck achieved his first critical success with Tortilla Flat , a novel set in post-war Monterey, California, that won the California Commonwealth Club 's Gold Medal. They are portrayed in ironic comparison to mythic knights on a quest and reject nearly all the standard mores of American society in enjoyment of a dissolute life devoted to wine, lust, camaraderie and petty theft. In presenting the Nobel Prize to Steinbeck, the Swedish Academy cited "spicy and comic tales about a gang of paisanos , asocial individuals who, in their wild revels, are almost caricatures of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table.

It has been said that in the United States this book came as a welcome antidote to the gloom of the then prevailing depression. With some of the proceeds, he built a summer ranch-home in Los Gatos. Steinbeck began to write a series of "California novels" and Dust Bowl fiction, set among common people during the Great Depression. He also wrote an article series called The Harvest Gypsies for the San Francisco News about the plight of the migrant worker.

Of Mice and Men was a drama about the dreams of two migrant agricultural laborers in California. It was critically acclaimed [20] and Steinbeck's Nobel Prize citation called it a "little masterpiece". Steinbeck refused to travel from his home in California to attend any performance of the play during its New York run, telling director George S. Kaufman that the play as it existed in his own mind was "perfect" and that anything presented on stage would only be a disappointment.

Steinbeck followed this wave of success with The Grapes of Wrath , based on newspaper articles about migrant agricultural workers that he had written in San Francisco.

It is commonly considered his greatest work. According to The New York Times , it was the best-selling book of and , copies had been printed by February In that month, it won the National Book Award , favorite fiction book of , voted by members of the American Booksellers Association. Grapes was controversial. Steinbeck's New Deal political views, negative portrayal of aspects of capitalism, and sympathy for the plight of workers, led to a backlash against the author, especially close to home. This ban lasted until January Of the controversy, Steinbeck wrote, "The vilification of me out here from the large landowners and bankers is pretty bad.

The latest is a rumor started by them that the Okies hate me and have threatened to kill me for lying about them. I'm frightened at the rolling might of this damned thing. It is completely out of hand; I mean a kind of hysteria about the book is growing that is not healthy. The film versions of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men by two different movie studios were in production simultaneously, allowing Steinbeck to spend a full day on the set of The Grapes of Wrath and the next day on the set of Of Mice and Men.

In the s and s, Ed Ricketts strongly influenced Steinbeck's writing. Steinbeck frequently took small trips with Ricketts along the California coast to give himself time off from his writing [27] and to collect biological specimens, which Ricketts sold for a living. Their joint book about a collecting expedition to the Gulf of California in , which was part travelogue and part natural history, published just as the U. This work remains in print today.

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Although Carol accompanied Steinbeck on the trip, their marriage was beginning to suffer, and ended a year later, in , even as Steinbeck worked on the manuscript for the book. Ecological themes recur in Steinbeck's novels of the period. Steinbeck's close relations with Ricketts ended in when Steinbeck moved away from Pacific Grove and divorced his wife Carol.

Steinbeck's novel The Moon Is Down , about the Socrates -inspired spirit of resistance in an occupied village in Northern Europe , was made into a film almost immediately. It was presumed that the unnamed country of the novel was Norway and the occupiers the Nazis.

During the war, Steinbeck accompanied the commando raids of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. At one point, he accompanied Fairbanks on an invasion of an island off the coast of Italy and helped capture Italian and German prisoners, using a Tommy Gun. Some of his writings from this period were incorporated in the documentary Once There Was a War Steinbeck returned from the war with a number of wounds from shrapnel and some psychological trauma.


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He treated himself, as ever, by writing. He later requested that his name be removed from the credits of Lifeboat, because he believed the final version of the film had racist undertones. After the war, he wrote The Pearl , knowing it would be filmed eventually. The novel is an imaginative telling of a story which Steinbeck had heard in La Paz in , as related in The Log From the Sea of Cortez , which he described in Chapter 11 as being "so much like a parable that it almost can't be".

Steinbeck traveled to Cuernavaca , [33] Mexico for the filming with Wagner who helped with the script; on this trip he would be inspired by the story of Emiliano Zapata , and subsequently wrote a film script Viva Zapata!


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In , Steinbeck made the first of many [ quantify ] trips to the Soviet Union , this one with photographer Robert Capa. Steinbeck's book about their experiences, A Russian Journal , was illustrated with Capa's photos. In , the year the book was published, Steinbeck was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In Steinbeck's longest novel, East of Eden , was published. According to his third wife, Elaine, he considered it his magnum opus , his greatest novel.

Henry's Full House. Although Steinbeck later admitted he was uncomfortable before the camera, he provided interesting introductions to several filmed adaptations of short stories by the legendary writer O. About the same time, Steinbeck recorded readings of several of his short stories for Columbia Records ; the recordings provide a record of Steinbeck's deep, resonant voice. Following the success of Viva Zapata! Travels with Charley: In Search of America is a travelogue of his road trip with his poodle Charley. Steinbeck bemoans his lost youth and roots, while dispensing both criticism and praise for America.

According to Steinbeck's son Thom, Steinbeck made the journey because he knew he was dying and wanted to see the country one last time. The protagonist Ethan grows discontented with his own moral decline and that of those around him. It was not a critical success.

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Many reviewers recognized the importance of the novel, but were disappointed that it was not another Grapes of Wrath. Again he holds his position as an independent expounder of the truth with an unbiased instinct for what is genuinely American, be it good or bad. Apparently taken aback by the critical reception of this novel, and the critical outcry when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in , [36] Steinbeck published no more fiction in the remaining six years before his death.

In , Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature for his "realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception. The New York Times asked why the Nobel committee gave the award to an author whose "limited talent is, in his best books, watered down by tenth-rate philosophising", noting that "[T]he international character of the award and the weight attached to it raise questions about the mechanics of selection and how close the Nobel committee is to the main currents of American writing.

It was precisely because the committee made its judgment In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.

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Fifty years later, in , the Nobel Prize opened its archives and it was revealed that Steinbeck was a "compromise choice" among a shortlist consisting of Steinbeck, British authors Robert Graves and Lawrence Durrell , French dramatist Jean Anouilh and Danish author Karen Blixen. Although modest about his own talent as a writer, Steinbeck talked openly of his own admiration of certain writers. In , he wrote that he considered cartoonist Al Capp , creator of the satirical Li'l Abner , "possibly the best writer in the world today. In September , President Lyndon B.

Johnson awarded Steinbeck the Presidential Medal of Freedom.