Hell Yes, John Steinbeck

Posts tagged writing

Fine artistic things seem always to be done in the face of difficulties, and the rocky soil, which seems to give the finest flower, is contempt. Don’t fool yourself, George, appreciation doesn’t make artists. It ruins them. A man’s best work is done when he is fighting to make himself heard, not when swooning audiences wait for his paragraphs. An elevated train two doors away can have far more to do with a fine book than advance royalties or ‘an eager printer’s boy waiting in the hall.’ If you don’t want to fight them you shouldn’t be writing. One can’t force attention by making one’s work superb. Only practice can do that.

John Steinbeck in a letter to George Albee, Pacific Grove, 1931 (via zeloveinitiative)

It is usual that the moment you write for publication … one stiffens in exactly the same way one does when one is being photographed. The simplest way to overcome this is to write it to someone, like me. Write it as a letter aimed at one person. This removes the vague terror of addressing the large and faceless audience and it also, you will find, will give a sense of freedom and a lack of self-consciousness.

John Steinbeck, from The Writer’s Chapbook, edited and introduced by George Plimpton (via apoetreflects)

theparisreview:

“It has been said often that a big book is more important and has more authority than a short book. There are exceptions of course but it is very nearly always true. I have tried to find a reasonable explanation for this and at last have come up with my theory, to wit: The human mind, particularly in the present, is troubled and fogged and bee-stung with a thousand little details from taxes to war worry to the price of meat. All these usually get together and result in a man’s fighting with his wife because that is the easiest channel of relief for inner unrest. Now—we must think of a book as a wedge driven into a man’s personal life. A short book would be in and out quickly. And it is possible for such a wedge to open the mind and do its work before it is withdrawn leaving quivering nerves and cut tissue. A long book, on the other hand, drives in very slowly and if only in point of time remains for a while. Instead of cutting and leaving, it allows the mind to rearrange itself to fit around the wedge. Let’s carry the analogy a little farther. When the quick wedge is withdrawn, the tendency of the mind is quickly to heal itself exactly as it was before the attack. With the long book perhaps the healing has been warped around the shape of the wedge so that when the wedge is finally withdrawn and the book set down, the mind cannot ever be quite what it was before. This is my theory and it may explain the greater importance of a long book. Living with it longer has given it greater force. If this is true a long book, even not so good, is more effective than an excellent short story.”
—John Steinbeck, The Art of Fiction No. 45

theparisreview:

“It has been said often that a big book is more important and has more authority than a short book. There are exceptions of course but it is very nearly always true. I have tried to find a reasonable explanation for this and at last have come up with my theory, to wit: The human mind, particularly in the present, is troubled and fogged and bee-stung with a thousand little details from taxes to war worry to the price of meat. All these usually get together and result in a man’s fighting with his wife because that is the easiest channel of relief for inner unrest. Now—we must think of a book as a wedge driven into a man’s personal life. A short book would be in and out quickly. And it is possible for such a wedge to open the mind and do its work before it is withdrawn leaving quivering nerves and cut tissue. A long book, on the other hand, drives in very slowly and if only in point of time remains for a while. Instead of cutting and leaving, it allows the mind to rearrange itself to fit around the wedge. Let’s carry the analogy a little farther. When the quick wedge is withdrawn, the tendency of the mind is quickly to heal itself exactly as it was before the attack. With the long book perhaps the healing has been warped around the shape of the wedge so that when the wedge is finally withdrawn and the book set down, the mind cannot ever be quite what it was before. This is my theory and it may explain the greater importance of a long book. Living with it longer has given it greater force. If this is true a long book, even not so good, is more effective than an excellent short story.”

John Steinbeck, The Art of Fiction No. 45

The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit—for 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 of emulation.

John Steinbeck (via aknighterrant)

As for my “reasoned exposition of principles,” I suspect that they are no different from those of any man living out his life. Like everyone, I want to be good and strong and virtuous and wise and loved. I think that writing may be simply a method or technique for communication with other individuals; and its stimulus, the loneliness we are born to. In writing, perhaps we hope to achieve companionship. What some people find religion, a writer may find in his craft or whatever it is — absorption of the small and frightened and lonely into the whole and complete, a kind of breaking through to glory.

John Steinbeck (via lettingit-be)

wordpainting:

A picture I took at the John Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA, last year.

Read Steinbeck, San Francisco, CA (by Robby Virus)

sometimesitmakesyou:

Jack of all trades much?

sometimesitmakesyou:

Jack of all trades much?

Boileau said that Kings, Gods and Heroes only were fit subjects for literature. The writer can only write about what he admires. Present-day kings aren’t very inspiring, the gods are on a vacation and about the only heroes left are the scientists and the poor …

Radio interview (1939) quoted in Introduction by Robert DeMott to a 1992 edition of The Grapes of Wrath (via wikiquote).

My whole work drive has been aimed at making people understand each other…

John Steinbeck, as quoted in Conversations with John Steinbeck (via sexywatersigns)

Believe me, I have nothing against fairy tales. God knows I’ve written enough of them. My point is that no fairy tale is acceptable unless it is based on some truth about something. You can make it as light and airy and full of whimsy as you wish but down underneath there has to be a true thing.

John Steinbeck in a letter to Elizabeth Otis (via johnsteinbeck-)

What some people find in religion a writer may find in his craft or whatever it is—absorption of the small and frightened and lonely into the whole and complete, a kind of breaking through to glory.

John Steinbeck, “Rationale

I can’t think of anything else necessary to a writer except a story and the will and the ability to tell it.

John Steinbeck (via bicyclethieves)

How can the poem and the stink and the grating noise—the quality of light, the tone, the habit and the dream—be set down alive? When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book—to open the page and to let the stories crawl in by themselves.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row (via speakmnemosyne)

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