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The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights Hardcover – October 18, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; Reissue edition (October 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670018244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670018246
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,207,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[Steinbeck] embellishes Malory's spare legend with a richness of detail that transforms the visions, make it no one but Steinbeck's." --John Gardner, The New York Times Book Review
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was the author of many books, including Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, East of Eden, In Dubious Battle, and The Grapes of Wrath (which won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939). In 1962, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

If you've read The Once and Future King by TH White or Thomas Mallory, this would be a good follow-up.
Black Plum
Choosing the Winchester manuscript over the more common Caxton one also provides a key difference between Steinbeck and Baines.
FrKurt Messick
The primary sources and the characterizations blend seamlessly, making a surprisingly modern fantasy story.
Marion Delgado

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
John Steinbeck is noted for many things - The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, The Pearl, Cannery Row; he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 - most are not familiar with (or are unaware of) his literary life beyond novels. Steinbeck was an avid reader, reviewer, and turned the occasional time to translation. That is where this text comes in - Steinbeck had a long passion for the Arthurian legends. In 1958-59, he began the (still unfinished) task of reworking the tales of Arthur and his knights, spending time in England with the famous Winchester manuscripts of Mallory's 'Le Morte d'Arthur', and continuing his work in various stops and starts until his death in 1968. The text here is unfinished, and for some part unedited by Steinbeck; his literary heirs have kept the project more or less as Steinbeck left it. Hence, only part of the tales of Arthur are included here.
Steinbeck began with primary tales that come from the first section of Mallory's text, entitled 'The Tale of King Arthur'. This tale in fact only covers the early part of Arthur's life - the search for the Holy Grail and the final battle of the death of Arthur are not included here, as they were in separate sections of Mallory's text, from which Steinbeck did not live to complete translations.
This story includes the tale of Merlin, including Merlin's 'death', Uther Pendragon and the birth of Arthur, the sword-in-the-stone event, the wedding of Arthur and Guinevere, the advent and plotting of Morgan Le Fay, and tales of three knights - Gawain, Ewain, and Marhalt. From another text of Mallory's comes 'The Noble Tale of Sir Lancelot of the Lake', including the beginning part of the love affair of Lancelot and Guinevere.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Merridith on July 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
These stories are more approachable if you already know something about the tales of Camelot. If you've never read anything about King Arthur and the Round Table, I'd recommend that you start somewhere else--with T. H. White's "The Once and Future King" or Mary Stewart's Arthurian saga that begins with "The Crystal Cave." If you're already familiar with the Arthurian tales, Steinbeck's versions are extremely entertaining. The tales are pretty straightforward versions of the stories by Thomas Mallory. Steinbeck presents all the action and adventure, but is more interested in what's going on in the heads of his characters. He also gives a more realistic vision of the Middle Ages. It may have been exciting and romantic if you were a knight, but not the best of times to be a woman or commonfolk. Overall, I simply found this a fun book to read.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on January 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Merlin of this book says to Arthur. "You are nearer to danger than I was, for you are riding in the direction of your death and God is not your friend." In a way, for me, this sentence sums up the feeling of sorrow that hangs over this book. This is not the radient noble Arthur of the myth's popularization, this is the baby killer, abandoned by God and Merlin and tossed on the waves of fate. A wonderful rendition of Malory, suprisingly not hurt at all by the modernization.
This book is unfinished, and ends with the beginning of the romance between Guenivere and Lancelot. Steinbeck never finished it, and it's presented here edited with a collection of his letters about the book at the end. The letters are interesting, but-- sadly enough-- are no substitute for what the finished book might have been.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Peter A. Greene VINE VOICE on September 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
You can watch Steinbeck start to tackle the project that has seduced so many writers-- why not take Mallory's massive Arthurian cycle and turn it into something accessible to a modern reader? At first, Steinbeck merely dips his feet in the waters. The first "chapters" are nearly-exact "translations" of Mallory into modern English, with very little added or taken away. Then, slowlby but surely, Steinbeck's voice begins to emerge and he begins to not just translate but retell the tales. Steinbeck grows into the task, telling the stories with greater and great power, conviction, energy, excitement and style and then-- well, then it just stops. For students of Mallory or Steinbeck, this is an interesting work, a unique collaboration 500 years in the making. If you're looking for a good version of the Matter of Britain, however, this will disappoint in its incompleteness.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book contains elements that are truly excellent, however the quality is far too inconsistent and unfinished to recommend it wholeheartedly. Steinbeck, in his introduction, comments on how much he treasured Malory's _Morte d'Arthur_ as a boy, and stated that his goal was to rewrite the stories for a modern audience.
The first section or so is a rather dry retelling of the familiar events and battles. As Steinbeck progreses through the book though, he seems to wander from his goal to merely and faithfully retell Malory's stories; the tales he tells become more lighthearted and introspective as Steinbeck's natural instincts for storytelling take over. One chapter, "Gawain, Ewain and Marhalt" takes a brief chapter in Malory and makes it into a hilarious story that is over 60 pages long. The knights become very human, and Steinbeck appears to be gently mocking the chivalric code. He does offer far more insight into the characters of the knights than earlier writers ever did; we begin to understand why some of the events could have happened. However, when he gets to the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, he bogs down permanently. For any reader who has wondered how on earth Arthur's favorite knight could have been having an affair with his wife - well, Steinbeck didn't seem able to answer that one either. He leaves us dangling with Lancelot in shameful tears over one stolen kiss - and then the book ends! I believe that Steinbeck could not reconcile his mixed feelings surrounding the downfall of Arthur's knigdom, and therefore he had to stop, and apparently never recovered the enthusiasm to continue.
This book has wonderfully entertaining and insightful elements, but it is obviously an unfinished work, and therefore cannot be considered as a truly significant addition to the Arthurian library.
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