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America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142437417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437414
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #432,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

America and Americans is a representative, noteworthy collection of John Steinbeck's journalism, including the title piece, actually his last book. Editors Susan Shillinglaw and Jackson J. Benson, who provide an able, informative introduction as well as succinct sectional prefaces, have wisely organized the book thematically rather than chronologically. There are travel pieces (including the hilariously bittersweet "The Making of a New Yorker"); political reflections (including three articles on California migrant workers, written before the last draft of The Grapes of Wrath, and a short screed on the spiritual oppression of communism, in which he writes, "Communists of our day are about as revolutionary as the Daughters of the American Revolution"); correspondence from both World War II and Vietnam; and snapshots of Ernie Pyle, Henry Fonda, and other friends. Not all the pieces are timeless, but most are sprinkled with bright gems--"Writers are taken seriously in Italy and are accorded the same respect that Lana Turner's legs get in our country"--and everywhere girded by deep concern and anger about social injustices. --H. O'Billovich --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Few may remember that the Nobel Prize-winning novelist pursued a parallel 30-year career in journalism, but this collection (timed to mark the centennial of Steinbeck's birth) demonstrates that the author was a major journalistic voice in the mid-20th century. Of course, the pieces vary in quality: Steinbeck's travel writing, personal recollections and political journalism are more entertaining than his essays on craft or dated dispatches from war zones, and one questions why the editors, both Steinbeck scholars, chose certain brief reports. Still, Steinbeck's humor shines through in a number of fine essays, especially in one about a visit to his Sag Harbor cottage with two teenage sons, and another on his battles (in print) with a Communist newspaper in Italy. Three reports on the plight of California's migrant workers written in the mid-1930s before Steinbeck had finished The Grapes of Wrath shed light on the novel's roots. A particularly moving essay details the author's long friendship with Ed Ricketts, the man who found his way into Steinbeck's Cannery Row and The Sea of Cortez. The last 100 pages of the collection reprints his final book, America and Americans, in which the author offers a wide-reaching commentary on the American 20th century. "Journalism not only is a respected profession, but is considered the training ground of any good American author," wrote Steinbeck in 1966. Though this statement is no longer true, the collection shows that it certainly once was. (On sale Feb. 4) Forecast: No doubt publicity around Steinbeck's centennial will help sales to new readers as well as devotees.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Critics argue about how great a writer Steinbeck was.
Samuel W. Harnish, Jr.
A good read for fans of Steinbeck, students of American literature and general readers.
C. M Mills
There are some quite funny and surprisingly touching dog stories.
The Sanity Inspector

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Scot Guenter on February 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As an educator interested not only in John Steinbeck's literature but also in his function as a cultural critic, I find this wonderful new edition, put together to coincide with a series of Steinbeck Centennial events going on all around America in 2002, to be a marvelous source of information. This will bring one of Steinbeck's lesser known and later works, "America and Americans," to the attention of many more people, and that text, which is both a celebration of the American experience and a cautionary warning about where we were headed, as Steinbeck saw it in the 1960s, would be a great selection for book club groups to read and discuss in this centennial year.
This 400+ page collection also has seven thematic chapters that explore Steinbeck's nonfiction and journalistic writing in these topic areas: places he loved, socio-political struggles, the craft of writing, friends and friendship, travel abroad, being a war correspondent, and miscellanea. This is great bedside reading: something delicious to dip into, eloquent and thoughtful, and one can jump around.
The editors are both noted Steinbeck scholars who are making this man accessible to the common people (we, the salt of the earth, whom he champions and celebrates in so many of his writings). Perhaps I am partial to John Steinbeck because I live in "Steinbeck Country," but I still think his works deserve our attention and study in the 21st century. He had a lot of significant insights--this book is a wonderful follow-up for those who have only yet experienced his fiction.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stephen O. Murray VINE VOICE on March 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
John Steinbeck (1902-68) wrote newspaper columns for two years during the 1950s in addition to reporting on the 1956 presidential nominating conventions and stints as a war correspondent during World War II and the Vietnam War. He also wrote some articles for magazines and the ruminations on America for a book of photographs that was his last book (and which fills about a quarter of this collection).
Always he wrote about his impressions, primarily of people. The best pieces in this collection are not accounts of foreign wars but of people in distinct places. Like Steinbeck's life, the book begins with Salinas, California, continues through San Francisco and New York City to Sag Harbor on Long Island, where Steinbeck lived in the 1950s and 60s. In the "Journalist Abroad" section there are strong pieces on people in Positano and Ireland. And there is a section on friends (all male, of course) including a long memoir of his idol and naturalist mentor, Ed Ricketts, and short but very illuminating memoirs of the popular WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle and the photographer Robert Capa (who accompanied Steinbeck on his Russian visit), plus concise tributes to Adlai Stevenson as an orator and to Henry Fonda as an actor.
The section "On writing" is regrettably short, and the selections of WWII colums from _Once There Was a War_ (a book which is in print) are mystifyingly missing the best ones, which Steinbeck wrote during the invasion of Italy. The Vietnam reports are unconvincing propaganda from what he presented as a war against Mao. (Brezhnev, perhaps, but not Mao!)
Many of the pieces are entertaining in the mock heroic Steinbeck manner of _Tortilla Flat_ and _Travels with Charley_ and some are moving. The text "America and Americans" had little impact.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Herring on January 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is only essential for hardcore Steinbeck fans, but his insight and singular turns of phrase pervade this prolific collection. Of particular note is his homage to his three best teachers, less than two pages long, called "...like captured fireflies." America and Americans is dated in parts, but his takes on corporations and America's obsession with children are prescient, and his indefatigable optimism essential. A different resonance than the novels, but of the same calibur.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. Coyne on September 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
Although overall this book is clearly inferior to some of Steinbeck's other works of nonfiction, it has its high points and is worthwhile for big fans. If you are not already familiar with Steinbeck's nonfiction, I suggest you read A Russian Journal, Travels with Charley in Search of America and Once There Was A War before buying this book.

Among the best pieces in this book are "I Am A Revolutionary," "The Soul and Guts of France" and "Terrorism." Aside from these three pieces - and a paragraph or two scattered here and there among some of the others - this book consists of fairly slow, relatively uninteresting and disappointingly uninsightful text. Still, it's Steinbeck, and if you've a big fan, then reading even his mediocre work is more fun than most things you could be doing with your time. Otherwise though, if you have a mere passing interest in Steinbeck or have not read the other works mentioned above, then either read his other material first or just forget about this book altogether.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Wolfgang Aurbach on July 29, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Its present lackluster era notwithstanding, America still commands the world's attention and arouses curiosity. No matter how much we read about the country, how frequently we visit there, even live there for years, we have the nagging feeling that we do not understand its true essence. And that is not for want of pertinent information. The mass of available statistical data is beyond imagination. So is the daily, weekly and monthly output by journalists. There is no lack of in-depth analyses by eminent economists, sociologists and political scientists. And yet, it is hard to distill from all of the above an essence that speaks to me, the common everyday man. I am a native of Germany who spent most of his life in Brazil. I have always had a deep interest in American literature and have done my best to get a good glimpse of it, but even that is not an easy job. Whereas the name of John Steinbeck is fully familiar, I had always associated him with his California novels. Only recently did I take an opportunity to look at his postwar production and felt immediately attracted by the title 'America and Americans'. I certainly was not disappointed. The book offers in rich measure what is so hard to come by, the human aspect, offered in understandable, indeed beautiful language, by an unusually lucid observer. Even though the country and its society have changed dramatically over the forty years since the date it was published, the book looses nothing of its informative value. It provides a picture of a point in time, and tells of the values of that time. That is an excellent backdrop to contemplate the present moment and reflect on future options.
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