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John Steinbeck, Writer: A Biography Paperback – December 1, 1990
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About the Author
Jackson J. Benson teaches American Literature at San Diego State University. His biography, The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, won the PEN USA West award for nonfiction. He lives in La Mesa, California.
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The end product of this amalgam is endearing: a mystical materialist, a non-intellectual with more science in his mind than most headier writers, a champion for low-lifers and misfits, a rebel without interest in politics, an apparent man of action who does not believe in purposes and causes.
He mixed up the fiction that he read, wrote and lived: disentangling the 3 is the main challenge of a biography.
He wanted to be a writer and that was what he became, against all odds. Nobody wanted his writing for a long time. The biggest mystery about him is how he overcame the endless period of rejection. When he finally found publishers, his first books were commercial failures, partly due to timing, partly because the publishers did nothing to push. All his publishers went bankrupt, so he needed a new one for each book.
How could he possibly know that he had the talent to become one of the most famous writers in the world? Puzzling and admirable.
I love many of his books, others are mediocre, others are unreadable. He had a performance and success plateau in his middle age. Then creativity dropped off, which bothered him strongly.
A likeable man with hindsight, even if not to all contemporaries, and a writer of loveable books. Benson wrote a readable, if a little too fat biography. Benson's approach is very detailed. That must lead to a very fat book automatically. He does not shy away from commenting on JS's behaviour, which sounds odd sometimes, as another reviewer observed.
He had access to letters which the collection published by Mrs.Steinbeck III had omitted, which allows a fuller picture in the bio than the letter volume.
And by the way, I will not be reviewing another book for a while, this one has 1000 pages! Even my personal speadreading skills are overwhelmed.