John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).
After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942).Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright(1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961),Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata!(1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.
John Steinbeck's first major critical and commercial success, and perhaps his funniest novel, Tortilla Flat includes a critical introduction by Thomas Fensch in Penguin Modern Classics. Danny is a paisano, descended from the original Spanish settlers who arrived in Monterey, California, centuries before. He values friendship above money and possessions, so when he suddenly inherits two houses, Danny is quick to offer shelter to his fellow gentlemen of the road. Together, their love of freedom and scorn for material things draws them into daring and often hilarious adventures. That is, until Danny, tiring of his new responsibilities, suddenly disappears... John Steinbeck (1902-68), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature, is remembered as one of the greatest and best-loved American writers of the twentieth century. During the Second World War Steinbeck served as a war correspondent, with his collected dispatches published as Once There Was a War (1958); in 1945 he was awarded the Norwegian Cross of Freedom for his novel The Moon is Down (1942), a portrayal of Resistance efforts in northern Europe. His best-known works include the epics The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and East of Eden (1952), and his tragic novella Of Mice and Men (1937). John Steinbeck's complete works are published in Penguin Modern Classics. If you enjoyed Tortilla Flat, you might like Steinbeck's Cannery Row, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. 'Steinbeck ... tells the stories of these lovable thieves and adulterers with a poetic purity of heart and prose'New York Herald Tribune
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