SocraticGadfly: John Steinbeck - fabulist; maybe plain old liar

December 24, 2010

John Steinbeck - fabulist; maybe plain old liar

So, it turns out "Travels with Charley" isn't true. It's not even "true to life." Not even close. That said, because it's deliberate confabulation, it's not really a novel, either, is it? It's a lie. Should we then re-address the motive behind Steinbeck's actual novels? Did he actually sympathize with Joad-type characters, or did he just think it was a good storyline?

I mean, "Grapes of Wrath" and "Cannery Row" are powerful and stirring. But, reading just how much Steinbeck fabulized, or just made stuff up, in "Travels with Charley," seriously makes me wonder if he was writing them for the story line more than the message.

AND ... although the Nobel Literature committee, unlike the Downtown Athletic Club with a Heisman Trophy, doesn't seem like it would ever revoke an awarded prize, IF Steinbeck was writing his novels for story lines more than any "message," should we reconsider his place in the literary canon?

That said, per Leo on Facebook, The Harvest Gypsies (the series of articles about migrant workers Steinbeck wrote for the San Francisco News) was the nonfiction basis for "The Grapes of Wrath." As Leo notes, what if Steinbeck faked that, too?

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