On this day in 1902, the great writer John Steinbeck was born. I know I did him last year, but he is arguably my favorite writer. It is also Irwin Shaw’s birthday, who I greatly admire. Both of these men are similar in that they wrote about regular people — at least in the 1930s.
Even though it isn’t my favorite of his novels, he was right to get the Nobel Prize for The Grapes of Wrath. It has one of the greatest endings of any book I’ve ever read. It is an unstoppable combination of tragedy and hope. Who else is capable of that but Steinbeck?
Interestingly, when Steinbeck was given the Nobel Prize in 1962, it was controversial in the United States. That really was the beginning of the end of America. That was when the conservative counter offensive was fully under way. The only reason anyone thought that giving Steinbeck the Nobel Prize was controversial is because of the way that he wrote about America as it was — warts and all. And he was a humanist. Shocking indeed, in a country that still can’t fully admit its sins of slavery, genocide, and torture.
Happy birthday John Steinbeck!