John Steinbeck: a Brief Biography

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John Steinbeck: A Brief Biography
John Steinbeck lead a life filled with words, from his award winning novels to the hundreds letters he wrote to friends during his career. He was born in Salinas, California on February 27, 1902, and lived there for the first sixteen years of his life until he graduated from Salinas High School in 1918. He took classes at Stanford, but spent more of his college years working to pay tuition than then he spent in the classroom. 1924 brought his first publication, two short stories in the Standford Spectator, but in 1925 he left his schooling and went to New York for a time. By 1926, he was back in California and his first book, Cup of Gold, was published the year the of great stock market crash, but had little success. In 1930, he married Carol Henning, and the two lived in Pacific Grove, CA for the next several years. These years were lean; Steinbeck was having trouble selling his work, even with the help of his literary agents, McIntosh and Otis. Often, selling a short story for 50$ or so was the difference between eating or not.

In 1937, though, Steinbeck got his first taste of real success. Now living in Los Gatos, California, he had four novels and a play published in just three years. He burst onto the literary scene with Of Mice and Men, and published the first three parts of The Red Pony the same year. The play of Of Mice and Men went on stage and won the Drama Critics' Circle Award. The next year, he published The Long Valley and the last part of The Red Pony. His big project for the year, however, was working and researching a great novel, to be published in 1939 under the title The Grapes of Wrath. With this book, Steinbeck insured his future in the literary world. The book was so controversial that Steinbeck had to worry about attempts on his life or reputation; even now, it (along with Of Mice and Men) often are found on lists of commonly banned books. It was so well thought of that it earned him a Pulitzer Prize. It was so influential that President Franklin D. Roosevlet met with Steinbeck personally after a letter to the President from Steinbeck about the German influence in Mexico. Steinbeck had been in Mexico working on a film, and throughout the rest of his life, motion pictures were a second medium for him. The film of Of Mice and Men was released in 1939, and the film of The Grapes of Wrath came out the next year. The motion picture of the Grapes of Wrath was named one of the best movies of the past 100 years by the American Picture Association. Screen adaptation of his work earned 29 Academy Award nominations and 4 Academy Awards.

Steinbeck's writing was characterized by several major factors. First, he often wrote about the poor, common people and often included social commentary into his works. There were many layers of meaning in his works, and he used symbolism heavily. He tried to "tell things like they were" and didn't censor out curse words or base talk for the ladies in the tea rooms. A lot of times when he wrote, he directed the fiction to one specific person, a friend or companion, to give it more focus.

He published four more books in the next two years; however, his personal life was plagued with problems. He divorced his wife Carol in 1942 and married Gwyndolyn Conger the next year. In 1943, he spent time as a war correspondent in Europe for the Herald Tribune, and the year 1944 brought the birth of his first son, Thom. By 1948 when he separated from Gwyndolyn, he would have another son John, two more films, six more books, and a King Haakon Liberty Cross to his name. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1948.

1950 brought him a new book, Burning Bright, and a new wife, Elaine Scott. He also began work on a book he claimed was something he had been practicing for since he started writing. This book was East of Eden, and was published in 1952, the same year his film Viva Zapata! was released. By 1955, Steinbeck was...
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