America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction

ISBN 10: 0670030627 / ISBN 13: 9780670030620
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Synopsis: There is no writer more quintessentially American than John Steinbeck. More than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures. Yet his nonfiction-the writings in which he spoke directly about his world-has often been overlooked.

Now, Steinbeck's last published book is available again, along with a collection of his finest reportage, including the newspaper articles that inspired his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath.

For thirty years, Steinbeck pursued a parallel career as a journalist, even as he won fame as a novelist. In America and Americans, Susan Shillinglaw and Jackson J. Benson offer a brilliant selection of his finest nonfiction. Here are Steinbeck's writings about Salinas, San Francisco, Monterey, and Sag Harbor; his moral and political commentary; his coverage from the battlefronts of World War II and Vietnam; his literary criticism; and his reflections on friends, Henry Ford, Robert Capa and Ed Ricketts. And most important of all is the primary text, America and Americans-an extended look at the nation he loved and criticized all his life. This remarkable volume offers a portrait of the artist as citizen deeply engaged in the world around him.

Review: America and Americans is a representative, noteworthy collection of John Steinbeck's journalism, including the title piece, actually his last book. Editors Susan Shillinglaw and Jackson J. Benson, who provide an able, informative introduction as well as succinct sectional prefaces, have wisely organized the book thematically rather than chronologically. There are travel pieces (including the hilariously bittersweet "The Making of a New Yorker"); political reflections (including three articles on California migrant workers, written before the last draft of The Grapes of Wrath, and a short screed on the spiritual oppression of communism, in which he writes, "Communists of our day are about as revolutionary as the Daughters of the American Revolution"); correspondence from both World War II and Vietnam; and snapshots of Ernie Pyle, Henry Fonda, and other friends. Not all the pieces are timeless, but most are sprinkled with bright gems--"Writers are taken seriously in Italy and are accorded the same respect that Lana Turner's legs get in our country"--and everywhere girded by deep concern and anger about social injustices. --H. O'Billovich

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