John Steinbeck

Ever since I read East of Eden in like grade 11 it’s been one of my favourite books. I’ve never read anything else by Steinbeck, I’ve always meant to, but he’s remained someone to whom I ascribe brilliant writing to.

In any case, the other night I went to visit a relative just up the coast about half an hour and after dinner we got to talking books. Being a writer, I think I naturally have the instinct to steer all conversations in this direction—much as a boxer or engineer might direct the focus towards the latest matches or innovations in airframe technology or the sturdiest rivets or something. I don’t know. I’m not an engineer. In any case, they mentioned that my maternal grandfather was a friend of John Steinbeck.

SteinbeckApparently the two of them used to go boating and fishing together, and had a good friendship that lasted many years. A trophy of this friendship happened to be a book, Sweet Thursday, that Steinbeck had autographed for my grandfather.

I was thrilled to hold such a valuable little artefact in my hands. Simply knowing that one of my favourite authors had been a friend of the family was thrilling enough, but to actually have a relic of those days was enormously exciting. It reminds me of the associations of Hemingway with Gertrude Stein and Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald and all the others.

I wonder if someday I’ll be friends with a famous author or artist and can simply call on them for tea or a drive up the coast to our favourite cafe. Or perhaps, better yet, people will speak with reverence as they hold a book by Pearson Sharp, autographed to their grandfather, and they try to imagine what it might have been like to know me. An author can dream.

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11 thoughts on “John Steinbeck

  1. What a wonderful story! As I was reading, I was thinking, “Yes, someday my husband and I will stop at a book signing by Pearson Sharp, and we will have a great work to pass on in our family. I will tell our grandchildren I knew the author personally.” 😉

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  2. That’s awesome. I’ve only read the excellent Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck (though I’ve watched East of Eden and enjoyed it). I think, since you are an author yourself, you probably stand a good chance of being friends with other authors, some maybe even famous. I always enjoy thinking of Lewis and Tolkein being friends. It could happen. ^^

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  3. Treasures like that are so precious in more ways than one. I also keep a family history blog and findings like these bring family history alive. To have it also connected to one of your dreams and a writer you admire is incredible!

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  4. I am a volunteer at the National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, CA. I have never seen Steinbeck’s signature as shown in your grandfather’s book. When did he know Steinbeck? And what was the significance of “Iron Mike” and “Old House Man”?
    Herb Behrens

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    1. I’ll ask my relatives when the dates were, I don’t know off hand. If you have an e-mail, I’d love to discuss this with you. If it’s not genuine, then that would be an interesting story as well, and I would guess then that my grandfather is the culprit, though why I’m not sure.

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      1. my personal e-mail is herberthbehrens@gmail.com and at the Center I can be reached at archives@steinbeck.org. I am not an expert on handwriting or on signatures. I have seen a few of Steinbeck’s – we have some at the Center – this was different. Steinbeck had a small hand. There is always something new about Steinbeck’s life. Thanks for any information you have. Steinbeck knew a lot of different people, so I am always interested in new ones.

        Herb Behrens

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  5. Sweet Thursday is one of my Steinbeck favorites, as is Cannery Row. What a cast of characters! And how interesting that one of your relatives knew John. That’s worth a lot.

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