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The Red Pony: Biography: John Steinbeck


Biography

Born on February 27th, 1902 in Salinas, CA, John Ernst Steinbeck was the third child and only son of the county treasurer and his school teacher wife. John's mother Olive raised him on stories and rural folklore and the young boy reveled in the vibrant life of the itinerant workers and ranchers of the region. Although young Steinbeck was a popular and academically successful high school student he showed little enthusiasm for classes at Stanford University and after several years of desultory study he left college to travel by way of freighter through the Panama Canal to New York City. His first published book, Cup of Gold (1929) was a failure and the aspiring writer returned to California where he finished a collection of short stories The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and married Carol Henning the first of what would be three wives. The couple lived in Steinbeck's ailing parent's Pacific Grove cottage where they mingled with the area's bohemian set. The North American Review published Steinbeck's short story "The Red Pony" (which was later retitled "The Gift" when it appeared with its companion stories "The Great Mountains," "The Promise" and "The Leader of the People" in The Long Valley) in 1933 and was the first national publication to feature the author's work - this served to introduce the young artist to the reading public and can be said to have launched his career. In 1935 the author finished the novel Tortilla Flat which achieved immediate success. Over the course of his career Steinbeck's style was marked by a deep concern for the working poor as well as an almost mystical appreciation for the relationship between mankind and the land. These themes run through his most important works including Of Mice and Men (1937), Cannery Row (1944) and The Pearl (1947). Steinbeck's greatest work, The Grapes of Wrath (1939) garnered the author a Pulitzer Prize in 1940. In 1941 the author's lifelong love of the sea led to a marine expedition with the biologist Ed Ricketts and resulted in a work of non-fiction The Sea of Cortez. During the Second World War, Steinbeck went to Europe and served as a correspondent. Many film adaptations were produced of Steinbeck's material and the author wrote several scripts for films including Zapata which starred Marlon Brando. One of the contributors to the "Great Society" platform adopted by LBJ, Steinbeck characterized himself as an "FDR democrat" and was a member of the communist party but the author was rejected by the American left toward the end of his life when his absolute Americanism caused him to write favorably of the United State's involvement in Vietnam. During his later years his abilities as an author waned and his last great work was a travelogue of a cross-country trip with his pet poodle Travels with Charley (1962) after which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for a lifetime of socially conscious work that resonated with the American populist psyche. John Steinbeck died on December 28th, 1968 in New York.




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