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John Steinbeck

(27 February 1902 – 20 December 1968)


  • ''There used to be a thing or a commodity we put great store by. It was called the People. Find out where the People have gone. I don't mean the square-eyed toothpaste-and-hair-dye people or the new-car-or-bust people, or the success-and-coronary people. Maybe they never existed, but if there ever were the People, that's the commodity the Declaration was talking about, and Mr. Lincoln.''
    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), U.S. author. a political correspondent, in Travels With Charley: In Search of America, pt. 3 (1962).
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  • ''We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say—and to feel—"Yes, that's the way it is, or at least that's the way I feel it. You're not as alone as you thought."''
    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), U.S. author. repr. In Writers at Work Fourth Series, ed. George Plimpton (1977). "In Awe of Words," The Exonian, 75th anniversary edition, Exeter University.
  • ''The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.''
    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), U.S. author. repr. In Writers at Work, Fourth Series, ed. George Plimpton (1977). "In Awe of Words," 75th Anniversary edition of The Exonian, Exeter University.
  • ''Give a critic an inch, he'll write a play.''
    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), U.S. author. "On Critics," Writers at Work, Fourth Series, ed. George Plimpton (1977).
  • ''It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome but if that is all we ever were, we would millenniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth.''
    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), U.S. author. "On Intent," Fourth Series, Writers at Work, ed. George Plimpton (1977).
  • ''A book is like a man—clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.''
    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), U.S. author. "On Publishing," Writers at Work, Fourth Series, ed. George Plimpton (1977).
  • ''Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.''
    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), U.S. author. Quoted in J.K. Galbraith, The Affluent Society, 1977 edition, introduction (1977). Remark describing Galbraith's chance meeting with Steinbeck in an airport lobby, when both were reading a hostile review of Galbraith's book following its first publication in 1958.
  • ''Man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.''
    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), U.S. author. The Grapes of Wrath, ch. 14 (1939).
  • ''The techniques of opening conversation are universal. I knew long ago and rediscovered that the best way to attract attention, help, and conversation is to be lost. A man who seeing his mother starving to death on a path kicks her in the stomach to clear the way, will cheerfully devote several hours of his time giving wrong directions to a total stranger who claims to be lost.''
    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), U.S. author. Travels with Charley: In Search of America, pt. 1 (1961).
  • ''A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.''
    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), U.S. author. Travels With Charley: In Search of America, pt. 1 (1961).

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