WORKING DAYS: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath  by John Steinbeck

WORKING DAYS: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath

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A pleasant trove of work notes released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath. Editor DeMott (English/Ohio Univ.) accidentally dug up this brief manuscript material while researching another book on Steinbeck. It's presented here with copious critical apparatus, including introduction, commentary, critical notes, and illustrations (not seen). In fact, there is more spectacle than event to the finished product. Steinbeck's journal "entries" are mostly short, rushed notes exhorting himself to finish the book. They explain little about Grapes, and reinforce the impression of skeptical critics that he mechanically plodded through the novel filling average people with clichÇd speech. More compelling is Steinbeck's anxiety over external obstacles that arose during the book's five-month composition (June-October 1938), which shows him losing almost all control and confidence. He began the journal and novel shortly after the death of his brother-in-law, was constantly bothered by loan-seekers and self-doubt, and worried over everything from Hitler's war maneuvers to the sale of his house. "Did ever a book get written under such excitement," he writes, and collapses into disappointment when finished: ". . .it isn't the great book I had hoped it would be. It's just a run-of-the-mill book." Admirably compiled and annotated by DeMott, and a must for Steinbeck fans, this is an otherwise modest literary treat.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1989
ISBN: 0140144579
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1989


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