JOHN STEINBECK: Nature and Myth by Peter Lisca

JOHN STEINBECK: Nature and Myth

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A stiff, perfunctory reprise of Steinbeck's life and career precedes a book-by-book survey of his (mainly) fictional works, the subject of Lisca's dissertation (The Wide World of John Steinbeck, 1958) and ongoing investigation (The Grapes of Wrath: Text and Criticism, 1972). Major or minor, long or short, each text is summarized, analyzed, and--especially--scrutinized for possible sources, which Lisca finds predominantly in myth, legend, or literature. Or, occasonally, in nature, construed as ""the biological metaphor."" This is literary scholarship at its most mechanical and uninspired, ticking off, e.g., parallels between Cannery Row and the Tao Teh Ching of Lao-Tze for seven pages; suddenly, inauspiciously comparing Steinbeck as a novelist with--of all people--Aldous Huxley; noting blandly that East of Eden is deficient in ""invention, characterization, prose style, angle of vision, discipline."" Meanwhile Lisca avoids coming to grips with the real-life Steinbeck, whether as individual or as writer, as political, emotional, or creative being. And his failure to do more than mention the posthumous Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights--after having made much of Steinbeck's Arthurian allusions throughout--leaves the study curiously incomplete, even on its own terms. Lisca expressly addresses himself to students, who will find more material for term papers here than incentive for independent reading and study.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1978
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell