JOHN STEINBECK AND EDWARD F. RICKETTS: The Shaping of a Novelist by Richard Astro

JOHN STEINBECK AND EDWARD F. RICKETTS: The Shaping of a Novelist

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ricketts, unorthodox California marine biologist, eclectic home-grown philosopher, eccentric, rumpled primitive, Steinbeck's friend and sometimes collaborator, was the model for ""Doc"" in In Dubious Battle, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, and for ""Jim Casey"" in The Grapes of Wrath. His ""ecological"" quietist philosophy that ""everything is everywhere in a full and ordered scheme of being"" -- giving man the task of breaking through the crust of outward appearances to an internalized perception of the beauty inherent in the whole -- counterposed Steinbeck's own belief in individual participation in constructive collective action. Ricketts' austere lifestyle set him off as a man apart, an isolate from the mainstream which swirled around him, and his vision was too frail and ephemeral a reed for Steinbeck to lean on -- despite his warm, bumbling misfits in Of Mice and Men and Tortilla Flat -- but Astro, a professor of English, argues the novelist was at his best ""when he integrates Ricketts' way of seeing things with his own commitment to human progress."" When Ricketts died and Steinbeck moved away from their common tidepool ambience to integrate his memories, he became ""a novelist without a vision""; as a ""writer in motion"" with no place to go but backward; as a ""product of his time"" lamenting the surrounding wasteland, he produced inferior work. Perceptive, but strictly academic.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1973
Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota Press