Writing is a very silly business at best. . . . And the greatest foolishness . . . lies in the fact that to do it at all, the writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows that it is not true.—John Steinbeck, Journal of a Novel (1969)
The Steinbeck world has experienced significant landmarks in recent years—the beginning of Steinbeck Review, this journal's merging with Steinbeck Studies, and now looking forward to its becoming a part of Blackwell's American Author Series in Spring 2008. Along the way we have lost valued scholars and friends—John Ditsky, Stephen George, and Kim Greer. But we shall remember them as we continue to build on their contributions to Steinbeck scholarship and to the Steinbeck community. Like them and like Steinbeck, we shall carry on with the belief that fine writing (if not "the most important thing in the world") is, to paraphrase Horace, both instructive and delightful. We trust that you will find this issue just so; it offers a variety of thought provoking views.
Eric Skipper's "Conover's Coyotes: A Continuation of Steinbeck's Migrant Worker Legacy," to illustrate, compares the journalistic works of Ted Conover with those of John Steinbeck, finding that Steinbeck's
first, middle, and last litmus test on matters large and small was the truth; he could look past his own faults and, as he states in his Nobel Price [End Page 7] Acceptance Speech, "believe passionately in the perfectibility of man." Ted Conover, in his unflinching, unbiased coverage of the Mexican immigrant situation, appears to be cut from the same resilient cloth. Like Steinbeck, he resists painting himself into an ideological corner but instead tells the story of the people.
In "Myth as Talisman: Adaptive Teleology in The Winter of Our Discontent," W. Scott Simkins also explores Steinbeck's "populist aesthetic," but he does so by integrating "the mythologies, the teleologies that shape the lives of individuals and nations."
William Mullaney's "Uncle Tom's Flophouse: John Steinbeck's Cannery Row as a (Post-Feminist) Sentimental Novel" puzzles over Cannery Row's appeal to "the hip-hop generation" and suggests that this appeal may lie in the view of "Steinbeck as a sentimentalist novelist who writes within the tradition of Harriet Beecher Stowe, not against her tradition." He hopes that future feminist criticism of Steinbeck might move beyond "examining specific female characters to include questions about its overall feminine character."
Winner of the Louis Owens award for 2007, Frank Eugene Cruz's essay, "'In between a Past and Future Town': Home, the Unhomely, and The Grapes of Wrath," suggests that The Grapes of Wrath is "a complex and contradictory work of in-betweenness, a work concerned with questions of home and the unhomely, with rich theoretical connections that place this Depression era novel in dialogue with transmodern theoretical paradigms."
The intercalary section of this issue of Steinbeck Review offers the reader Stephen Bullivant's "Casylike Christs in Carl Sandburg and Dorothy Day," which situates "Jim Casy in his rich christological and literary tradition." The intercalary also announces Garrison Keillor as the recipient of the 2007 Steinbeck Award; contains poems by Al Young (poet laureate of California) and by Ritchie Lovejoy (a close friend of John Steinbeck and his first wife Carol); records memories of John Ditsky by Robert E. Morsberger; and notes current references to Steinbeck in the news media.
Three reviews are included in this issue: Michael J. Meyer on Periaswamy Belaswamy's Symbols for the Wordlessness: A Study of the Deep Structure of Steinbeck's Early Novels; Daniel Griesbach on the Robert DeMott and Brian Railsback edition of Travels with Charley and Later Novels 1947-1962 (a part [End Page 8] of the Library of America series); and W. Scott Simpkins on Robert B. Harmon's Tracking John Steinbeck: A Bibliographer's Perspective.
Finally, Kelley McGrath has once again presented us with a feast of recent Steinbeck scholarship, including a number of items that have appeared in Japan. Kelley will be continuing in an advisory role as part of the...