I am privileged to have known John Ditsky as a friend and colleague for thirty-six years. We met early in 1970 at the Steinbeck conference in Corvallis, Oregon, the first one either of us had attended. From there on, we kept meeting at subsequent Steinbeck conferences in San José, Salinas, Alabama, Nantucket island, Hofstra University, Hawaii, and most notably a week in Moscow in 1989, where we were invited by the Soviet Writers' Union to participate in a symposium honoring the fiftieth anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath. John was accompanied by his wife, Sue, who frequently attended Steinbeck conferences and added charm to the occasions. My own wife, Katharine Morsberger, had to miss Moscow but attended a number of the other conferences and sometimes collaborated with me on a paper, so the Ditskys and Morsbergers got to know each other pretty well. As many Steinbeck conferences led to publication of the proceedings, I am glad to have appeared with John in numerous Steinbeck books as well as in issues of The Steinbeck Quarterly, The Steinbeck Newsletter, and Steinbeck Studies. Besides being a major Steinbeck critic, John was an accomplished poet, and I am happy to have several volumes of his verse. John had a wry and engaging sense of humor. At Tuscaloosa, he asked me out of the blue to sing "The Streets of Laredo," and I was able to oblige, though what made him think I knew it still mystifies me.
One of my last connections with John was reviewing his perceptive and remarkably thorough book John Steinbeck and the Critics. Looking back over the years, I remember that John was always glad to welcome and encourage several generations [End Page 99] of new Steinbeck scholars. Free from academic dogma, he appreciated new approaches and critical independence of spirit. He himself examined each Steinbeck book on its own terms and was particularly astute at revealing overlooked merit in postwar books that some critics had denigrated but in which John found evidence of postmodernist flexibility and change. John's death was a great loss both to Steinbeck scholarship and the fellowship of what he called the" Steinbeck roadies." He will be sincerely missed.