- “Hooray for the new generation of Steinbeck scholars”:The 2013 International John Steinbeck Conference
The quality of these papers bowls me over. I didn’t think I’d be introduced to ideas I had never encountered or considered in my decades long career of teaching and writing about Steinbeck. Hooray for the new generation of Steinbeck scholars!—Mimi Gladstein
“The quality of these papers bowls me over”—Mimi Gladstein’s comment encapsulates the resounding success of The International John Steinbeck Conference, “Steinbeck and the Politics of Crisis: Ethics, Society, and Ecology,” held at the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University on May 1–3, 2013. Accolades for fine planning go to Nick Taylor, conference director, and to the conference steering committee: Tom Barden, Mary M. Brown, Danica Čerče, Paul Douglass, Mimi Gladstein, Barbara A. Heavilin, and Luchen Li. Tetsumaro Hayashi often speaks of “holding the torch” for future Steinbeck scholars, assuring that this author’s legacy continues. And this was a conference of torch bearers—with the felt presence of those unable to attend—such as Ted Hayashi, Bob DeMott, and Brian Railsback—and also of those who have gone on before—among them John Ditsky, Stephen George, and Michael J. Meyer. Mimi Gladstein’s keynote address, “Edenic Ironies: Steinbeck’s Conflicted Vision, in memory of John Ditsky” (to be published in the Spring 2014 Steinbeck Review) set the tone of warm collegiality—inspiring the audience to carry on the legacy, not only of Steinbeck studies, but also of those exemplary mentors, like John Ditsky, who have brought “kindness, encouragement, and a wry sense of humor” to fledgling scholars. Presentations [End Page V] ranging from Danica Čerče’s “On Steinbeck’s Fortunes in Eastern Europe,” to Tom Barden’s “He Was Translated”: Euhemerism in the Works and Worldview of John Steinbeck,” Renata Lucena Dalmaso’s “‘Modern Monsters,’ Old Habits: Relationship between Nature, Humans, and Technology in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath,” to Kevin Hearle’s “I wouldn’t tell nobody what happened’: Tom Joad and McAlester Prison”—and more— provided a feast of words, multiple theoretical approaches, and ideas for future studies. Afterwards, several participants departed for the Steinbeck Festival in Salinas. At the end of the conference, participants frequently asked the question “When do we have our next conference?” This question has since been resolved—it will be held in May 2015, again at the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University. An announcement and a call for papers will be soon forthcoming. Now Steinbeck Review will pass along the torch that was held high in this conference by publishing some of the presentations over the next several issues.
In addition to these papers, Steinbeck archivists—Herb Behrens of the National Steinbeck Center, Salinas; Dennis Copeland of Monterey Public Library; Donald Kohrs of Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University; John Straw of Ball State University; and Peter Van Coutren of Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, San Jose State University—provided valuable information on resources available for researchers and scholars. (The University of Texas at Austin, Texas, not represented here, likewise has significant holdings of Steinbeck materials, among them the original ledger in which the author wrote East of Eden.) Peter Van Coutren is preparing an overview of these various holdings for the Spring 2014 journal.
In this issue, we conclude the posthumous serial publication of Roy Simmonds’s The Composition, Publication, and Reception of John Steinbeck’s The Wayward Bus, with Biographical Background with its seventh chapter, “Epilogue: May 1947–May 1948.” This short, final chapter of the book details the fraught aftermath of the publication of The Wayward Bus—Steinbeck’s trip to the Soviet Union, the publication of The Pearl, his writing of A Russian Journal and beginning what would become East of Eden. Details from Steinbeck’s personal life are set alongside this account, chief among them the death of Ed Ricketts and the final dissolution of his marriage to Gwyn. Simmonds’s book ends with the low note of the Steinbeck divorce, mirroring the mood of this phase of Steinbeck’s...