The anniversary of John Steinbeck's death is cause for celebration and for examining how and why he still matters to readers fifty years later. This reader came to Steinbeck late in life, aided by luck, leisure, and help from friends like Christopher Hitchens, whose writing about Steinbeck and George Orwell, the writer who mattered most to Hitchens, became a map and key to connections that reveal much about Steinbeck that is missed when he is read in isolation. The reader's education and life experience are brought to bear as proof of Steinbeck's enduring value, and a counterstatement on Steinbeck by Peter Hitchens is offered as evidence that Steinbeck mattered differently but deeply to two readers who were as different as Cain and Abel. Passages from Orwell, Steinbeck, and Edward Ricketts are quoted and compared to show how growing up as Episcopalians gave them a common grounding and frame of reference, and their funeral arrangements are described and compared to show how atheists retain a respect for ritual and scripture. Recent writing by and about Joan Didion is cited as evidence that reading Steinbeck opens new vistas on other writers and past experience.


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pp. 45-55
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