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John Steinbeck Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Steinbeck came under Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance in the 1940s after others complained about his working-class sympathies and journalistic visits to Soviet Russia. In a 3 December 1942 letter to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, an unidentified informant wrote, "For some time past I have resented books by Steinbeck, for they portray such unrepresentative pictures of our American life in rural districts. I live near the Everglades farms district and most of the migrants out there live better than I do, while they are here for the picking season."9

Steinbeck's dog ate his first draft of Of Mice and Men.10

Steinbeck's realistic portrayals of working-class life have often been deemed too realistic by parents and librarians. The Grapes of Wrath was banned and burned in several districts when it first appeared, with censors citing coarse language, references to sex, and anti-establishment tones as the reason for its suppression. His books still draw controversy— Of Mice and Men has been one of the American Library Association's Top Ten Most Challenged Books since 1990, for a variety of reasons that include language, violence, and its depiction of the mentally handicapped.11

Steinbeck was fond of late-night meals of chili, tuna fish on crackers, and red wine from a jug.12

Steinbeck had a camper van specially outfitted for his 1960 journey through America with his poodle Charley. He named the camper Rocinante, after Don Quixote's horse.13

Steinbeck liked to write with pencils, using as many as 60 each day.14

According to Steinbeck's own records, East of Eden took one year of uninterrupted writing, 25 dozen pencils and about 36 reams of paper to complete. By the time he was done he had a callus on the middle finger of his right hand from writing.15

In 1996, the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State and Steinbeck's widow Elaine created the Steinbeck Award. The prize is given to artists whose work reflects John Steinbeck's liberal democratic ideals and respect for the common man. Recipients have included Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Arthur Miller and Sean Penn.16

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