America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction

America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction


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A Penguin Classic

More than four decades after his death, John Steinbeck remains one of the nation's most beloved authors. Yet few know of his career as a journalist who covered world events from the Great Depression to Vietnam. Now, this distinctive collection offers a portrait of the artist as citizen, deeply engaged in the world around him. In addition to the complete text of Steinbeck's last published book, America and Americans, this volume brings together for the first time more than fifty of Steinbeck's finest essays and journalistic pieces on Salinas, Sag Harbor, Arthur Miller, Woody Guthrie, the Vietnam War and more. This edition is edited by Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw and Steinbeck biographer Jackson J. Benson.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142437414
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/10/2003
Series: Penguin Classics Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 168,387
Product dimensions: 5.07(w) x 7.74(h) x 0.74(d)
Age Range: 18 - 17 Years

About the Author

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).
After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942).Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright(1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961),Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata!(1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures. 

Jackson J. Benson teaches American Literature at San Diego State University. His biography, The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, won the PEN USA West award for nonfiction. He lives in La Mesa, California.

Susan Shillinglaw is a professor of English San Jose State University. She is the author of On Reading the Grapes of Wrath and Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage.

Date of Birth:

February 27, 1902

Date of Death:

December 20, 1968

Place of Birth:

Salinas, California

Place of Death:

New York, New York


Attended Stanford University intermittently between 1919 and 1925

Table of Contents


 Places of the Heart 1
 Always Something to Do in Salinas 4
 The Golden Handcuff 13
 A Primer on the '30s 17
 Making of a New Yorker 32
 My War with the Ospreys 41
 Conversation at Sag Harbor 50


 Engaged Artist 65
 Dubious Battle in California 71
 The Harvest Gypsies: Squatters' Camps 78
 Starvation Under the Orange Trees 83
 From Writers Take Sides 88
 I Am a Revolutionary 89
 Duel Without Pistols 91
 The Trial of Arthur Miller 101
 Atque Vale 105
 Dear Adlai 108
 G.O.P. Delegates Have Bigger, Better Badges 110
 L'Envoi 112


 Occasional Pieces 117
 Then My Arm Glassed Up 125
 On Fishing 132
 Circus 136
 Random Thoughts on Random Dogs 139
 ... like captured fireflies 142
 The Joan in All of Us 144
 A Model T Named "It" 147


 On Writing 151
 The Play-Novelette 155
 My Short Novels 158
 Rationale 161
 Critics-from a Writer's Viewpoint 163
 Some Random and Randy Thoughts on Books 167
 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech 172

 Friends 175
 From About Ed Ricketts 179
 Ernie Pyle 213
 Tom Collins 215
 Robert Capa 217
 Adlai Stevenson 219
 Henry Fonda 223
 Woody Guthrie 225


 Journalist Abroad 227
 The Soul and Guts of France 233
 One American in Paris (fourth piece) 246
 One American in Paris (thirteenth piece) 248
 Positano 251
 Florence: The Explosion of the Chariot 259
 I Go Back to Ireland 262
 The Ghost of Anthony Daly 270


 War Correspondent 275
 Troopship 282
 Waiting 285
 Stories of the Blitz 288
 Lilli Marlene 291
 Bob Hope 293
 Vietnam War: No Front, No Rear 296
 Action in the Delta 299
 Terrorism 304
 Puff, the Magic Dragon 307
 An Open Letter to Poet Yevtushenko 311

 America and Americans 313
 Foreword 317
 E Pluribus Unum 319
 Paradox and Dream 330
 Government of the People 339
 Created Equal 346
 Genus Americanus 354
 The Pursuit of Happiness 369
 Americans and the Land 377
 Americans and the World 383
 Americans and the Future 392
Afterword 403
Works Cited 405
Selected Bibliography of Steinbeck's Nonfiction 407
Index 417

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A feast of good reading." —Jay Parini, Los Angeles Times

"Captures Steinbeck's fierce and unrelenting moral vision, while providing an intriguing glimpse of the writer's life and work." —Chicago Tribune

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America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
ojaifan More than 1 year ago
I didn't know that John Steinbeck wrote nonfiction. In fact, many readers might only recognize Steinbeck's most popular works, such as The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl, and Of Mice And Men. However, this collection of short stories and anecdotes proves that Steinbeck also has the gift of nonfiction writing. Many of these short stories were written when he was a news journalist in the Vietnam War. Many reporters were only documenting the actual events of War; however, Steinbeck chose to travel with the soldiers and document the feelings and attitudes associated with War. This opened up a whole new aspect of War journalism. While most of these selections were written in the 60's, his views on politics come full circle today as we see many of his predictions based on human behavior come alive today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Steinbeck's insights into American culture seem prescient. His description of what we were seems to be a prophecy of what we have become.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Steinbeck was a great American author who truly wrote some of the most readable novels. I had not read any of his non-fiction until this book. I can say without a doubt that his non-fiction is equally as enjoyable as his fiction.I think everyone should read this. The problems and situations he talks about in his writing, read as if they were written about today's world.
JBreedlove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The last published book by Steinbeck. It is a collection of essays concerning a variety of topics but mostly on what he thought about the current state of America and Americans.
kjforester on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Many of the America and Americans essays, though written over 40 years ago, speak to the issues we face today, specifically his thoughts on the environment, big-money corporations and race relations. Of particular interest is Steinbeck's essay on Adlai Stevenson and Governor Stevenson's eloquence during the Presidential race of 1952 against Dwight D. Eisenhower. He writes, "I know Mr. Stevenson only from pictures of him, from reading his history and from his speeches. I was for Eisenhower, knew about him and liked him." Steinbeck goes on to explain why he changed who he voted for, noting it wasn't looks or even Stevenson's accomplishments "because Eisenhower's contribution is second to none in the world and certainly overshadows the record of [Stevenson], no matter how good it may have been. I have switched entirely because of the speeches." I cannot help but compare this to my own decision to support Barack Obama instead of Hilary Clinton. Steinbeck writes, "He makes their efforts sound so ill-conceived, clumsily thought-out and dull. The weighty sarcasms, moral indignations, the flaggy patriotisms and dingy platitudes which have been perfectly good in other elections are covered with gray dust in this year." Read this wonderful collection of essays yourself and see how many are still relevant now.
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