I totally identified with the Steinbeck piece. He's the Puff the Magic Dragon of my reading life, too.
Some of my happiest reading experiences were those years between 13 and 16 where I devoured his books, one right after the other, with "Cannery Row" being a particular favorite, and for all the reasons you cite. I think the idea of all these layabouts and good-natured bums being rebels of the spirit naturally appealed to me. I wanted to get drunk on their beer milkshakes.
My favorite was "The Winter of our Discontent," which was my idea of a great novel, and maybe the first novel I read on my own that at least seemed great, that told a story that had a larger, more universal meaning. I dread how much my fond memory of it would sour if I were to return to it.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Letter I dashed off to Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley regarding his fine article on re-reading Steinbeck: