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Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters

By John Steinbeck

A book about writing a book?  The thought of this even as a big fan of JS gave me flashes of the writer being a teeny bit self indulgent. After I was a couple of pages into this collection of letters my first ill-informed opinion was obliterated.

This is a collection of letters that Steinbeck wrote to his editor and friend Pascal Covici (aka Pat in the text).  Many of us will have colleagues to chat to and converse with everyday. This is not so for a writer so for JS his journal was his water cooler chat/cigarette break in which he got to let off steam and ruminate on all kinds of topics.

The journal begins in January 1951 when he started writing EOE and ends in November of the same year when he had finished his first draft. From the get go JS set out to write his ultimate book (which many would say he achieved with EOE, as would your humble reviewer). He saw East of Eden as his heavily autobiographical  legacy to his two sons in which he wanted to show them the thorough evil of people, the pure goodness of people, and the wonders of nature.

This is a wonderful easy read but one not lacking in depth in which a man bears his soul and his insecurities. The writer who at the age of forty nine had begun to enjoy being a father and a husband but even as a world famous novelist still had the universal hopes and fears that all of us go through in life. His musings contain his usual satirical wit and excellent style and as a reader it was clear to me that Steinbeck and his long-standing editor had over the years galvanised a very sturdy personal relationship where they and their families had become very close, and in which insulting each other and cruel mockery were key to the relationships survival.

The prospective reader would do well to read EOE before this Journal because as well as the whacking great plot spoilers, the writer’s tribulations over various plot changes and structure make this such an interesting  read for anybody who has read and loved the novel. As well as notes on the book the writer also waxes lyrical on that years baseball world series, the unavailability of decent pencils (hard to believe in our digital times but he wrote the entire first draft of  EOE longhand), the current political situation in the United States, parenthood, and last but not least his passion for carpentry and buying tools.

To conclude, a great insight into the creative process that formed a great book by a great writer. 10/10
Cutsyke

East Of Eden is another brilliant book. Read it loads then my Mam said, does it remind you of Cain And Able? I don't know, I've never read the Bible.

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