Wednesday, December 5, 2012

John Steinbeck.

I just got the most wonderful book in the mail "Steinbeck: A Life in Letters."  I really should not be reading it for I have a pile of work, homework and studying I should focus my attention on.  But - I am taking a break and indulging in the letters of Steinbeck.  I adore writing and receiving letters - there is just something so perfect about having to write your thoughts down on paper.  This is the first letter in this book and I find it just perfect - it feels cozy and comfortable.

Steinbeck is writing to a friend from Stanford University, he is 24, broke, working a survival job to pursue his passion, writing.  The book says he is a caretaker for a house that is snowed in eight months out of the year.

Dear Toby:

     Do you know, one of the things that made me come here, was, as you guessed, that I am frightfully afraid of being alone.  The fear of the dark is only part of it.  I wanted to break that fear in the middle, because I am afraid much of me existence is going to be more or less alone, and I might as well go into training for it.  It comes on me at night mostly, in little waves of panic, that constrict something in my stomach.  But don't you think it is good to fight these things?   Last night, some quite large animal came and sniffed under the door.  I presume it was a coyote, thought I do not know.  The moon had not come up, and when I ran outside there was nothing to be seen.  But the main thing was that I was frightened, even though I know it could be nothing but a coyote.  Don't tell anyone I am afraid.  I do not like to be suspected of being afraid.
     As soon as you can, get to work on the Little Lady [A Green Lady, a play Street was writing].  Keep your eye on cost of production, small and inexpensive scenes, few in the cast and lots of wise cracks, as racy as you think the populace will stand.  Always crowd the limit.  And also if you have time, try your hand on a melo drahmar, something wild, and mysterious and unexpected with characters turning out to be other people and some of them turing out to be nobody at all.
     And if you can find a small but complete dictionary lying about anywhere send it to me.  I have none, and apparently the Brighams [his employers] are so perfect in their mother tongue that they do not need one.
     I shall send you some mss pretty soon if you wish.  I have been working slowly but deliciously on one thing.  There is something so nice about being able to put down a sentence and then look over and then change it, sometimes taking half an hour over two lines.  And it is possible here because there seems to be no reason for rush.
   If, on going through Salinas, you have the time, you might look in on my folks and tell them there is little possibility of me either starving or freezing.  Be as honest as you can, but picture me in a land flowing with ham and eggs, and one wherein woolen underdrawers grow on the fir trees.  Tell them that I am living on the inside of a fiery furnace, or something.
     It's time for me to go to the post office now, I will cease without the usual candle-like spluttering. Write me when and as often as you get a chance.  I shall depend on the mail quite a lot.



I relate to Steinbeck's fear of being alone - but not wanting anyone to know his fear.  I love how he is "working slowly but deliciously on one thing."  I love the advise of " always crowd the limit."  I envy his "being able to put down a sentence and then look over and then change it, sometimes taking half an hour over two lines.  And it is possible here because there seems to be no reason for rush."

I love the personality that can be conveyed in a letter.  The way it allows me to peak into his personal life and not just read his crafted works, but glimpse his soul.  I think thats what we all really want - to not just hear someones crafted words, but to understand, to glimpse their unprotected soul.

No comments: