Old Town Salinas, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

I’ve been researching the novels, movie scripts, and letters of John Steinbeck for a project on which I’m working.  While in Monterrey recently, the research took me inland to the National Steinbeck Center in the Salinas Valley. If you’re ever out that way, it’s well worth the trip. There is so much treasure folded in among John’s letters, inked onto the margins of his original and copied manuscripts, even nestled into "Rocinante," the actual truck that was modified for his drive across the U.S. with his beloved dog, Charlie. 

National Steinbeck Center, Attribution: Lord Harris

I was struck by many things at the center, among them this quote, 

Books: One of the few authentic magics our species has created.  ~ John Steinbeck

In his handwritten notes, John revealed that the central message of EAST OF EDEN  is contained in the Hebrew word, timsel, which was translated for him as, “thou mayest.” 

Among Steinbeck’s related letters, in one dated 29 January 1951, he indicated his objective for the writing of East of Eden. “I am choosing to write this book to my sons. They are little boys now, and they will never know where they came from through me unless I tell them...I want to tell them directly, and perhaps by speaking directly to them I shall speak directly to other people…”

 John Steinbeck, Awarded Nobel Prize in1962 (Swedish Photo, Public Domain)

“…One can go off into fanciness if one writes to a huge nebulous group, but I think it will be necessary to speak very straight, and clearly, and simply….”

For me, these words capture the essence of Steinbeck’s style, as well as the deceptively uncomplicated richness and depth of his writing. As writers and creatives, as leaders, teachers, and mentors, as human beings communicating in relationships with others, we could all do well to apply John’s fundamental message, “speaking straight, and clearly, and simply.”