Blogger: Etta Wilson
Location: Books & Such client retreat, Monterey, Calif.
All summer I’ve been longing to go to the beach. Instead, I traveled to Minneapolis and St. Louis–about as mid-continent as you can get. Even if time had permitted, the beach we usually head to along the southern coast was having problems with tar balls, thanks to BP.
Now, here I am in one of the nation’s most beautiful seaside spots–Monterey, California. Not only do I have the gorgeous coastline scenery and sea breezes, but also sea creatures and birds are readily visible that I haven’t seen in a long time. Several of them even caw and bark all night long!
Of course, those of us in the world of books associate Monterey with John Steinbeck, the quintessential California author and winner of both the Nobel Prize for literature in 1961 and the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath (a story about hard-bitten inlanders from Oklahoma heading for the sea and a better life in California–they hoped).
At the recent Southern Festival of Books, juvenile author Louis Sachar was asked why he used a quote from Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in his new YA book The Cardturner. He said he happened to be reading the novel again while he was writing his book and couldn’t resist including the following for his audience even though he had to justify it as being admired by an adult character:
“It has always seemed strange to me,” said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success.” (p. 248)
Interesting that Sachar was moved to share Steinbeck’s words with young readers, but an author’s inspiring words do live on from generation to generation. I wonder if part of Steinbeck’s great creative energy and advocacy for the poor didn’t flow his having lived close to the sea. There may be something about the natural force and rhythm of waves that inspire writers and artists to create great projects.
What strong stories created by writers who lived near the sea can you remember? I’m going on the Cannery Row tour now and think some more about Steinbeck.