John Steinbeck is one of the greatest and most popular American writers. Some think Cannery Row is his greatest novel, others East of Eden. For Clay there is only one Steinbeck novel that the world could not live without: The Grapes of Wrath.
This week-long journey is a lovely mix of talk about Steinbeck’s books and exploration of the California that inspired some of his best work. Spirit of place mattered to Steinbeck. The Gabilan and St. Lucia Mountains, the Salinas River Valley, Salinas itself, Pacific Grove, Carmel, and Monterey are as important as the characters in his fiction. He often pauses to describe the landscape of his youth. And he had a love affair with the great row of canneries in Monterey that gave him his closest friendship in life—with Ed Ricketts—and the setting for some of his most enchanting fiction.
The adventure begins with an evening with Steinbeck himself, portrayed by our host and humanities scholar Clay S. Jenkinson. Because Steinbeck was a reluctant and often petulant interviewee, he’ll be presented to our guests by Russ Eagle of North Carolina, Clay’s dear friend and one of Steinbeck’s greatest fans.
Our days will begin with after-breakfast book discussions, because Clay believes you cannot come to terms with Steinbeck’s California landscapes without a significant encounter with Steinbeck’s prose—his powers of description, his imagination, his political and social concerns, his capacity to create narrative.
After our playful but searching discussions we’ll venture out to explore Steinbeck’s world. Your cottage is within walking distance of the Point Pinos Lighthouse and the Pacific tide pools where Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts worked and played, while developing their philosophy of the interconnectedness of life, the futility of trying to deny the dynamics of nature, including human nature, and the ways in which groups (the phalanx) have “purpose” that eludes the understanding of mere individuals, whether they are brine shrimp or Oklahoma preachers.
Come join the adventure as we explore great landscapes and great literature with old friends and new in Steinbeck Country.