John Steinbeck's California

Jackson Benson, in his preface to John Steinbeck, Writer, wrote:

This is the story of a man who was a writer. He cared about language, and he cared about people. He didn’t want to be famous or popular – he just wanted to write books. But he became both. From among the many serious writers of our time, he became for a great many people, here and throughout the world, the one writer who counted, the one who touched them. He made words sing, and he made people laugh and cry. He also made them think – about loneliness, self-deception, and injustice. And in all that he wrote, he testified to his belief that everything that lives is holy.


For almost 80 years now, John Steinbeck has remained among the most read and admired authors around the world, his works translated into more than 50 languages. Now you have the opportunity to join Clay in discussing and exploring some of Steinbeck’s greatest works in the very places that inspired them, the part of the world known as Steinbeck Country. You’ll spend a week on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula, hiking along California’s rugged central coast and the dark and foreboding Santa Lucia mountains, exploring the stunning Monterey waterfront that stretches from Steinbeck’s famed Cannery Row to Fisherman’s Wharf and Monterey Harbor, and visiting the lush Salinas Valley, the “Salad Bowl of the World,” nestled into the foothills of Steinbeck’s beloved Gabilan range.


Clay has been portraying Steinbeck now for years, and your experience will begin with the chance to sit down with the reclusive author to discuss his life and work. You’ll also dine in Steinbeck’s boyhood home, and you’ll visit his beloved Point Lobos south of Carmel Bay. You’ll see Rocinante, the truck and camper that took Steinbeck and his poodle Charley around the country in 1960 in their effort to “rediscover America,” and you’ll climb to the top of Fremont’s Peak to stand on the very spot where Steinbeck saw his country for the final time. Other highlights include a visit to Ed Ricketts’ Lab on Cannery Row, one of the nation’s great literary landmarks, a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the chance to explore the tide pools near Point Pinos Lighthouse where Steinbeck and Ricketts worked and played, discussing and developing their philosophy of the interconnectedness of life, the futility of man’s attempts to deny the dynamics of nature, and the way in which groups in the natural world have “purpose” that eludes the understanding of their individual members.

Clay believes that coming to terms with Steinbeck’s California landscapes requires a significant encounter with his prose, his powers of description, his imagination, his political and social concerns, and his capacity to create narrative. Each day Clay will lead daily discussions of some of Steinbeck’s finest works, and then we’ll venture out to explore Steinbeck’s world. In the evenings we’ll sit by a fire, sip the great wines of Monterey County, and watch central California’s amazing sunsets from the tip of the Monterey Peninsula. And throughout the week you’ll have first class accommodations, some amazing meals at outstanding restaurants, and lots of other encounters with Steinbeck’s world.