Steinbeck in Vietnam by John Steinbeck
Dispatches from the War

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Synopsis

Although his career continued for almost three decades after the 1939 publication of The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck is still most closely associated with his Depression-era works of social struggle. But from Pearl Harbor on, he often wrote passionate accounts of America’s wars based on his own firsthand experience. Vietnam was no exception.

Thomas E. Barden’s Steinbeck in Vietnam offers for the first time a complete collection of the dispatches Steinbeck wrote as a war correspondent for Newsday. Rejected by the military because of his reputation as a subversive, and reticent to document the war officially for the Johnson administration, Steinbeck saw in Newsday a unique opportunity to put his skills to use. Between December 1966 and May 1967, the sixty-four-year-old Steinbeck toured the major combat areas of South Vietnam and traveled to the north of Thailand and into Laos, documenting his experiences in a series of columns titled Letters to Alicia, in reference to Newsday publisher Harry F. Guggenheim’s deceased wife. His columns were controversial, coming at a time when opposition to the conflict was growing and even ardent supporters were beginning to question its course. As he dared to go into the field, rode in helicopter gunships, and even fired artillery pieces, many detractors called him a warmonger and worse. Readers today might be surprised that the celebrated author would risk his literary reputation to document such a divisive war, particularly at the end of his career.

Drawing on four primary-source archives—the Steinbeck collection at Princeton, the Papers of Harry F. Guggenheim at the Library of Congress, the Pierpont Morgan Library’s Steinbeck holdings, and the archives of Newsday—Barden’s collection brings together the last published writings of this American author of enduring national and international stature. In addition to offering a definitive edition of these essays, Barden includes extensive notes as well as an introduction that provides background on the essays themselves, the military situation, the social context of the 1960s, and Steinbeck’s personal and political attitudes at the time.

 

About John Steinbeck

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Thomas E. Barden is Professor of English and Dean of the Honors College at the University of Toledo.
 
Published March 29, 2012 by University of Virginia Press. 224 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, War, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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But with the pearl, evil enters the hearts of men:- ambition beyond his station emboldens Kino to turn down the price offered by the dealers- he determines to go to the capital for a better market;

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Steinbeck's war dispatches were memorable, not perhaps for their historical value as a record but because of the vivid personal angle, the human bits, the vitality of capturing the feel of the war as seen on a troopship, in an airbase in England, behind the lines, and so on.

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The two long pieces are freewheeling, often playful reworkings of Malory, in which Steinbeck tries to sum up his complex love of all that knighthood and the Arthurian fellowship have meant to him.

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Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 1941 ISBN: 0143117211 Page count: 6...

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Pub Date: April 14th, 1939 ISBN: 0143039431 Page count:...

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Steinbeck's journal "entries" are mostly short, rushed notes exhorting himself to finish the book.

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February of next year is the centennial of Steinbeck’s birth and, along with new Penguin editions of six of his novels, Viking is offering up this collection from the other, lesser-known, side of his career.

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— January 14, 2013 Tremendous in scope- tremendous in depth of penetration- and as different a Steinbeck as the Steinbeck of Burning Bright was from the Steinbeck of Grates o...

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Although Eden was followed by Sweet Thursday, Travels with Charley, the script for Viva Zapata!, The Wayward Bus, The Winter of Our Discontent, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (Steinbeck’s reworking of Mallory’s Morte d’Arthur), and other plays, scripts, and nonfiction works—and by ...

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A collection of the pro-war pieces filed from Southeast Asia for Newsday by the Nobel laureate not long before his death.

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Publishers Weekly

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Few may remember that the Nobel Prize–winning novelist pursued a parallel 30-year career in journalism, but this collection (timed to mark the centennial of Steinbeck's birth) demonstrates that the author was a major journalistic voice in the mid-20th century.

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Gary Sinise narrates this audio version of Steinbeck’s classic travelogue—the book documents the author’s trip across America with his poodle Charley—in a tone that is friendly, folksy, and thoughtful.

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In December 1966 when the Vietnam War was beginning to dominate America’s political landscape, novelist and Nobel laureate John Steinbeck went to Vietnam as a reporter for Newsday.

Jan 23 2012 | Read Full Review of Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatc...

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