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Steinbeck Literary Tour


I just returned from Steinbeck Country and cannont think of a more perfect way to increase appreciation for an author and their body of work than to visit the countryside or city they lived in and wrote about!


February 22, 2003
— Monterey and Salinas California are to Steinbeck's Cannery Row, East of Eden, and The Red Pony, as the Yorkshire moors are to Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.  Once you've experienced the countryside, you have a heightened appreciation of their literature.


Adding to the delight of the experience is having an informed guide, someone steeped with knowledge and passionate about the life and works of the author. Such was my case—and good fortune—in having Susan Shillinglaw, PhD from San Jose State University and Director of the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, as my personal guide through Steinbeck country. 


Susan Shillinglaw began studying Steinbeck in 1983 as a way to acclimate herself to California after leaving her native Colorado.  Twenty years later she has written several books on the author, edited even more, and has written the forwards to the current Penguin editions of Cannery Row and Of Mice And Men.  She heads up the Steinbeck Museum located in Salinas (Steinbeck's birthplace), which opened last year for the centennial of the author's birth.


Our tour began from our hotel next to Cannery Row on Monterey Bay and took us through the countyside to the private farm where The Red Pony was set. It was wonderful to have passages read from the various novels as we looked out over the scenery and saw those busted swallow nests in the rafters of the old barn while a sheep dog barked at our presence. We understood how a bored young boy would have filled his day in the lazy summer years gone by.   


Next, we stopped for lunch at the Victorian house of Steinbeck's birth. I managed to pick up two first edition copies of his books in the little gift shop in the lower aspect of the house.


The tour ended at the Steinbeck Museum, an annex to the National Steinbeck Center that houses artifacts and archives about this important author who remains the only American to have won both the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (The Grapes of Wrath) and the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Next time you take a trip, consider a literary location of a favorite author—and get some help from the resident expert.  Re-reading the novels is better than buying a post card!

Paula Shackleton, President & Founder,


Books by John Steinbeck:

  • Cup of Gold (1929)
  • The Pastures of Heaven (1932)
  • The Red Pony (1933)
  • To a God Unknown (1933)
  • Tortilla Flat (1935)
  • In Dubious Battle (1936)
  • Nothing So Monstrous (1936)
  • Of Mice and men (1937)
  • The Long Valley (1938)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
  • The Forgotten Village (1941)
  • Long from the Sea of Cortez (1941)
  • Bombs Away (1942)
  • The Moon is Down (1942)
  • Cannery Row (1945)
  • The Wayward Bus (1947)
  • The Pearl (1948)
  • A Russian Journal (1948)
  • Burning Bright (1950)
  • East of Eden (1952)
  • Sweet Thursday (1954)
  • The Short Rein of Pippin IV (1957)
  • Once There Was a War (1958)
  • The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)
  • Travels with Charley: In Search of America (1962)
  • Viva Zapata (1975, posthumously)
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976, posthumously)

Books by Susan Shillinglaw, PhD:

(available through The National Steinbeck Center)

  • Beyond Boundaries: Rereading John Steinbeck
  • Centennial Reflections by American Writers
  • How to Organize a Steinbeck Book or Film Discussion Group

And look for her upcoming book, a biography on Steinbeck from the prespectives of his three wives!



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