So you can read my books

Friday, June 19, 2015


John Steinbeck would send his son letters

 — sometimes 18-page-long ones, when he didn’t have time to edit — 

ranting, raving, and generally trying to be helpful. 

The only thing I remember my father telling me was one word: "Survive" 

when he abandoned me at six on a rough street far from my home in Detroit.

"Happy Father's Day, Dad."

In 1958, John's 14 year old son wrote of falling in love for the first time.  

This is the letter Steinbeck wrote back:

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First -- if you are in love -- that's a good thing -- that's about the best thing that can happen to anyone. 

Don't let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second -- There are several kinds of love. 

One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. 

The other is an outpouring of everything good in you 

-- of kindness and consideration and respect -- 

not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. 

The first kind can make you sick and small and weak 

but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn't know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply -- of course it isn't puppy love.

But I don't think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. 

What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it -- and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone 

-- there is no possible harm in saying so -- 

only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another -- 

but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I'm glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. 

But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. 

She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don't worry about losing. If it is right, it happens -- 

The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.


 You should treat yourself to Steinbeck: A Life in Letters (public library

that constructs an alternative biography of the iconic author through some 850 

of his most thoughtful, witty, honest, opinionated, vulnerable, and revealing letters to family, friends, his editor, and a circle of equally well-known and influential public figures.


  1. Some people, like Steinbeck are parents and others are merely sperm or ova donors. Biology doesn't guarantee parenting at all...

    1. Yes, loving, wise actions are the hallmarks of a true parent.

  2. Not all parents were meant to be mothers or fathers. My father never thought much of me and let me know it. We had an uneasy truce as I grew up. But, I had one loving grandfather, (my mom's dad) who made me feel wanted and whom I idolized. There should be a course for parenting and an application for permission to have children. Happy Father's Day to the good fathers!

    1. Exactly! I have always said that if they demand training and a license before you drive a car, how much more should there be training to have a child before you even try to have one.

  3. An amazingly perceptive and sensitive letter...can't help wondering about Steinback Jr and Susan's relationship, what course it took and how long it lasted...

    Better to be with a loving foster parent than an uncaring biological parent and be subject to some form of drip-drip negativity through out childhood...just my thoughts

    Have a great weekend

    1. I think Steinbeck really scored high on that letter as being a loving parent. :-)

      Actually, Thom has been recently asked the same question you made. He couldn't even remember Susan's face and the whole relationship was quickly over.

      Same thought as you about the loving foster parent As for my weekend, I am doing solo duty all weekend! Whew!!

  4. That's probably some of the best advice about love I've read. I may start telling my friends to read that one letter instead of the stacks of dribble called dating advice that waste shelf space at most bookstores.

    1. Yes. :-) Leave it to a great author to nail a hard topic like love. Have a great weekend!

  5. Thanks Roland .. fascinating post on fatherhood ... so pleased it's here - Hilary