So you can read my books

Monday, April 21, 2014


"Money is the fruit of evil as often as it is the root of it!"
 - Mark Twain

Mark Twain here again:

In 1056 on this date,

a supernova in the Crab Nebula fades from the sight of the naked eye and folks began predicting dire consequences --

and weathermen have been spinning tales ever since.

In 1616, brave Miguel de Cervantes died in Madrid on this date.

Not so brave Adolf Hitler sees Soviet forces close in Berlin on this date in 1945

and admits defeat to his inner circle, saying suicide is his only recourse ---

In Roland's GHOST OF A CHANCE you find out the truth of the matter.

Seeing as how I was a newspaper man for decades, I like Rebecca West's definition  of Journalism

she wrote in the New York Herald Tribune on this date in 1956:

"An ability to meet the challenge of filling the space."

Old Vladimir Nabokov was born on this day in 1899

(or tomorrow, depending on how you heathens convert leap year days from the old to the modern Russian calendar).

Below, a passage from his memoir Speak, Memory:

"I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another.

A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern -- to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal."

As for those of you wondering what author I would pick for the letter S:

1. An early draft of John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men was eaten by his dog.

It was Max, one of several dogs Steinbeck owned during his life, who devoured the novel’s draft and so became, in effect, the book’s first critic.

Which is why I, Mark Twain, always preferred cats.  You never saw any of them eating my manuscripts!

This is probably Steinbeck’s most famous novel, and draws on his own experiences as a ‘bindlestiff’ (or migratory worker) in the US in the 1920s.

The novel’s title famously comes from the Robert Burns poem ‘To a Mouse’:

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley’ (or ‘go often awry’).

2. He wrote one of the finest love letters in all of literature – a letter about falling in love.

In this letter of 1958, Steinbeck responds to a letter his son Thom had written to him.

Thom had told his father that he had fallen desperately in love with a girl named Susan

(at this time, Thom was away at boarding school).

Steinbeck’s tone is supportive and honest throughout, taking his son’s feelings into account but also offering advice on ‘what to do about it’ –

surely what every teenager in the first pangs of a love affair wants to know. ‘

The object of love is the best and most beautiful,’ he tells Thom. ‘Try to live up to it.’

He ends the letter by assuring his son,

‘And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.’

You can read the letter in full here.

"In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable."
-- John Steinbeck


  1. Wise words from a father. If it's right, it happens.

  2. Alex:
    I truly get more out of the non-fiction of John Steinbeck than I do his fiction. He was a wise and kind man, despite the dour look often on his face!

  3. He may have been the first American writer I ever read as a young person back in Sweden. I have always liked him a lot. I liked Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row and I remember being astonished when I discovered how many liters there were to a gallon. That's what they drank, gallons of wine. His travels with Charley may have been my favorite book. No surprise there, I guess.

  4. I have never read the nonfiction of Steinbeck. Funny that his first draft of Mice and Men was eaten by his dog, maybe the dog found the Grapes of Wrath too sour. ;-)

  5. Inger:
    He wrote CANNERY ROW for the G.I.'s in WWII who asked him to write something over which they could laugh. So he did.

    His TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY is my favorite book of his, too. I listen to the audiobook of it by Gary Sinse over and over again as I drive the rural roads on my blood runs. :-)

    Ouch! Great pun. LOL. I listen to his audiobook, OF AMERICAN AND AMERICANS which is a collection of most of his non-fiction. His recollection of a winter trip to a remote cabin in the winter is priceless. :-)

  6. Steinbeck came out of a Depression-era generation that had a strong social conscience. Even in his short books like Of Mice and Men there was a universal message, a largeness of spirit and heart that made his stories important ones. But I'm ashamed to say I haven't read his nonfiction, so I've got some catching up to do.

  7. So Max started 'the dog ate my homework' line...
    And yes, Travels with Charlie is a classic - which you have reminded me it is time I reread.

  8. Helena:
    TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY would be a good non-fiction of his to start with. It is like a time machine to 1960! His social conscience was still as strong and moral. I need to read CANNERY ROW. :-)

    Elephant's Child:
    Bad Max! If you can, listen to the audiobook of TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY narrated by Gary Sinse. He does a marvelous job!

  9. So is that where the excuse "my dog ate my homework" came from?

  10. I clicked the link and read the letter in full. I tried to imagine receiving a letter like that from my father... how wonderful.

  11. It's admirable that he even addressed the issue, it shows good communication between him and his son. I like the 'nothing good gets away' idea, but it doesn't always ring true. I've never read Travels with Charlie.

    I think this is a good writer's mantra, especially if the material is otherworldly(scifi, paranormal, fantasy):

    "In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable."

    Yes, so don't explain. . .tell a story instead. I like that. Hope you survived the hectic weekend.

  12. Donna:
    Steinbeck nearly cried. He felt he never re-captured the novel as he had first written it. :-(

    Steinbeck loved his sons. In AMERICA AND THE AMERICANS, his articles including his young sons are full of love and warmth -- and humor, too. :-) I'm glad you clicked over to the full letter.

    I slept 13 hours straight yesterday. After the surgeries and the knifing, it takes me longer to recover from these solo weekends as a rare blood courier!

    You really need to read TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE. I enjoyed but was saddened by his visit to New Orleans during one of its ugliest episodes. :-(

    "In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable."

    That might apply to trying to convey the problem of expressing the human heart in conflict with itself. :-)

  13. Hi Roland - well you've introduced me to lots here ... I am not well read, I admit. However you also send me off to audio books - and I must get myself geared up for that - once the Challenge is over I shall definitely sort the audio bit out .. especially as I expect I'll be taking off in the car and I can listen as I drive the motorway or lanes ...

    Cheers - I shall definitely remember these - Hilary

  14. Mark Twain might not have seen cats eating manuscripts before, but mine eat cardboard boxes so my manuscripts might be next. haha

  15. Hilary:
    There are too many books out there for any of us to be called well-read!

    Audiobooks are fun if you are on the road like I am, and it sounds like you you plan to be. Just be careful as you drive while you listen!!

    TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE narrated by Gary Sinse is an entertaining listen. :-)

    Gypsy was hard on my stacks of books with her claws! And like your cats, she chewed cardboard as well -- Mark Twain said she needed the fiber, don't you know!

  16. I love the Mark Twain quote at the beginning. Spectacular.

  17. Taryn:
    Thanks! The ghost of Mark Twain sends a wink your way!