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John Ernst Steinbeck III (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) was one of the most famous and most widely read American writers of the 20th century. A winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, his most acclaimed works include his novella Of Mice and Men (1937) and his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), both of which examine the lives of the working class and migrant workers during the Great Depression.
Born: February 27th, 1902
Died: December 20th, 1968
Quotes: 139 sourced quotes total (includes 1 disputed, 1 about)
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A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.
"It is so easy a thing to give—only great men have the courage and courtesy and, yes, the generosity to receive."
"When you argue with a child," she said warmly, "you give a good argument and the child says yah, yah! You understand him and he doesn't listen, so the child wins."
"I do understand. I understand that you are offered a loveliness and you vomit on it, that you have the gift of love given you such as few men have ever known and you throw on it the acid of your pride, your ugly twisted sense of importance."
I am a dog.
Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
Maybe that's the reason," Adam said slowly, feeling his way. "Maybe if I had loved him I would have been jealous of him. You were. Maybe-maybe love makes you suspicious and doubting. Is it true that when you love a woman you are never sure-never sure of her because you aren't sure of yourself? I can see it pretty clearly. I can see how you loved him and what it did to you. I did not love him. Maybe he loved me. He tested me and hurt me and punished me and finally he sent me out like a sacrifice, maybe to make up for something. But he did not love you, and so he had faith in you. Maybe — why, maybe it's a kind of reverse.
He had said, "I am a man," and that meant certain things to Juana. It meant that he was half insane and half god. It meant that Kino would drive his strength against a mountain and plunge his strength against the sea. Juana, in her woman's soul, knew that the mountain would stand while the man broke himself; that the sea would surge while the man drowned in it. And yet it was this thing that made him a man, half insane and half god, and Juana had need of a man; she could not live without a man. Although she might be puzzled by these differences between man and woman, she knew them and accepted them and needed them. Of course she would follow him, there was no question of that. Sometimes the quality of woman, the reason, the caution, the sense of preservation, could cut through Kino's manness and save them all.
No one wants advice, only corroboration.
"What freedom men and women could have, were they not constantly tricked and trapped and enslaved and tortured by their sexuality! The only drawback in that freedom is that without it one would not be a human. One would be a monster."
The profession of book-writing makes horse-racing seem like a solid, stable business.
"It has always seemed strange to me," said Doc. "'''The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success."
Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.
Books ain't no good. A guy needs somebody — to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody.
We could live offa the fatta the lan’.
It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.
Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts... perhaps the fear of a loss of power.
"Ellen, only last night, asked, 'Daddy, when will we be rich?' But I did not say to her what I know: 'We will be rich soon, and you who handle poverty badly will handle riches equally badly.' And that is true. In poverty she is envious. In riches she may be a snob. Money does not change the sickness, only the symptoms."
The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.
The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.
It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure on the world.
Luck, you see, brings bitter friends.
Time is the only critic without ambition.
I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love.
Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.
For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.
In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. there is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.
Give a critic an inch, he’ll write a play.
No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose that they are like himself.
When I was very young and the urge to be someplace was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked.... In other words, I don’t improve, in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable.
To be alive at all is to have scars.
I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.
Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.
What the hell kind of bed you giving us, anyways. We don’t want no pants rabbits.
You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.
His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.
It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome but if that is all we ever were, we would millenniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth.
Guy don't need no sense to be a nice fella. Seems to me sometimes it jus' works the other way around. Take a real smart guy and he ain't hardly ever a nice fella.
"I'm sorry," Ethan said. "You have taught me something — maybe three things, rabbit footling mine. Three things will never be believed — the true, the probable, and the logical. I know now where to get the money to start my fortune."
They come, an' they quit an' go on; an' every damn one of 'em's got a little piece of land in his head. An' never a God damn one of 'em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever'body wants a little piece of lan'. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It's just in their head.
The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit — for gallantry in defeat — for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man, has no dedication nor any membership in literature.
Syntax, my lad. It has been restored to the highest place in the republic.
This monster of a land, this mightiest of nations, this spawn of the future, turns out to be the macrocosm of microcosm me.
Sectional football games have the glory and the despair of war, and when a Texas team takes the field against a foreign state, it is an army with banners.
We value virtue but do not discuss it. The honest bookkeeper, the faithful wife, the earnest scholar get little of our attention compared to the embezzler, the tramp, the cheat.
A plan is a real thing, and things projected are experienced. A plan once made and visualized becomes a reality along with other realities—never to be destroyed but easily to be attacked.
Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there’s time, the Bastard Time.
A book is like a man — clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.
The new American finds his challenge and his love in the traffic-choked streets, skies nested in smog, choking with the acids of industry, the screech of rubber and houses leashed in against one another while the townlets wither a time and die. This is not offered in criticism but only as observation. And I am sure that, as all pendulums reverse their swing, so eventually will the swollen cities rupture like dehiscent wombs and disperse their children back to the countryside.
What good men most biologists are, the tenors of the scientific world — temperamental, moody, lecherous, loud-laughing, and healthy. Your true biologist will sing you a song as loud and off-key as will a blacksmith, for he knows that morals are too often diagnostic of prostatitis and stomach ulcers. Sometimes he may proliferate a little too much in all directions, but he is as easy to kill as any other organism, and meanwhile he is very good company, and at least he does not confuse a low hormone productivity with moral ethics.
There are no ugly questions except those clothed in condescension.
I seen too many guys with land in their head. They never get none under their hand.
Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping.
I have owed you this letter for a very long time — but my fingers have avoided the pencil as though it were an old and poisoned tool.
For the first time I am working on a book that is not limited and that will take every bit of experience and thought and feeling that I have.
For every man in the world functions to the best of his ability, and no one does less than his best, no matter what he may think about it.
It is a nice thing to be working and believing in my work again. I hope I can keep the drive. I only feel whole and well when it is this way.
Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word. And there’s an opening convey of generalities. A Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner.
The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage.
There used to be a thing or a commodity we put great store by. It was called the People. Find out where the People have gone. I don’t mean the square-eyed toothpaste-and-hair-dye people or the new-car-or-bust people, or the success-and-coronary people. Maybe they never existed, but if there ever were the People, that’s the commodity the Declaration was talking about, and Mr. Lincoln.
All hell has broken loose. I admit our Russian is limited, but we can say hello, come in, you are beautiful, oh no you don't. … So in our pride we ordered for breakfast an omelet, toast and coffee and what has just arrived is a tomato salad with onions, a dish of pickles, a big slice of watermelon and two bottles of cream soda. Something has slipped badly.
Boileau said that Kings, Gods and Heroes only were fit subjects for literature. The writer can only write about what he admires. Present-day kings aren't very inspiring, the gods are on a vacation and about the only heroes left are the scientists and the poor … And since our race admires gallantry, the writer will deal with it where he finds it. He finds it in the struggling poor now.
Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.
Prayer never brought in no side-meat. Takes a shoat to bring in pork.
Life could not change the sun or water the desert, so it changed itself.
How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?
And now, our submarines are armed with mass murder, our silly, only way of deterring mass murder.
You watch your place, nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy, it ain't even funny.
If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick.
A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers.
Well, God knows he don't need any brains to buck barley bags. But don't you try to put nothing over, Milton. I got my eye on you.
What a frightening thing is the human, a mass of gauges and dials and registers, and we can read only a few and those perhaps not accurately.
Strength and success— they are above morality, above criticism. It seems then, that it is not what you do, but how you do it and what you call it.
I guess this is why I hate governments. It is always the rule, the fine print, carried out by the fine print men. There's nothing to fight, no wall to hammer with frustrated fists.
No little appetite or pain, no carelessness or meanness in him escaped her; no thought or dream or longing in him ever reached her. And yet several times in her life she had seen the stars.
With humanity's long proud history of standing firm against natural enemies, sometimes in the face of almost certain defeat and extinction, we would be cowardly and stupid to leave the field on the eve of our greatest potential victory.
I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
Oh, we can populate the dark with horrors, even we who think ourselves informed and sure, believing nothing we cannot measure or weigh. I know beyond all doubt that the dark things crowding in on me either did not exist or were not dangerous to me, and still I was afraid.
Such is the prestige of the Nobel award and of this place where I stand that I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession and in the great and good men who have practiced it through the ages.
We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say — and to feel — ”Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.”
For a while I was a vicious fighter but it wasn't to win. It was to get it over and get the hell out of there. And I never would have done it at all if other people hadn't put me in the ring. The only private fights I ever had were those I couldn't get away from.
I have never even wondered about the comparative standing of writers. I don't understand that. Writing to me is a deeply personal, even a secret function and when the product is turned loose it is cut off from me and I have no sense of its being mine. Consequently criticism doesn't mean anything to me. As a disciplinary matter, it is too late.
The techniques of opening conversation are universal. I knew long ago and rediscovered that the best way to attract attention, help, and conversation is to be lost. A man who seeing his mother starving to death on a path kicks her in the stomach to clear the way, will cheerfully devote several hours of his time giving wrong directions to a total stranger who claims to be lost.
Literature was not promulgated by a pale and emasculated critical priesthood singing their litanies in empty churches — nor is it a game for the cloistered elect, the tinhorn mendicants of low calorie despair. Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed. The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species.
In my heart there may be doubt that I deserve the Nobel award over other men of letters whom I hold in respect and reverence — but there is no question of my pleasure and pride in having it for myself. It is customary for the recipient of this award to offer personal or scholarly comment on the nature and the direction of literature. At this particular time, however, I think it would be well to consider the high duties and the responsibilities of the makers of literature.
A man is a lonely thing.
All men are moral. Only their neighbors are not.
A little hope, even hopeless hope, never hurt anybody.
You ain't worth a greased lack pin to ram you into hell.
A question is a trap, and an answer your foot in it.
He brought his malformed wisdom, his pool-hall, locker-room, joke-book wisdom to the front.
Maybe not having time to think is not having the wish to think.
There's something desirable about anything you're used to as opposed to something you're not.
Not only the brave get killed, but the brave have a better chance of it.
He wasn't involved with a race that could build a thing it had to escape from.
Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on. From nothing to nothing is no time at all.
Good God, what a mess of draggle-tail impulses a man is — and a woman too, I guess.
What a wonderful thing a woman is. I can admire what they do even if I don't understand why.
One man was so mad at me that he ended his letter: “Beware. You will never get out of this world alive.”
He doesn't belong to a race clever enough to split the atom but not clever enough to live at peace with itself.
My dreams are the problems of the day stepped up to absurdity, a little like men dancing, wearing the horns and masks of animals.
When two people meet, each one is changed by the other so you got two new people. Maybe that means — hell, it's complicated.
"Well, that glove's fulla vaseline." "Vaseline? What the hell for?" Well, I tell ya what — Curley says he's keepin' that hand soft for his wife."
Does anyone ever know even the outer fringe of another? What are you like in there? Mary — do you hear? Who are you in there?
For man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. Ch. 14
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. [Opening sentence.]
Sometimes it's great fun to be silly, like children playing statues and dying of laughter. And sometimes being silly breaks the even pace and lets you get a new start.
The misery stayed, not thought about but aching away, and sometimes I would have to ask myself, Why do I ache? Men can get used to anything, but it takes time.
I can't read ten pages of Steinbeck without throwing up. I couldn't read the proletarian crap that came out in the '30s; again you had sentimentalism — the poor oppressed workers.
The Mojave is a big desert and a frightening one. It’s as though nature tested a man for endurance and constancy to prove whether he was good enough to get to California.
They successfully combined piracy and puritanism, which aren't so unlike when you come right down to it. Both had a strong dislike for opposition and both had a roving eye for other people's property.
When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find himself a good and sufficient reason for going.
His guard was up now and he wasn't listening; he was only angry because here was a world he could not enter and so he had to disbelieve in its existence. He fell back on the world he knew.
If lowborn men could stand up to those born to rule, religion, government, the whole world would fall to pieces...[Merlin replies]...So it would; so it will ... then the pieces will be put together again by such as destroyed it.
The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use. In this, if in no other way, we can see the wild and reckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index.
It is strange how a man believes he can think better in a special place. I have such a place, have always had it, but I know it isn't thinking I do there, but feeling and experiencing and remembering. It's a safety place — everyone must have one, although I never heard a man tell of it.
It is odd how a man believes he can think better in a special place. I have such a place, have always had it, but I know it isn't thinking I do there, but feeling and experiencing and remembering. It's a safety place — everyone must have one, although I have never heard of a man tell of it.
“There is a strange duality in the human which makes for an ethical paradox. We have definitions of good qualities and of bad; not changing things, but generally considered good and bad throughout the ages and throughout the species. Of the good, we think always of wisdom, tolerance, kindliness, generosity, humility; and the qualities of cruelty, greed, self-interest, graspingness, and rapacity are universally considered undesirable.
No one knows how greatness comes to a man. It may lie in his blackness, sleeping, or it may lance into him like those driven fiery particles from outer space. These things, however, are known about greatness: need gives it life and puts it in action; it never comes without pain; it leaves a man changed, chastened, and exalted at the same time — he can never return to simplicity.
Victor's unfortunate choice it was always to mis-see, to mis-hear, to misjudge. He read softness into her because of the softness of her voice, when she was only remembering. His was the self-centered chaos of childhood. All looks and thoughts, loves and hatreds, were directed at him. Softness was softness towards him, weakness was weakness in the face of his strength. He preheard answers and listened not. He was full-coloured and brilliant—all outside of him was pale.
Mordeen said: "I used to wonder why this love seemed sweeter than I had ever known, better than many people ever know. And then one day the reason came to me. There are very few great Anythings in the world. In work and art and emotion—the great is very rare. And I have one of the great and beautiful. Now say your yah, yah, Victor, like a child unanswerably answering Wisdom. You will have to do that, I think."
I can remember the horror which came over my parents when they became convinced that it was so with me [that I wanted to be a writer]—and properly so. What you have and they had to look forward to is life made intolerable by a mean, cantankerous, opinionated, moody, quarrelsome, unreasonable, nervous, flighty, irresponsible son. You will get no loyalty, little consideration and desperately little attention from him. In fact you will want to kill him. I'm sure my father and mother often must have considered poisoning me.
"...Let us go," we said, "into the Sea of Cortez, realizing that we become forever a part of it; that our rubber boots slogging through a flat of eel-grass, that the rocks we turn over in a tide pool, make us truly and permanently a factor in the ecology of the region. We shall take something away from it, but we shall leave something too." And if we seem a small factor in a huge pattern, nevertheless it is of relative importance. We take a tiny colony of soft corals from a rock in a little water world. And that isn't terribly important to the tide pool. Fifty miles away the Japanese shrimp boats are dredging with overlapping scoops, bringing up tons of shrimps, rapidly destroying the species so that it may never come back, and with the species destroying the ecological balance of the whole region. That isn't very important in the world. And thousands of miles away the great bombs are falling and the stars are not moved thereby. None of it is important or all of it is.
Wikiquote: The Grapes of Wrath
Wikiquote: East of Eden (novel)
Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not know he has any other name. He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people. Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen. There is the will of the people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit.
Even while I protest the assembly-line production of our food, our songs, our language, and eventually our souls, I know that it was a rare home that baked good bread in the old days. Mother’s cooking was with rare exceptions poor, that good unpasteurized milk touched only by flies and bits of manure crawled with bacteria, the healthy old-time life was riddled with aches, sudden death from unknown causes, and that sweet local speech I mourn was the child of illiteracy and ignorance. It is the nature of a man as he grows older, a small bridge in time, to protest against change, particularly change for the better.
“And yet in our structure of society, the so-called and considered good qualities are invariable concomitants of failure, while the bad ones are the cornerstones of success. A man — a viewing-point man — while he will love the abstract good qualities and detest the abstract bad, will nevertheless envy and admire the person who though possessing the bad qualities has succeeded economically and socially, and will hold in contempt that person whose good qualities have caused failure. When such a viewing-point man thinks of Jesus or St. Augustine or Socrates he regards them with love because they are the symbols of the good he admires, and he hates the symbols of the bad.
We have usurped many of the powers we once ascribed to God. Fearful and unprepared, we have assumed lordship over the life or death of the whole world — of all living things. The danger and the glory and the choice rest finally in man. The test of his perfectibility is at hand. Having taken Godlike power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have. Man himself has become our greatest hazard and our only hope. So that today, St. John the apostle may well be paraphrased: In the end is the Word, and the Word is Man — and the Word is with Men.
Humanity has been passing through a gray and desolate time of confusion. My great predecessor, William Faulkner, speaking here, referred to it as a tragedy of universal fear so long sustained that there were no longer problems of the spirit, so that only the human heart in conflict with itself seemed worth writing about. Faulkner, more than most men, was aware of human strength as well as of human weakness. He knew that the understanding and the resolution of fear are a large part of the writer's reason for being. This is not new. The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.
The President must be greater than anyone else, but not better than anyone else. We subject him and his family to close and constant scrutiny and denounce them for things that we ourselves do every day. A Presidential slip of the tongue, a slight error in judgment — social, political, or ethical — can raise a storm of protest. We give the President more work than a man can do, more responsibility than a man should take, more pressure than a man can bear. We abuse him often and rarely praise him. We wear him out, use him up, eat him up. And with all this, Americans have a love for the President that goes beyond loyalty or party nationality; he is ours, and we exercise the right to destroy him.
A kind of second childhood falls on so many men. They trade their violence for the promise of a small increase of life span. In effect, the head of the house becomes the youngest child. And I have searched myself for this possibility with a kind of horror. For I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment. I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage. My wife married a man; I saw no reason why she should inherit a baby.
“But actually he would rather be successful than good. In an animal other than man we would replace the term “good” with “weak survival quotient” and the term “bad” with “strong survival quotient.” Thus, man in his thinking or reverie status admires the progression toward extinction, but in the unthinking stimulus which really activates him he tends toward survival. Perhaps no other animal is so torn between alternatives. Man might be described fairly adequately, if simply, as a two-legged paradox. He has never become accustomed to the tragic miracle of consciousness. Perhaps, as has been suggested, his species is not set, has not jelled, but is still in a state of becoming, bound by his physical memories to a past of struggle and survival, limited in his futures by the uneasiness of thought and consciousness.” Chapter 11, Page 74
We all have that heritage, no matter what old land our fathers left. All colors and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies. It's a breed — selected out by accident. And so we're overbrave and overfearful — we're kind and cruel as children. We're overfriendly and at the same time frightened of strangers. We boast and are impressed. We're oversentimental and realistic. We are mundane and materialistic — and do you know of any other nation that acts for ideals? We eat too much. We have no taste, no sense of proportion. We throw our energy about like waste. In the old lands they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture. Can it be that our critics have not the key or the language of our culture? That's what we are, Cal — all of us. You aren't very different.
Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breath is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then — the glory — so that a cricket song sweetens the ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished…
You see this book is finished and it is a bad book and I must get rid of it. It can't be printed. It is bad because it isn't honest. Oh! the incidents all happened but — I'm not telling as much of the truth about them as I know. In satire you have to restrict the picture and I just can't do satire. I've written three books now that were dishonest because they were less than the best that I could do. One you never saw because I burned it the day I finished it. … My whole work drive has been aimed at making people understand each other and then I deliberately write this book, the aim of which is to cause hatred through partial understanding. My father would have called it a smart-alec book. It was full of tricks to make people ridiculous. If I can't do better I have slipped badly. And that I won't admit — yet.
I must go over into the interior valleys. … There are five thousand families starving to death over there, not just hungry but actually starving. The government is trying to feed them and get medical attention to them, with the Fascist group of utilities and banks and huge growers sabotaging the thing all along the line, and yelling for a balanced budget. In one tent there were twenty people quarantined for small pox and two of the women are to have babies in that tent this week. I've tied into the thing from the first and I must get down there and see it and see if I can do something to knock these murderers on the heads. Do you know what they're afraid of? They think that if these people are allowed to live in camps with proper sanitary facilities they will organize, and that is the bugbear of the large landowner and the corporate farmer. The states and counties will give them nothing because they are outsiders. But the crops of any part of this state could not be harvested without them. … The death of children by starvation in our valleys is simply staggering. … I'll do what I can. … Funny how mean and little books become in the face of such tragedies.
Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in art, in music, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man. And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repressions, forced direction, and the stunning blows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged. It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken. And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for it is the one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost. Part 2, Ch. 13