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Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of…
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Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1990. Auflage)

von John Steinbeck (Autor)

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229494,352 (3.98)9
John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath during an astonishing burst of activity between June and October of 1938. Throughout the time he was creating his greatest work, Steinbeck faithfully kept a journal revealing his arduous journey toward its completion. The journal, like the novel it chronicles, tells a tale of dramatic proportions--of dogged determination and inspiration, yet also of paranoia, self-doubt, and obstacles. It records in intimate detail the conception and genesis of The Grapes of Wrath and its huge though controversial success. It is a unique and penetrating portrait of an emblematic American writer creating an essential American masterpiece.… (mehr)
Mitglied:Coco156
Titel:Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath
Autoren:John Steinbeck (Autor)
Info:Penguin Books (1990), Edition: Reprint, 240 pages
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Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath von John Steinbeck

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I loved The Grapes of Wrath - the margin between it and East of Eden in my mind is vanishingly thin - so I was interested to learn that he kept a diary of his efforts when he was writing it. Actually, make that re-writing - one of many fascinating details I learned was that Steinbeck wrote, polished, and completed an entire novel called "L'Affaire Lettuceberg" that touched on many of the same ideas as The Grapes of Wrath and then, convinced that he hadn't done true justice to his subject, destroyed the entire thing and set down to do it right next time. That kind of creative integrity is inspiring, and much of what's in this volume will really raise your opinion of Steinbeck, no matter how high it was previously.

And yet, curiously, this is somewhat in spite of the man's own accounts of himself. Most of the diary entries are, to be frank, not very interesting. Lots of what he had for breakfast, how worried he was about his writing pace, regrets over how hungover he had gotten, concerns about various business matters, random things that were annoying him, and that sort of thing. When he talks about his plans for the novel, most of it is along the lines of "I've got to make sure this is really great. Can't wait for the next chapter tomorrow!" If you're looking for more background on how Steinbeck created his characters, or where he got the inspiration for plot points, or why he made certain artistic decisions, you'll likely get more fulfillment from reading "The Harvest Gypsies", his magazine series from the same period which chronicled migrant farm workers of exactly the sort that he immortalized in his fiction. These entries are mostly repetitive, unenlightening, and so picayune as to be nearly unmemorable.

However, all that really means is that while he maintained an average of 2,000 words, day after day, he kept the real secrets of the work all in his head, maintaining a surprisinglycomplete vision of the whole novel in his head all along. As a fan, I always want to peek behind that mysterious veil that separates the artistic creation process from my appreciation of that art, but I recognize that at some point you just have to be satisfied with the end product. Alternate takes of scenes would have been nice to see, or deleted content, but that sort of thing seems to be confined more to music than literature. However, it's always a real treat to get a glimpse behind the curtain whenever a rare gem is unearthed:

"Nearly each day brought unsolicited requests for his name and new demands on his time, including unscheduled visitors, unanticipated disruptions, and reversals. Domestic relations with Carol were frequently strained, even hostile (Steinbeck apparently subscribed to the theory that sexual intercourse dissipated the creative drive)."

The man, the myth, the legend! Makes winning a Nobel seem almost easy, if not exactly as fun as it could be. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
What is it a person expects when they read the diaries of a famous person? Is it trying to derive insight into the creative process? Is it an attempt to delve into the mind of a human being? Is it a desire to read every word the person has ever written? Is it voyeurism? I am not sure what that underlying impetus is. I only know that the success (modest at best, but a success nonetheless) of books that contain these notes and diaries shows that this strange, possibly morbid, curiosity is held by a significant portion of humans.

My personal limited experience with these diaries has been somewhat disappointing. Maybe it is because I have not read the diaries of those I most greatly respect. Maybe I don’t really want insight into the creative process. Maybe I’m not a voyeur. Okay, I have to say a definite “No” to those last two (yes I am interested and yes I’m a voyeur – but the first step is admitting you have a problem.) But most of my explorations into this type of writing have left me unsatisfied. I cannot lay a finger on exactly why. But, when I finish this type of book, I am left with wondering what I really got for the effort.

And so, with that caveat, let’s talk about Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath.

This is, as the title says, a journal that was kept by Steinbeck as he wrote The Grapes of Wrath. Surrounding and embedded in this journal are copious notes and comments from the editor – Robert DeMott.

Let’s start by saying that, while at times DeMott goes overboard with his notes (for example, I’m not convinced every name in the journal needs to be explained), in general they are quite useful in understanding the context of the times and situations in which the book and the journal were written, and helping understand the environment in which Grapes of Wrath came to exist. I know next to nothing about Steinbeck (except his writings) and this background was invaluable and interesting.

And so, to the journal. As Steinbeck notes, the primary purpose of the journal was to get into a writing state of mind. He uses the exercise of the daily journal to force himself to write and be ready to write. What comes from this exercise is an interesting blow-by-blow of the successes and failures of writing and of being a writer. But perhaps the most interesting is to watch the ebb and flow of Steinbeck’s belief in his ability to write in general and to write the book he wants to accomplish in particular. To watch a great writer act like any fledgling (or experienced) artist, wallowing in self-doubt, is somewhat affirming. It is too easy to believe that all great artist know they are great, and this side of his humanity is revelatory (even if we always suspected it.)

But, as any personal diary will, the telling of this tale gets a bit tedious. And how can it not? Famous or not, this is partly just the story of someone’s regular life. Yes, there are highlights (the buying of the new ranch, the issues with neighbors) and the dropping of famous names (Charlie Chaplin and Spencer Tracey to name just two), but it is just a life.

And therein lies the problem with any of these collections. They cannot be great because they are not about great (made up) lives; they are about the lives of actual humans with ups, downs, and, primarily, middle-of-the road activities.

And the book has another problem this type of collection will always have – the inclusion of everything. This is most evident in the final section which are the entries from after the completion of Grapes. These are scattered, cover a relatively large period of time with few entries, need far too much explanation, and warp through this troubling time of Steinbeck’s life – a time that needs much more exploration than afforded by the journals. But, again, this is the type of book that must be all-inclusive. You cannot call it the journals and have it available as the tool it is meant to be if you make random decisions about what to include and what not to include. And, because it is primarily meant to just be “The Journal”, the reader cannot expect more than the author has put in.

So, what we have here are the complete journals – for good or for bad. Some of that is good, some of that is bad, and some of it is…Meh. As far as this type of book goes, this is a good one. It does show the artists struggles. And the editor’s comments are very insightful. But, because it is they type of book it is, it cannot be anything great.

Do not go into this book expecting a riveting account of much of anything. But read it to watch the artist at work. And, in so doing, prepare for some of the mundaneness of life. But also prepare to see a bit of that writer’s soul revealed. Not a lot, but enough to be interesting. ( )
  figre | Jun 14, 2016 |

Steinbeck wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning novel [b:The Grapes of Wrath|4395|The Grapes of Wrath|John Steinbeck|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1352912927s/4395.jpg|2931549] in an exhausting period of intense creativity from June to October 1938. During that period and for some time thereafter, he kept a journal in which he wrote before he started work each day. Steinbeck set out what he expected to achieve on that day and recorded his hopes, dreams and frustrations. He repeatedly expressed his determination to make the book a good one, but also his fear that it wouldn’t be. Steinbeck reported on bouts of depression and anxiety and his deep feeling of inadequacy about his writing. In the aftermath of publication of the book, he recorded the disturbing effect its extraordinary success had on his life. This book includes a comprehensive introduction and each of Steinbeck’s journal entries, annotated by editor Robert Demott.

Steinbeck sent the journal to his editor and friend Pat Covici in 1950. He wrote:
Very many times I have been tempted to destroy this book. It is an account very personal and in many instances purposely obscure. But recently I reread it and only after this time did the unconscious pattern emerge. It is true that this book is full of my own weaknesses, of complaints and violence. These are just as apparent as they ever were. What a complainer I am. But in rereading these became less important and the times and the little histories seemed to be more apparent … I had not realized that so much happened during the short period of the actual writing of The Grapes of Wrath - things that happened to me and to you and to the world.
Steinbeck asked that the journal not be published during his lifetime and that it be made available to his children if they should ever want “to look behind the myth and hearsay and flattery and slander a disappeared man becomes and to know to some extent what manner of man their father was.”

This book provides an amazing insight into the creative process and into Steinbeck’s mind. It is a testament to his steadfast determination to make The Grapes of Wrath the best book it could be. Highly recommended for Steinbeck fans.
( )
1 abstimmen KimMR | Apr 2, 2013 |
This book provides some terrific insight into everything that goes into writing a novel. This is truly inspiring to see the processes that eventually turned into a stunning novel. ( )
  BeaverMeyer | Jul 29, 2007 |
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AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
John SteinbeckHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Demott, RobertHerausgeberCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt

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John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath during an astonishing burst of activity between June and October of 1938. Throughout the time he was creating his greatest work, Steinbeck faithfully kept a journal revealing his arduous journey toward its completion. The journal, like the novel it chronicles, tells a tale of dramatic proportions--of dogged determination and inspiration, yet also of paranoia, self-doubt, and obstacles. It records in intimate detail the conception and genesis of The Grapes of Wrath and its huge though controversial success. It is a unique and penetrating portrait of an emblematic American writer creating an essential American masterpiece.

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