Journal of a Novel is essential reading for anybody struggling with the desire to write, anybody brave enough to try, as Steinbeck says, “in utter loneliness…to explain the inexplicable.”
What is the book all about and how was it written?
“Dear Pat: How did the time pass and how did it grow so late.” With these elegiac words, Steinbeck began this Journal, in the form of letters to his good friend and editor, Pascal “Pat” Covici as an accompaniment to the first draft of his novel East of Eden. Written from January through November 1951, there is a letter for each working day on the novel.
In fact the letters were written on the left hand side pages of the large format notebook on the right hand side of which Steinbeck was writing his book. In the end, it stood itself as an independent literary achievement, never intended for publication but eloquent about Steinbeck’s emotional condition- he was comfortably settled into a New York apartment with his third wife, recovering from the death of his best friend and from a divorce- as well as his working methods and commitment to his writing.
Most importantly, the Journal provides an honest and open view of how Steinbeck, visualised, planned and executed what he believed was his biggest book in which he was determined to use “every form, every method, every technique” that he had honed.
By the way, this is not the first time that I came across a strong recommendation for this book. Take a look!