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Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,086 ratings  ·  135 reviews
Each working day from January 29 to November 1, 1951, John Steinbeck warmed up to the work of writing East of Eden and a letter to the late Pascal Covici, his friend and editor of the Viking Press. It was his way, he said, of "getting my mental arm in shape to pitch a good game."

Steinbeck's letters were written on the left-handed pages of a notebook in which the facing pag

Hardcover, 182 pages
Published December 20th 1969 by Viking Books (first published 1969)
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4.09  · 
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 ·  1,086 ratings  ·  135 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
John Steinbeck often used letters to friends to get his writing juices flowing, and during the writing of East of Eden, wrote every day to Pascal Covici, his editor and friend. Most entries are written prior and post to the work of the day, ranging from tidbits from his life, commentary on how the novel is going and what he is trying to do, and a revealing obsession with newly sharpened pencils.

This is for people interested in the writing process or people who have enjoyed East of Eden; I'm not
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

On every working day between 29 January and 1 November 1951, John Steinbeck wrote a letter to his close friend and editor at Viking Press, Pat Covici, before he began his work for the day on the manuscript of East of Eden. The letters were written on the left-hand pages of the large notebook in which Steinbeck wrote - by hand, in pencil - the novel which meant most to him. Steinbeck told Covici that writing the letters was his way of "getting [his] mental arm in shape to pitch a good game".

M. Sarki
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Such a great journal. I enjoyed every word. Steinbeck was certainly an interesting man. This book gives us an inside look at how he worked. Myself, not so much a plot-driven devotee, but Steinbeck clearly had a plan and he carried it out to perfection. I admire him for that and respect his process.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
There were a couple of nuggets of gold here that made me wonder if Steinbeck thinks as beautifully as he writes. The behind the scenes info on EOE was mostly very vague, but sometimes insightful. It was fascinating seeing how an author at his prime has plotted out his novel and executes it. I'd recommend this to hard core Steinbeck or EOE lovers, but the casual reader won't get much from it.
Pierre Rooyen
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Well, Mr Steinbeck. I go down on my knees before you, Sir. It was you who taught me how to tell a story. You, who are so darn good, yet so vulnerable and humble.

What writer would have the guts to admit, 'Although sometimes I have felt I held fire in my hands and spread a page with shining, I have never lost the weight of clumsiness, of ignorance, of aching inability.'

And this just after he has put East of Eden together? The writer who doesn't use adjectives or adverbs, but seeks the appropriate
Chris Blocker
Jul 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a fan of East of Eden and the work of John Steinbeck in general, I loved this book. There is so much insight into what I consider the most brilliant work of fiction ever crafted. With all the cuts that were made to the final product of East of Eden, it's sometimes difficult to tell whether Steinbeck was really dabbling in Postmodernism or not. Journal of Novel makes it clear that he was. And for that, I love this man.

For the writer, there are some wonderful bits of advice in Journal, but it's
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only someone of the stature of John Steinbeck, flying in the fame of his seminal, Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Grapes of Wrath, could have pulled off publishing a diary maintained through the months he wrote his longest and (in his eyes) best book, East of Eden.

The diary was written to his editor Pascal Covici and has an entry for each working day on the novel. Steinbeck followed a Mon-Fri routine and only broke it to write a short story on one weekend. The daily diary entry was a warm-up to th
Kathy Stone
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the diary John Steinbeck kept while writing East of Eden. It is interesting to read what Steinbeck's concerns were while writing this novel of his home town. He interweaves family history in with the fictional Trasks to create a counterpoint in the novel, especially concerning the evilness of Cathy. This was something he worried about from a critical standpoint as no one is pure evil and he created a purely evil female. The parts of his family history also concerned him in the novel, but ...more
J.Aleksandr Wootton
Won't leave you breathless, but interesting if you are interested in Steinbeck's personal life, if you are studying East of Eden academically, or if you want to see how writers coax their creativity and manage their personal lives into an unequal yoke whereby, for a brief time most days, they can get work done on lengthy writing projects.
Jun 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
Just completed John Steinbeck's Journal of a Novel, which he wrote while he developed East of Eden. I can't decide if one should read this interesting book in conjunction with East of Eden, after one has read Eden or follow it with Eden. At any rate, Journal gives one an in depth look into Steinbeck's life. He discusses his health; his sons and his wife, Elaine; his critics; his books; his fears and joys; and the development of East of Eden and with many of its characters and their experiences. ...more
A.E. Reiff
"I feel that sometimes when I am writing I am very near to a kind of unconsciousness. Then time does change its manner and minutes disappear into the cloud of time...having only one duration...all history and all pre-history might indeed be one durationless flash like an exploding star, eternal and without duration...oh she is lovely, this idea. (February 14)

Steinbeck says he's going remove all the adjectives from the typed version. Thoughtless things, along with definite articles, participles.
Victoria Mixon
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although Steinbeck has never been one of my favorite novelists--he should NOT have inflicted the end of The Grapes of Wrath on us--I do love Tortilla Flats. What a wonderful, Don Quixote piece of work.

So I was willing to give this one a try.

And, wow, was I ever glad I did. Too many beautiful, fascinating insights on the craft of fiction to even pick one to quote. I dog-eared the pages of my favorites. Now my copy's twice as thick as it's supposed to be.

I will trot out only this one, my favorite
Theryn Fleming
Steinbeck wrote the journal on the left-hand pages of a notebook and the novel (East of Eden) on the right-hand pages. The journal, written as a letter to his editor, was his warm-up for the day. He was a huge procrastinator. For example, he wrote in pencil (crazy!) and he was completely anal-retentive about his pencils. They had to be a certain kind, he spent time sharpening them at the beginning of the day so he wouldn't have to stop while writing, gave them to his kids when they got too short ...more
Simon A.
Jul 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Aspiring Writers
I love Steinbeck most of all for his abiltiy to be double-brained (is that a word/concept?) What I mean is that he is not only the consumate artist in his writing but he can also build you a cabinet, fix your car and whittle you a duck from birch wood.

Here you have a glimpse into the wonderful world of a brilliant writer. Between laments on the progress of his book, we get letters to friends about parties, doubts, side-projects, precious vacations, fears, failures and wild successes. It's an hon
Nov 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not full of the in depth, inner-workings of John Steinbeck's beautiful brain as I was hoping for. Instead of being a gold mine for dissecting East of Eden, it was simply a rather unromanced view of Steinbeck's quite normal life as he wrote and edited the novel. Although it didn't live up to my glorious expectations, I still loved the book. I found it very inspiring to read what a great novelist writes about writing.

"In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable."
Christine Proulx
Journal/Letters to his editor written along with writing East of Eden. I remember that in high school we would sometimes wonder about all the stuff the teachers "found" in various texts-- symbolism, foreshadowing, etc.-- if the author really meant to put all that in, or readers just imagined it later. In the case of EofE, Steinbeck meant it. I read this years ago, and the thing that stands out clearest to me now was the painstaking effort at work on important scenes, the work of going back and f ...more
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably would have been better if I had read it in parallel with the novel. Cool to get insights into the author's mind when he was writing East of Eden, but I struggled to get through it.
He leído este diario para poder aportar a la lectura conjunta de Al este del Edén en
Laura J. W.
"...I want to write this one as though it were my last book." (quoted from page 8, February 12.)

From January 29-November 1, 1951 John Steinbeck documented the writing of East of Eden in notebooks, entries addressed to "Pat" (Pascal Covici, his friend and editor at Viking Press.) I took my time reading these letters every night just before going to sleep. East of Eden is one of my all time favorite books and it was such a treat to read these passages documenting the time he spent writing it. Thi
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I treasure this diary Steinbeck kept while writing "East of Eden". I believe every writer will relate to his words, his feelings, his goals, while in the writing process. His word for procrastination is dawdle, and he certainly admits to dawdling. When he dawdled, he was usually busy either doing something else creative or thinking. Almost every day he says he 'will try to get this done' and sometimes he doesn't. And we understand why. He fears coming to the end, after all, this book was his bab ...more
Susan Bybee
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is for:
Fans of John Steinbeck
Fans of East of Eden
Fans of wanting to know about an author's thought processes while writing a book

While writing East of Eden back in 1951, Steinbeck warmed up every morning by writing a letter to his editor Pascal (Pat) Covici*. He got all the "monkey mind" stuff out of his system in this way and also did some think-on-paper procedures for critical sections of the novel. Since I adore East of Eden (my very favorite book from an author I absolutely love),
I'm not over my disappointing reaction to East of Eden yet. It actually put me into a bit of a depression, since I waited all year to read it and subconsciously intended it to be the reward of reading the complete works of Steinbeck. Anyway, I have to go on. I didn't like this journal as much as the Grapes of Wrath--it's more contrived, obviously intended for an audience, it's not formatted as well, there are no pictures, and the notes are nowhere near as complete which gives the whole thing an ...more
Candace Morris
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Frankie gave me a first edition copy of this amazing book for my 30th bday. I never even knew it existed, but from the inside flap I have learned that Steinbeck, while writing East of Eden, kept a side by side journal - which often would warm-up his writing in the morning before starting in on the manuscript. They are the "East of Eden Letters" written to his publisher and long-time friend Pascal Covici.

The first entry is terribly fascinating and has been so helpful and inspiring to me as a wri
Amanda Canupp
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is John Steinbeck’s journal while he wrote East of Eden. This taught me to try a “Warm-up” exercise before writing, the way Steinbeck did through his letters to a friend of his who passed away. Getting the hands to writing and the brain switched on probably made for better writing on his behalf. This also taught me that I should be disciplined in my writing, to write every day, even if nothing useful or good comes out of it, because even if I’m writing, I’m doing something good for myself a ...more
Jan 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Steinbeck wrote to his friend and editor every day as a warm-up to his daily work on East of Eden. The letters are wide ranging and not wholly focused on the novel, topics varying from his family, his insecurities, his immediate daily plans, thoughts on the novel, etc. It's very odd to see on a personal level his habits and quirks sort of come to life. Very interesting read, and I think especially so perhaps to writers as it touches here and there on that topic.
It was interesting to follow Steinbeck's writing process, especially after finishing East of Eden. However, it took awhile to get through because, as you would expect, there was no plot. I would only read five or ten pages at time. I recommend this only for die-hard Steinbeck fans and those interested in the writing process.
Steinbeck kept this joural while writing "East of Eden", which is hands down the best book I know. His masterpiece. The journal explains a lot, most importantly how personal the book was. He was writing it to keep from going nuts. The devil woman in the book and the two boys (Cain amd Abel) start making sense.
Barrie Spang
May 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this just after finishing East of Eden and I found it provided nice closure to the novel. It gave nice insight to the process the author went through to write such an amazing piece of literature.
Cathy Posner
Jun 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The is the companion to East of Eden. It's the journal he kept while writing the novel and it's like being with Steinbeck through the process. Pretty cool!
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
People who do --or trying to-- write can dig this very much. Funny beyond words, yet so humane (with all that comes with it.)
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Pat & Pascal 1 2 Mar 31, 2019 02:40PM  
Which to read first: "East of Eden" or "Journal of a Novel"? 4 6 Jan 22, 2014 09:20PM  
great book 1 4 Dec 01, 2012 12:00PM  

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John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley
“All this is a preface to the fear and uncertainties which clamber over a man so that in his silly work he thinks he must be crazy because he is so alone.” 3 likes
“I intended to make it sound guileless and rather sweet but you will see in it the little blades of social criticism without which no book is worth a fart in hell.” 2 likes
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