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Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,195 ratings  ·  154 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

Paperback, 182 pages
Published December 1st 1990 by Penguin Books (first published 1969)
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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
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Pierre Rooyen
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing

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
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it
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.
Chris Blocker
Jul 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Jun 28, 2018 rated it liked it
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.
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.
Jun 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Victoria Mixon
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Simon Smith
Jul 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
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
Nov 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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."
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am coming to the end of my Steinbeck opus and this was such an interesting insight into him and his writing process (in some ways). It reminded me how much I liked ‘East of Eden’ and enriched my experience of it.

I like these 2 quotes from Steinbeck about his hopes for ‘East of Eden’:

“I planned it as a huge thing. I have been afraid that it narrowed down from the big thing rather than expanded. As a matter of fact I’ve wondered whether it was not becoming little. What I would like would be for
Christine Proulx
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Jon Thompson
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m an unabashed fan of both Steinbeck and his most ambitious work, East of Eden, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of his working papers and journals during E. of E’s composition. The man writes with such humble authority. It’s really quite astounding, and in the margins, one receives a wonderful sample of Steinbeck’s notes on how to write.
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a specific little book. If you're an East of Eden fan, a Steinbeck fan in general, or an aspiring novelist, this book, which is actually made up of letters to Steinbeck's editor at Viking, Pascal Covici, will appeal to you. The first thirty pages or so will especially appeal to writers, as Steinbeck tries to get going with the novel. He writes, "I don't understand why some days are wide open and others closed off, some days smile and others have thin slitted eyes and still others are day ...more
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m really glad I read this. It’s not often that I get to read another person’s journal and (more or less) unfiltered thoughts, worries, hopes etc etc. and it was so instructive in terms of what a creative process requires, and how much of oneself (must?) be given to output something that is infused with passion, honesty and heart.

Also how much planning, thought and discipline is required

Super duper
Will Mullen
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
A great insight into a man and his masterpiece. In reading this journal, I have learned that to know the story of the book is different, and in some cases more insightful than the book’s story.
Ben Palpant
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really helpful for writers. A wonderful journey while reading East of Eden.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
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
Susan Bybee
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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),
Candace Morris
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 10, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Amanda Canupp
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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.
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.
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Pat & Pascal 1 3 Mar 31, 2019 02:40PM  
Which to read first: "East of Eden" or "Journal of a Novel"? 4 7 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

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