3 pages, 4to, on yellow legal paper, in pencil." />
12 June 2008
STEINBECK, John. Autograph letter signed ("John") to Murray, New York, 4 December, n.y. 3 pages, 4to, on yellow legal paper, in pencil.
"CHRISTMAS IN THIS CENTER OF BEAUTY AND CULTURE PUTS ME IN A BAD TEMPER THROUGH FEBRUARY"
"I GUESS I HATE MOST BEING TOLD TO BE MERRY..." An exuberant tirade against Christmas and its disruptive effect on his writing. "I'm trying to get on with a little book," Steinbeck grumbles. "That's almost funny. The time it takes is resented by those who are spending the money it might make if it ever got finished and ever made any money." But "it is Christmas tide and bad-kid tide, and yellow pad tide and if I could only go to the country eel fishing tide and go to bed at 7:30 tide. Just be thankful you don't have our intellectual and aesthetic advantages, which comprise fighting Bloomingdales, going to openings for no other reason than that I or someone I know wrote them, of damp and drang and what the hell shall we get Aunt Sally. She never wears out a handkerchief. Mail full of private charitable 'interests' of the rich. Mrs. Spyros Skouras, Dorothy Rodgers, Helen Hayes, fifty dollars a crack and deductible if you've got anything to deduct from, which I haven't..." Amidst all this headache and hassle he's "put the long book aside. In the early spring I'm grabbing Elaine by the hair and going into hiding in some sullen country where joy and friendship are a sin and relatives have detonators preset for Christmas tide...I guess I hate most being told to be merry. I'm gay enough if left alone..."
The injunction to be merry reminds him of a quatrain from his navy days that cannot be printed in a family catalogue. But he goes on to suggest an alternative holiday, "Jacks Are Wild Day," which the celebrant can honor "when you felt like a holiday." Turning back to his writing he says "In March I hold my nose and jump into the Malory, and then my really evil disposition will be apparent...It may go to three volumes..." Steinbeck worked on his adaptation of Malory's The Legends of King Arthur throughout the 1950s and 1960s but never finished them before his death in 1968. They were published posthumously in 1976.
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