Celebrating Steinbeck's Centennial

Eleanor Henderson

Thirty-six years after his death, John Steinbeck—the Nobel Prize–winning author of American classics like The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden—is the focus of the largest-ever centenary celebration for a single author. Born in Salinas, California, on February 27, 1902, Steinbeck is being remembered with a yearlong program of over 175 events in 39 states. Spearheaded by the Mercantile Library of New York, the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University, and the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, the John Steinbeck Centennial includes a gala at Lincoln Center in New York City on March 19; a scholarly conference at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, from March 21 to March 23; and plays, film festivals, art exhibits, musical performances, brunches, bus tours, contests, and lectures in cities across the country. Among the more extravagant events is a weeklong cruise in December featuring whale watching and sea kayaking—the so-called Sea of Cortez Voyage, in homage to the author's journal of his own voyage, published in 1951. The Grapes of Wrath, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939, and East of Eden, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, are among six Steinbeck books—along with Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, The Pearl, and Travels With Charley in Search of America—that were reissued in February by Penguin Putnam. Also in February, Viking Penguin, Steinbeck's longtime publisher, released America and Americans, the first collection of Steinbeck's journalism and other nonfiction. Co-edited by Susan Shillinglaw and Jackson Benson, it includes a variety of essays, some never before published, from travel writing to literary criticism. For more information about the centennial events, visit the National Steinbeck Center's Web site at www.steinbeck100.org.

Eleanor Henderson is a fiction writer who lives in New York City.