Friday, September 11, 2015

John Steinbeck was Awarded the Medal of Freedom (September 14, 1964)

This week (September 11-17) in literary history – Katherine Anne Porter’s Flowering Judas was published (September 11, 1930); Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning eloped (September 12, 1846); Novelist Robert McCloskey was born (September 14, 1964); John Steinbeck was awarded the Medal of Freedom (September 14, 1964); Agatha Christie was born (September 15, 1890); Novelist James Alan McPherson was born (September 16, 1943); John Keats traveled to Italy for health reasons (September 17, 1820); Oprah Winfrey launched her influential book club (September 17, 1996)

Highlighted Literary Story of the Week -

On September 14, 1964, John Steinbeck was presented the U.S. Medal of Freedom. Steinbeck had already received numerous other honors and awards for his writing, including the 1962 Nobel Prize and a 1939 Pulitzer Prize. Steinbeck, a native Californian, studied writing intermittently at Stanford between 1920 and 1925 but never graduated. He moved to New York and worked as a manual laborer and journalist while writing his first two novels, which were not successful. He married in 1930 and moved back to California with his wife. His father, a government official in Salinas County, gave the couple a house to live in while Steinbeck continued writing.

His first novel, Tortilla Flat, about the comic antics of several rootless drifters who share a house in California, was published in 1935. The novel became a financial success. Steinbeck’s next works, In Dubious Battle and Of Mice and Men, were both successful, and in 1938 his masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath was published. The novel, about the struggles of an Oklahoma family who lose their farm and become fruit pickers in California, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1939.

After World War II, Steinbeck’s work became more sentimental in such novels as Cannery Row and The Pearl. He also wrote several successful films, including Forgotten Village (1941) and Viva Zapata (1952). He became interested in marine biology and published a nonfiction book, The Sea of Cortez, in 1941. His travel memoir, Travels with Charlie, describes his trek across the United States in a camper. Steinbeck died in New York in December 20, 1968 and was buried the Garden of Memories in Salinas, California.

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning America’s Literary Legends and Literary Legends of the British Isles. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

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