John Steinbeck: author, prizewinner and provocateur

Friends of Lincoln Library column
By: Lora Finnegan Special to The News Messenger
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“I think I would like to write the story of this whole valley, of all the little towns and all the farms and ranches in the wilder hills … so that it would be the valley of the world,” John Steinbeck wrote in a 1933 letter to a Salinas friend (describing the Salinas Valley). Later, in famous works such as “East of Eden” and “The Red Pony,” Steinbeck did write about his bucolic Salinas Valley. As we prepare to remember Steinbeck’s birthday on Monday, it brings to mind my visit to Salinas in 1998, where I met some of Steinbeck’s boyhood pals, then in their 80s. The author was long dead by then but their memories of the outrage Steinbeck’s books sparked in his hometown remained vivid. “My aunts didn’t want me to read Steinbeck’s books,” said Doris Bragdon, then 82, “Because he wrote about what they called ‘no-account’ people and told things that people didn’t want known.” In 1939, some citizens burned “The Grapes of Wrath” in a bonfire on Main Street. Over a 37-year career, Steinbeck won Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, and worldwide fans. To see what all the fuss was about, check out a John Steinbeck book or DVD from the library this week. The Lincoln Public Library at Twelve Bridges has “Cannery Row,” “East of Eden,” “Tortilla Flat,” “Grapes of Wrath,” “Travels with Charley” and many more. The hot ticket It’s coming soon. The Friends of the Lincoln Library’s fundraiser, Night for the Library, is set for March 3 at the McBean Pavilion and tickets are available. The event is a passport to a great meal and a chance to mingle with neighbors and friends. You’ll also find some great deals on rounds of golf, dinner with a noted food writer, hotels stays, pampering spa treatments, goodie baskets, jewelry and tickets to museums and sports events. And you’ll be doing a good deed by coming. No matter what direction political winds may blow, the Friends retain a good reputation for doing what we say we’ll do. The Friends will continue to ensure our donations stay targeted to fund library programs, purchase supplies and materials. Night for the Library tickets ($50) are sold at the Lincoln Public Library at Twelve Bridges. Or use Paypal at (click on online reservation in the events column) or call 434-2404. Pick your entrée (steak or vegetarian). Library changed her life A pal just told me about Anna Quindlen’s book, “How Reading Changed My Life” (Library of Contemporary Thought). Her favorite line about reading: “ ... it never seemed to me like a book but like a place I had lived in, had visited and would visit again, just as all the people in them, every blessed one – Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Jay Gatsby, Elizabeth Bennet, Scarlet O’Hara … ” What book lover can’t identify with that sentiment? Quindlen (who became a Newsweek columnist and bestselling author) was a voracious reader as a girl and her experience reminds me a bit of my own childhood, much of it spent prowling the stacks at our local library. How does reading and having your library open help you in these tough economic times? Tell me your story (at our e-mail address, below). Lora Finnegan is a Friends of the Lincoln Library member. Have a question? Contact the Friends at 434-2404, at or e-mail This column may or may not necessarily express the opinions of The Lincoln News Messenger.