Posts Tagged 'John Steinbeck'

Happy Birthday, Steinbeck!

Steinbeck and Charley at his Sag Harbor home.

Imagine wrapping John Steinbeck’s home on Bluff Point with a gigantic red bow and presenting it to the literary world as a gift for the ages. This you could do today, February 27, Steinbeck’s birthday, with a cool $17.9 million, the asking price for the waterfront property where the Nobel Prize-winner once lived. In a more cultured world, that property and especially Steinbeck’s writer’s studio would be preserved for its world-wide literary value. Steinbeck wrote his last novel, The Winter of our Discontent, in that studio he named Joyous Garde, looking out on Sag Harbor Cove. His book Travels with Charley begins when Hurricane Donna kicks up those same waters and threatens his beloved boat, named for his wife, The Fayre Eleyne.  So maybe we band together with half a million friends and split the costs, however that would work out? Maybe squat the property? Better yet, let’s get local, regional, national agencies interested enough to add their voices and their coffers to this worthy cause. Sag Harbor village prides itself on being a writers’ village. Steinbeck was deeply fond of our place, and even founded our first Whalers festival. Couldn’t the village, the state and beyond recognize the importance of preserving this literary treasure? We sure hope so. Happy Birthday, John Steinbeck!

Listen HERE as co-owner Kathryn Szoka joins the Southampton Press Group to discuss saving Steinbeck’s place.

SIGN this PETITION to SAVE his Sag Harbor home. Sign NOW. Share widely. Many thanks!

Join Canio’s Book Groups!

You’ve asked and we’re responding with plans for two book discussions this fall/winter. After the outpouring of interest in the Moby Dick Marathon this June, some have wondered, what about the women? We think Sena Jeter Naslund’s Ahab’s Wife is the perfect response. Taking off from a passing reference in Melville’s Moby-Dick, Naslund spins an engrossing epic of the adventures of one feisty woman. “Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last,” she says in the book’s opening line. Hold fast to the ropes, dear readers, you’re in for one unforgettable Nantucket sleigh ride.

We’ve also heard the cry for “more Steinbeck!” So we’re starting with the novel he wrote while living in Sag Harbor. Set in the fictional New Baytown and inspired by Sag Harbor, Winter of Our Discontent explores the moral crisis faced by one Ethan Hawley, son of Pilgrim Fathers and whaling captains, now a  clerk at the town’s grocery store (think Schiavoni’s).

Each group will be led by a guest facilitator. Sign up for the groups and receive a discount on purchase of the books.

Steinbeck Spirit in Sag Harbor

An afternoon of spring cleaning on a day that actually feels like the season, yielded a surprise. A charming copy of John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony surfaced like a fragile  crocus finally breaking ground. This limited edition volume, published in 1937 by Covici Friede Publishers , shows signs of age and wear, but also bears the tiny sticker from New York’s famed Holliday Bookshop. A beloved shop that specialized in British and American literary works, Holliday became an institution over its 30-plus years in business.

Later this month we welcome Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw back to Sag Harbor. She’ll speak on Saturday, April 26 at 5 p.m. as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath. Our copy of The Red Pony  is signed by Steinbeck and dedicated to his first wife Carol, (see also Shillinglaw’s Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage).

The osprey are back now reminding us of Steinbeck’s love/hate relationship with these mighty raptors. Mostly love.  See his humorous essay “My War With the Osprey” reprinted in our Sag Harbor Is: a Literary Celebration.  His “war” turns out to be a jousting match between two clever species, one human, one avian. Guess who wins?

I field a call from a friend considering entering the book business. What advice do I have? Well, considering it’s the first of the month,  April Fool’s Day in fact, and our  rent’s due, I advise extreme caution.  Yet the appearance of The Red Pony feels hopeful. Our copy’s for sale. It’s number 535 of 699, signed and printed on handmade paper. What’s it worth to you?

Steinbeck Slept Here!

Today, February 27,  is John Steinbeck’s birthday as noted, thoughtfully, but incompletely by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. (http://app.info.americanpublicmediagroup.org/e/es?s=1715082578&e=9333&elq=daf1cddcd35f43fa88e5fe39e05aa6ae)

We must add that Steinbeck lived, worked, fished, drank and generally had a good time here in Sag Harbor on the East End of Long Island. Some have called ours a “charming fishing village” not dissimilar to Steinbeck’s beloved Monterey Bay. Steinbeck spent the last decade of his life here, driving out from New York when his works were performed on Broadway stages.

We see a steady stream of  Steinbeck fans on pilgrimage who stop in to ask about where he lived — The writer’s home is now a private residence overlooking Sag Harbor Cove.  Our literary walking tours always wind up there, a respectful distance from the place he wrote The Winter of Our Discontent. It’s said he based several characters on Sag Harbor locals. Steinbeck’s American road book, Travels with Charley begins here in the wind-churned cove, just as Hurricane Donna blows through:”Under the big oak trees of my place at Sag Harbor sat Rocinante…”

John found pals among the locals, fishing buddies and drinking buddies in the days of the notorious Black Buoy bar when Sag Harbor was a place God-fearing mothers forbade their kids from venturing to. But local folks just let Steinbeck be Steinbeck, allowed him his privacy.  In a show of affection for what was then a proudly blue-collar town, Steinbeck helped create our Whalers festival, a giant street parade and rowdy weekend party featuring boat races that once brought sailors and boozers from far and near. The festival, now toned down as Sag Harbor has gone upscale,  is celebrated as HarborFest,  in early September when the crowds have dissipated, but when the weather’s still fine.

Steinbeck conducted his war with the ospreys here, as described in a humorous piece we included in our Sag Harbor Is: A Literary Celebration.  At the centenary of his birth, we hosted a Steinbeck celebration with an exhibit of photographs from the family collection and a stirring tribute by Steinbeck’s friend, the late Budd Schulberg. There’s a beautiful bronze bust of the writer in our beloved John Jermain Library, a tribute to the village’s claim on the Nobel Prize winner.

All this to say, Steinbeck once slept here! He lived here, played here, wrote here. Happy Birthday, John Steinbeck. Sag Harbor salutes you!


Canio’s Books is located at 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor, NY 11963, 631.725.4926. Call or email us, caniosbooks@verizon.net. While we love you to SEE you, you can also order new titles at our online storefront or some of our second hand inventory HERE. Thanks for visiting!