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    John Steinbeck 1946-1947 Warm Up Journal.
    7.75" x 9.75", dating from November 1946 to June 5, 1947, written in both ink and pencil. The journal is approximately a third full, with 103 of the total 300 pages being used. Steinbeck describes the journal as "one of those interminable notebooks that serves no purpose but to warm me up and sometimes to cool me down." Despite his flippancy, the journal provides fascinating insights into the author's state of mind during work on The Wayward Bus, his ultimately scrapped play entitled The Last Joan, and various other projects. The journal also gives readers a glimpse of Steinbeck's relationships, travels, and personal health.

    In the very first entry of the journal, Steinbeck outlines his goals for his future writing and for his writing in the book. He also muses on his soon to be published novel, The Wayward Bus. The November 24, 1946 entry (Dated as "December") reads in part: "The Bus has been taken by the Book of the Month Club and again pressures. They want a different kind of a book. If the Bus goes they will be proud and if it doesn't they will be able to say I told you so. New this might be called the beginning of my final years. I want to go to work and I will. I don't think I've lost my work rhythm yet so it is a good time to work...I'm not going to plan too carefully. I want it to lucidly flow."

    Less than one month later, writing on December 10, 1946, Steinbeck despairs about his writing abilities and fears that he might never publish anything good again. The entry reads in part: "Simplicity has gone from me, I'm afraid. Maybe it will return but I don't see how or why. But it might. It just might. It is such a strange thing to consider. And now my page is full and I must go to something else. The high point of my life is passed and now I can only go downhill...The sadness that creeps in on me has always been in me. It isn't hard on any physical thing nor can I find a mental basis for it. But the unwanted sadness is overwhelming. It comes out in strange ways that can't be reached. I don't know what they are but they knock me down completely."

    With his fluctuating moods affecting his health, Steinbeck turned to various medical remedies that would allow him to continue writing. His entry for December 12, 1946 reads in part: "Last night Juan Niguin came over and we moved furniture. Tomorrow I am going to be treated by him. My depression has gone on too long. Maybe with some shots he can get me over a threshold...I keep putting off going to work. Now I am waiting for tomorrow to see if the shots will raise my morale. Then we will see..." Two days later he writes, "More and more I seem to be dwelling on myself. I have felt terrible in the last little while, meaner and unpleasant and disgusted and full of nasty little ideas which make of me an unaffecting affair to have to associate with. This is a bad season for that kind of nonsense. I went to Juan for shots but they don't do the job...And now I am unable or unwilling to associate with anyone." He further updates his progress on December 16, writing: "The male hormone Juan gave me reacted unfavorably so this morning I went on a course of vitamins to see whether that could ease the blues I've got. The terrible sadness has lasted too long and the nervousness. Maybe this will work. Christmas only nine days off. I hope I get over it before then..."

    At the start of 1947, Steinbeck got the idea to create a play, based on a suggestion from his friend Burgess Meredith. The play would cover the life of Joan of Arc and was meant to have Meredith's wife, Paulette Goddard, play the starring role. On January 22, he wrote as he commenced the project: "I've never written a play, why not start. It might be interesting. Maybe a form I have been neglecting. I guess I will be trying that. Maybe it wont be any good but I could try it. Anyway that is my plan no to be changed if I feel like it." Unfortunately, just one week later, Steinbeck's mental health was back on the decline. He wrote on January 31: "Another dreadful night. My brain is sick. Went out to dinner with Marge & Bench & their friends. I was in a cold sweat the whole time. Nerves shot. Gwyn gave me a luomide. I went to sleep but very bad dreams. Gwyn slept in the little room. I don't know whether I snored too much or talked in my sleep or what. I'm really in a bad way. Don't know where to start for treatment or whether treatment would do anything good. But I am getting so frantically nervous that I don't know which end is up. Stomach goes to pieces, & I blow. This is more than the simple recurring thing. It has been going on too long. I'll have to go on to work. But meanwhile my play has to get written....Poor Gwyn, poor poor Gwyn. She is taking the beating. I'm lost and hopeless..." Thankfully, the publication of The Wayward Bus appeared to raise his spirits. He wrote one day later on February 1: "The Bus is selling better than anything for years two weeks before publication. Will see how it does afterwards. No word from anyone. Beth writes that her book has not arrived yet. Must be lost or something. Mary has not said yet. Gwyn seems pretty well but nervous about the party but she loves parties so there is no problem."

    Two weeks later, on February 15, Steinbeck's work on the play appeared to be going smoothly. His entry for the day reads in part: "I could finish my scene this weekend but I am considering not working there two days and hurrying next week to get done. I can do the two scenes next week easily. And I might get finished by simply thinking over the weekend and making notes. Last night I told Gwyn the title and she screwed up her lips as though she didn't like it. She thinks I am doing a play about Joan of Arc. And so I am but it isn't like anything that was ever done before. I still think it is very good. I think it would play and have meaning..." He had become extremely dedicated to the project and wrote on February 18: "I have to go back to Joan in a little while. Joan's my baby. And she will probably never see the light of day but she will be out of my system. That she will be. I must not rush her now. There isn't much more to put down. Today Joan has to make a speech. And it has to be good..." His hard work paid off, and he put the finishing touches on the play on February 20: "I'm supposed to be working on this play and I damned well want to get it done before Gwyn goes. It's only one scene more....The noise and confusion upstairs is so great that I think I'll have to write this afternoon...Finished the play The Last Joan today. It will catch hell but it is done at 4 PM."

    Despite having been previously pleased with his work, it appears that Steinbeck decided to scrap the play for unknown reasons. Instead, he turned his attention to planning his trip to Russia with photographer Robert Capa. His entry on May 11 reads in part: "A month gone. Play thrown away. Everything thrown away. Strange thing. Maybe I'm all washed up and finished. Maybe the energy is gone. Or maybe there is something organically wrong with me. The depressions are awful. Now I am trying to go to Russia with Bob Capa to do some reporting for the Herald Tribune. I don't know whether or not they will let me. But we will try. I' not being good father, good husband nor good writer. There is no excuse for me at all. I'm getting lazy and irritable and mean. I'm getting a stomach and am generally a mess..."

    Steinbeck's plans to go to Russia, on assignment to write articles for the New York Herald Tribune, were delayed when he met with a sudden accident. On May 14, Steinbeck was leaning against the railing of his second floor balcony when the railing gave way. The fall injured his knee and he was forced to be hospitalized. Steinbeck's final entry in the journal recounts the accident, writing on June 5: "Following that I went out the window and broke my kneecap and messed myself up and have been three weeks in the hospital. Seem to be better now. I can hobble with a stick but am quite weak. We are going to Paris on the 20th of this month. Never have been there. There is a great change going on..."

    John and Capa ultimately made it to Russia in late July. The following year, Steinbeck was struck with a double blow when his mentor Ed Ricketts was killed in a car accident and later when his marriage to Gwyn broke down and she filed for divorce. Although the journal was meant to be just a warm up writing tool, it provides a uniquely deep look into the daily life and struggles of one of America's most revered authors.

    Condition: Minor toning to page margins. Some light dampstaining and green staining at page edges. Binding is slightly loose and text block is slightly cockled. Rubbing and slight bumping to spine edges. Light scratching and soiling to front and back covers. Overall very good.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2019
    27th Sunday
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