Although contemporaries, it is unlikely that he knew the Marguerite Duras quote about journalism:
“Journalism without a moral position is impossible. Every journalist is a moralist. It’s absolutely unavoidable. A journalist is someone who looks at the world and the way it works, someone who takes a close look at things every day and reports what she sees, someone who represents the world, the event, for others. She can not do her work without judging what she sees “
These assessments, however, accurately reflect the methods that have characterized the journalistic activities of legendary John Steinbeck and the close continuity of his career as novelist and as reporter. John Steinbeck based much of his fiction on actual events and experimented with several generes of nonfiction, including personal essays, travel writing, and political and social commentary. His interest in journalism, however, is often treated as ancillary to his writing of fiction, which is regarded as his real work and true calling. Steinbeck scholars alluded to journalism when discussing Steinbeck’s development as a writer or when chronicling and categorizing his work, but to date they have not investigated Steinbeck’s role as a literary journalist with the same zeal they bring to the analytical study of his fiction.
‘The truth is that Steinbeck was really a journalist at heart,’ Gore Vidal said in a 1993 interview with Steinbeck biographer Jay Parini. ‘All of his best work was in journalism that it was inspired by daily events, by current circumstances. He did not ‘invent’ things. He found them. Rural poverty that followed the Great Depression of the thirties definitely marked the Steinbeck approach to literature, and this approach was irreparably marked by his work as a journalist who continued, even famous, during World War II. On September 12, 1936, The Nation magazine published John Steinbeck’s article “Dubious Battle in California. It was an article about California labor migrants that helped the author to develop ideas for his fictional novel, “The Grapes of Wrath”:
Workers have been coming to California
in nondescript cars from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, and other states,
parts of which have been rendered uninhabitable by drought.
Proverty-stricken after the destruction to their farms, their last
reserves used up in making the trip, they have arrived so beaten and
destitute that they have been willing at first to work under any
conditions and for any wages offered.
In 1962 , John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature .The Grapes of Wrath is Steinbeck ‘s greatest critical success. The book was wildly popular with readers, but also attracted virulent critics who decried the book ‘s ” vulgar ” language, brutal depiction of Dust Bowl life, and alleged socialist bent. Several libraries ban the book.
Some how, some decades later, would happen to ” Ballad of Hollis Brown ” a blues song written by Bob Dylan, released in 1964 on his third album, The Times They Are A- Changin ‘. The song narrates the story of a South Dakota farmer who, overwhelmed by the desperation of poverty, kills his wife, children and then himself.
Steinbeck stories are, often, as painful as Bob Dylan ballads because the reality he described was cruel and harsh and people embittered by unemployment, poverty and exclusion. Hence journalism designed and amplified his social sensitivity. Such a fusion was a magical and worthwhile blend: the novelist, who had won the Pulitzer Prize would later win the Nobel Prize.