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Mad at the World

A Life of John Steinbeck

William Souder



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26 November 2021
The first full-length biography of the Nobel laureate to appear in a quarter century, Mad at the World illuminates what has made the work of John Steinbeck an enduring part of the literary canon: his capacity for empathy. Pulitzer Prize finalist William Souder explores Steinbeck's long apprenticeship as a writer struggling through the depths of the Great Depression, and his rise to greatness with masterpieces such as The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath. Angered by the plight of the Dust Bowl migrants who were starving even as they toiled to harvest California's limitless bounty, fascinated by the guileless decency of the downtrodden denizens of Cannery Row, and appalled by the country's refusal to recognize the humanity common to all of its citizens, Steinbeck took a stand against social injustice?paradoxically given his inherent misanthropy?setting him apart from the writers of the so-called lost generation.

A man by turns quick-tempered, compassionate, and ultimately brilliant, Steinbeck could be a difficult person to like. Obsessed with privacy, he was mistrustful of people. Next to writing, his favorite things were drinking and womanizing and getting married, which he did three times. And while he claimed indifference about success, his mid-career books and movie deals made him a lot of money?which passed through his hands as quickly as it came in. And yet Steinbeck also took aim at the corrosiveness of power, the perils of income inequality, and the urgency of ecological collapse, all of which drive public debate to this day.

Steinbeck remains our great social realist novelist, the writer who gave the dispossessed and the disenfranchised a voice in American life and letters. Eloquent, nuanced, and deeply researched, Mad at the World captures the full measure of the man and his work.
Imprint:   Norton
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 211mm,  Width: 140mm,  Spine: 30mm
Weight:   352g
ISBN:   9780393868326
ISBN 10:   039386832X
Pages:   464
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

William Souder's books include biographies of John Steinbeck, Rachel Carson (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year) and John James Audubon (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize). He lives in Grant, Minnesota.

Reviews for Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck

[Mad at the World] highlights the staggering amount of work he [Steinbeck] fitted into his overflowing life... highly readable... -- The Sunday Times William Souder's Mad at the World is the first significant biography of Steinbeck since Jackson L. Benson's... The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer. It is readable, admiring and compact, and provides a narratively energetic look at a man who suffered many of the same weaknesses as his characters - for booze, benzedrine, depression and bad marriages... Souder writes well, and this is a good place to start reading (or rereading) about Steinbeck. -- Scott Bradfield - The Spectator A comprehensive new biography of America's best-known novelist of the Great Depression arrives at a timely moment. -- 17 New Books to Watch For in October - The New York Times Souder's sympathy for Steinbeck... is most effective and eloquent in his depiction of the California landscape or of the sea, which he describes as swimming with small pelagic crabs like a crimson carpet spread across an ocean the color of lapis lazuli . -- Brenda Wineapple - The New York Times Book Review Painstakingly researched, psychologically nuanced, unshowy, lucid... [Souder] has brought a deeply human Steinbeck forth in all his flawed, melancholy, brilliant complication. -- Alex Kafka - The Washington Post [An] appreciative yet clear-eyed assessment. -- Wendy Smith - The Boston Globe

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