In Steinbeck's Imaginarium, Robert DeMott delves into the imaginative, creative, and sometimes neglected aspects of John Steinbeck's writing. DeMott positions Steinbeck as a prophetic voice for today as much as he was for the Depression-era 1930s as the essays explore the often unknown or unacknowledged elements of Steinbeck's artistic career that deserve closer attention. He writes about the determining scientific influences, such as quantum physics and ecology, in Cannery Row and considers Steinbeck's addiction to writing through the lens of the extensive, obsessive full-length journals that he kept while writing three of his best-known novels--The Grapes of Wrath, The Wayward Bus, and East of Eden. DeMott insists that these monumental works of fiction all comprise important statements on his creative process and his theory of fiction writing. DeMott further blends his personal experience as a lifelong angler with a reading of several neglected fishing episodes in Steinbeck's work. Collectively, the chapters illuminate John Steinbeck as a fully conscious, self-aware, literate, experimental novelist whose talents will continue to warrant study and admiration for years to come.
Robert DeMott is the Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Ohio University in Athens. He was a founding member of the original Steinbeck Quarterly and has been a long-standing member on the editorial boards of The Steinbeck Newsletter and Steinbeck Review. A former acting director of San Jose State University's Steinbeck Research Center (1984-1985), he was awarded the National Steinbeck Center's Trustees Award for significant contributions to Steinbeck Studies in 2006. DeMott is the author of Steinbeck's Reading: A Catalogue of Books Owned and Borrowed and Steinbeck's Typewriter: Essays on His Art. He is also the editor of Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath and the Library of America's four-volume edition of Steinbeck's works.
"Expansive, penetrating, and written with grace and modesty, Robert DeMott's Steinbeck's Imaginarium is a mash-up of delights unlike anything I've ever read. Commencing in the professor's sunlit days of youthful ardor and ambition, it's a scholar's meta-memoir--an inquiry into the nature of inquiry--that retraces DeMott's outsized role in correcting the rumor that John Steinbeck is America's most-read and least-respected author. A series of deep dives into the source material proves that DeMott chose his obsession well, which is to say it seems to have chosen him. Absorbing and revelatory--Who knew the academic life could be this much fun?--it's a truly wonderful accomplishment."--William Souder, author of Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck
"An incandescent book. . . . Robert DeMott has spent his career considering Steinbeck's work, and his deep knowledge of and appreciation for this writer is apparent on every page of this essential volume. DeMott's imagination, critical acumen, and warm understanding light up Steinbeck's works."--Susan Shillinglaw, author of A Journey into Steinbeck's California
"Robert DeMott's book is a distinguished, internationally recognized scholar's professed last word on the most important literary subject of his life. In this uniquely written and entertaining confluence of creative nonfiction and scholarship, DeMott makes highly original, brilliant, and essential assessments of Steinbeck's body of work."--Brian E. Railsback, author of Parallel Expeditions: Charles Darwin and the Art of John Steinbeck
"Steinbeck's Imaginarium is a unique and wonderful book that crosses traditional scholarly boundaries into original critical spaces. There isn't anything in Steinbeck studies quite like this deeply personal book. It underscores the continuing relevance and contemporary importance of Steinbeck's artistry in an era of diverse cultural, literary, and political theories. On top of that, it is a pleasure to read."--Barbara A. Heavilin, editor in chief of the Steinbeck Review