This is what I read after I queried [john steinbeck]:
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939, and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-seven books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories. In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
What kind of free time did this American writer leave for himself? Twenty-seven books. That’s all I have to read in his bio. Don’t even mention the Pulitzer. Don’t even mention the Nobel. You don’t have to include any additional accolades in his list of accomplishments. Let’s leave it at twenty-seven books. That’s good enough for me. Sure, it’s not as prolific as Isaac Asimov, I know, but it’s good enough for me.
Getting back to his free time. Obviously he had some, and he used it to carve out his life. I know he had problems at times with drinking. I know he wasn’t Dr Phil when it came to relationships, hence his three marriages. I know he made mistakes that damaged his human psyche. I know, in addition to drink, he further ruined his health with cigarette smoking, a habit that probably played a significant part in his death by heart failure, 1968.
On the Afterlife, John Steinbeck, the man of letters, was somewhat mystical:
He had earlier written to his doctor that he felt deeply “in his bones” that he would not survive his physical death, and that the biological end of his life was the final end to it.
Cremation and interment of the urn was his idea of putting a biological end to his life. Burial, in the end, was too organic.
So was scattering his ashes. He could not let any part of his body, any ort of organic matter, go about its natural absorption into the earth. As he came, he shall leave. The idea of permanence, of displacement from Nothing to Something, was too much for him. Steinbeck needed to return whence he came.
I’m only wondering how people become so idiosyncratic. Where do we get our ideas from? How do we become influenced? After a lifetime of introspection, of laying out his thoughts for publication, Steinbeck believed he would not survive death. He not only believed this, he felt it in his bones.
Did this sensation come from something he had read? Was it a superstition that ran in his family? Or did he nurture this feeling on his own, after a lifetime of smoking cigarettes?