Does this mean A Journey Into Steinbeck's California is dry and scholarly? Well, would you call Steinbeck dry and scholarly? Because much of the book was written by him. Not having read Steinbeck since high school (yeah, I know. Maybe after Dickens?) I wouldn't have imagined he'd have me laughing by page 16, as he describes the social structure of the Salinas he grew up in:
Steinbeck would have gotten a kick out of the Veggie Tales movies.
"…then Claus Spreckels came from Holland and built a Sugar Factory (in capitals) and the flatlands of the valley around Salinas were planted to sugar beets and the Sugar People prospered. They were upstarts, of course, but they were solvent. The Cattle People sneered at them, but learned as every aristocracy does that money is the final authority. Sugar People might not have got anyplace socially if lettuce had not become the green gold of the Valley. Now we had a new set of upstarts: the Lettuce People. Sugar People joined Cattle People in looking down their noses. These Lettuce People had Carrot People to look down on and these in turn felt odd about associating with Cauliflower People."
The book is generous enough with both text and pictures (modern photos by Nancy Burnett mixed with quality historical photos) to satisfy the armchair traveler. The maps and descriptions will help explorers find Steinbeck's childhood home in Salinas, Monterey's real Cannery Row and the sites of the Mexican enclaves that inspired Tortilla Flats, as well as many other sites relevant to Steinbeck's life or of interest to tourists or locals with a casual interest in the author.
This is not a coffee table book. It's 200 soft-bound 7.5" x 7.5" pages, meant to be taken on the road.
A Journey Into Steinbeck's California is the only book I've seen from the ArtPlace series by Roaring Forties Press that also includes A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome, A Journey into Matisse's South of France, A Journey into Ireland's Literary Revival , A Journey into Flaubert's Normandy, A Journey into the Transcendentalists' New England, and A Journey into Dorothy Parker's New York.