The Critical Response to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

By Barbara A. Heavilin | Go to book overview

The Grapes of Wrath Tops Year's Tales in Heart and Art (Review)

Charles Lee

June is the month for roses, purges, girls to look forward, and book- reviewers to look backwards. In retrospect the year 1939 has been good to the passionate reader. It has offered more worthy books both in fictional and non-fictional fields than even the individual book-reviewer has been able to cover. And there is promise from the publishers that plenty of good things will roll off the presses before next Christmas. So in the coming summer months, with their long light and vacation days, no one, no matter how snobbish or modest his intellectuality, need be without something to read. There are excellence and variety enough for all.

Any one who has not yet raced through the tense, tragic, terrifying pages of John Steinbeck's novel of sharecropper life, "The Grapes of Wrath" (Viking: $2.75) has a literary and emotional thrill in store for himself that few books in our literature can provide. It is all the fine adjectives with which the critics have labeled it. It is great propaganda and great art, and will do honor to a Pulitzer award next May: this is not extravagance; Steinbeck's novel is one of the few perfectly articulated soarings of genius of which American literature can boast. One must go to Melville, Poe, and Whitman for comparisons. But there have been other fine novels, too. Of them all perhaps these four have appealed most to me: John Marquand "Wickford Point" ( Little Brown: $2.75), because it is so far the year's most

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