The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck, IV, Author, Nancy Steinbeck, Joint Author, Andrew Harvey, Foreword by Prometheus Books $32.98 (350p) ISBN 978-1-57392-858-8
The title conveys the dual focus of this memoir: ""life with John Steinbeck"" refers both to the famous American novelist as seen by his son, and to Nancy Steinbeck's life with the son, her late husband, John Steinbeck IV. Nancy's introduction explains that Steinbeck IV commenced his autobiography in 1990, and after his untimely death in 1991, she ""needed to finish his manuscript for [their] family."" The book is in short sections, some by John, some by Nancy (a few are coauthored); they both tell sad tales of dysfunction and abuse. The son, a lost soul who never fully developed his own identity apart from his father's fame, tells of a childhood of ""Promethean intensity,"" characterized ""by shameless, alcoholic abuse and neglect."" After being sent to Vietnam at age 20, John became a journalist (winning an Emmy), Buddhist monk, father, social activist and drug addict. With the exception of the last two years of his life, his periods of sobriety didn't last, though his tumultuous marriage to Nancy, against all odds, did. Nancy's story, perhaps the more dominant and message-driven, is all too familiar: loyal and enraged wife of an intelligent, creative addict who promises everything and delivers little. That intermittent ""little"" was enough for Nancy, however: ""you just plain loved him because he had guts... with a brain... with words... with heart."" Little new information on the senior Steinbeck appears, but Nancy does contribute an interesting, somewhat iconoclastic point of view rife with New Age inflections. While John's prose is rich with imagery and Nancy's story is sympathetic, a sense of aimlessness pervades the book. Only devoted Steinbeck fans will feel compelled to read this dual memoir. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/19/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 360 pages - 978-1-61592-449-3
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