Thinking of John Steinbeck? Pencil Your Own Blog Post

Image of someone thinking about a blog post on John Steinbeck, who wrote with a pencil is the author website with an ambitious mission: to connect John Steinbeck, who preferred pencils, with readers accustomed to computers. Other American authors also have author websites. But most are designed for academics, or tied to venues or foundations raising funds for programs and projects. Steinbeck never wanted an academic title or degree; he even resisted when his home town attempted to name a school after him. Pitches for money made him uncomfortable and commercialism often made him angry. In this same spirit, the only non-academic author website that bears his name is non-commercial and focused on the present, not the past. Content comes from contributors who write for love, not money; new blog posts are published weekly, almost 300 since the site launched three years ago. Contributors, 48 to date, come from the United States, Europe, and Africa as well. Some write poetry, fiction, or drama inspired by Steinbeck’s life or work. A few are specialists who prefer to test their ideas online before writing their article or book. Most are amateurs who participate in Steinbeck’s books as he intended, with imagination. Thinking about John Steinbeck in a fresh or personal way? Put your thoughts in a blog post for the only Steinbeck author website created for readers like you. Content is curated and subject to editing, but turnaround is fast and layout looks appealing. Steinbeck thought imaginatively, then put pencil to paper. Now it’s your turn to write. Getting started is easy: email the idea for your blog post to

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  1. What a wonderful site! More to follow, as I am so happy to be a part of it.

  2. Thank you for creating this opportunity for a non-academic contributor to publish my thoughts and observations on the role of Steinbeck’s work in the everyday world. I encourage others to do the same.

  3. Will, you have created a remarkable contribution to the world of John Steinbeck and his influences at all levels of society including mine which is social action. I have been thinking about a blog on “cultural attachment”. Cultural Attachment is defined as the “cumulative effect over time of a collection of traditions, attitudes, practices, and stories that tie a person to land, physical place, and kinship patterns”. Because I have continuously searched Steinbeck’s literature for social ecology meanings I was able to understand that one of his concepts was cultural attachment from Grapes of Wrath to Cannery Row to Winter of Our Discontent and his other writings. The concept was first applied in 1995 by my team in assisting the indigenous Scotch Irish residents of Peters Mountain, West Virginia to preserve their culture which was established in the late 1700s. The American Electric Company’s 110 mile transmission corridor was turned down based on our Cultural Attachment work. This is but one example of the social ecology theory that I have found in Steinbeck’s writing that has saved lives and culture. The concept is now applied world wide in various countries and situations. The current battle over the Mountain Valley Pipeline essentially following the same route as the route turned down by the US Forest Service in 1995. Cultural Attachment is being applied once again to this route. Who would have guessed that John Steinbeck would have the incredible impact on society today via his writings that brought forth a social ecology theory.

  4. Wes Stillwagon says:

    John Steinbeck’s Phalanx
    Appealing to MOB Mentality
    And the threat of a
    Trump Presidency
    By Wesley W. Stillwagon
    Copyright ©2016, Wesley W. Stillwagon, Sr. All rights reserved.
    The least understood Steinbeck philosophical concept is the Phalanx. Even Steinbeck biographers evidence a weak, and in my opinion, sometimes pretentious grasp of the concept. Yet it is one of the more important from the philosophically gifted American writer. I’ve often explained the concept by comparing it to Swiss Psychiatrist Carl G. Jung’s Collective Unconscious. In fact, Steinbeck’s work evidences a very practical understanding of Jung’s work and his “phalanx” is a great example of the practical application of the concept. The phalanx can impart a super collective influence on the behavior of individuals within a MOB as Mac describes in Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle”
    “That’s right, what you said. It is a big animal. It’s different from the men in it. And it’s stronger than all the men put together. It doesn’t want the same things men want—it’s like Doc said—and we don’t know what it’ll do.” “It’ll get that barricade,” said Jim. “That’s not what I mean. The animal don’t want the barricade. I don’t know what it wants. Trouble is, guys that study people always think it’s men, and it isn’t men. It’s a different kind of animal. It’s as different from men as dogs are. Jim, it’s swell when we can use it, but we don’t know enough. When it gets started it might do anything.” His face was alive and excited, and slightly fearful.”
    The unconscious is not directly observable, in other words, it does not relate to the ego thereby complicating the task of conveying an understanding. To readers who have not yet grasped the concepts of consciousness, it is difficult to describe the influence of the unconscious. I’ve found it best to attempt a description analytically as Jung did and that is by what it does or doesn’t do. As Mac described in In Dubious battle, its unpredictable and fear inspiring behavior appears autonomous of MOB members or, stated plans of action and even the expressed goals of MOB leadership.
    How does the phalanx relate to the Trump Presidential campaign? Please consider a little history – Adolf Hitler did not become chancellor and absolute dictator by getting the support of the majority of Germans of one of over thirty political parties in Germany at the time.His base of support was the hungry and desperate low-life thugs and the German military industrial establishment like Krupp and Seinmans who were seeking to profit from conflict.
    Let’s face it, Adolf Hitler had but one exceptional quality that he didn’t even fully understand himself. It was the ability to stand in front of desperate masses and become a target for their father-figure delusions. His presence would calm their fears with a promise to make them go away. Like Donald Trump, he didn’t even have to describe a rational plan or working process to discourage critics – it didn’t matter. He was mesmerizing. In reality he was like a parabolic reflector for the evil side of the collective unconscious, perhaps causing the libido to make his image in each individual MOB member to appear far more attractive than it was. The MOB of supporters while under the spell of the delusion performed horrible acts that most of the individuals would not have considered otherwise. That control – that influence is a super-organism called the phalanx. Is there a similarity between the Trump followers like the fellow from Duck Dynasty? Of course there is. They are just awakening and fearful while seeking a father figure to make their problems go away.
    I can recall interviews of participants following mass riots when they were asked by reporters, “Why did you do what you did?” “Was this your normal behavior?” The answer almost universally was, “No – not at all. I don’t know why I did it.” This was the influence of the phalanx on individual behavior.
    At the beginning of his campaign, Donald Trump knew the importance of focusing MOB hatred upon scapegoats like Mexican immigrants or Muslim Americans and how this influenced the MOB. Personally I don’t believe individual citizens are as desperate as the 1930s Germany so he really didn’t get the necessary traction on that ploy. Still there were/are supporters who still believe him and feel his father-figure promise will make their problems go away when the real cause is their own hatred, ignorance, and just emerging consciousness. Individuals just waking up to themselves as unique individuals are the ones with the greatest tendency to project upon external gods, father, and mother figures as Trump supporters do.
    The Trump presidency would be devastating to the United States, and the world in general because Trump is a father-figure to low-life supporters who would, in mass, perform violent acts that they would not otherwise consider. Understanding the concepts of the phalanx and other Steinbeck/Ricketts philosophy is essential to eliminating that risk.
    Wesley Stillwagon
    Clinton, North Carolina, USA

    • Wes Stillwagon says:

      1) all the positive reason, logic, and positive thoughts are not dissuading Trump supporters and statistically Trump and Clinton are in a dead heat;
      2) decent and honorable Republican leaders cannot change the mind of those supporters; and
      3) splinter candidates have the possibility of handing Trump the White House, what can be the problem, what is the answer?

      The problem is at the core of the Trump supporters who are almost completely un-evolved adults who are

      1) mainly unconscious but just awakening to the fact that they are part of a social body;
      2) fearful of all unknowns including anyone different; and,
      3) desperately seeking someone, anyone who would promise to make their fear driven lives better and Trump deceptively promises this even though, like Hitler, he really doesn’t have a clue on how he will deliver.
      4) since those problems are “outside the home” a father figure and not a mother figure is sought by these child brained voters.

      I believe Hillary better start presenting a team effort with Bill Clinton (still very popular) and her Vice Presidential candidate.

      If she does, I believe she will wrestle the vote her way.

  5. In just three years, SteinbeckNow has become one of the most important voices in the Steinbeck world. Whenever the Steinbeck name crosses the newswire, when there is a new film adaptation or a forgotten story unearthed from the archives, I turn immediately to this website for timely analysis and commentary. I encourage all writers with an interest in Steinbeck to consider joining the conversation by submitting a post for publication. Thank you, Will, for your diligent curation. Congratulations on the three-year anniversary of SteinbeckNow!

  6. Herb Behrens says:

    My trade is very fortunate. I need only a five cent pencil and a pad of paper and I’m in business.

    – Books and Bookmen. 10/4/58. “Healthy Anger”. 24

  7. Janet Whitchurch says:

    After describing an art project on which I was working to a new acquaintance, Steve Hauk, he directed me to the website Steinbeck Now. Steve wanted me to read a story he had just posted, but he also thought the site was relevant to me and my project. I was not so certain. My project involved exploring the Salinas River and Valley as if I were a 19th century artist/explorer. My work was more about drawing and painting. I enjoyed Steve’s story and over time other articles and stories – thanks the William Ray I finally read Two Years Before the Mast!. I was beginning to understand what the site was about, but it wasn’t until I attended a Steinbeck Now event, an organ recital in Salinas, that I realized how the site wasn’t just about John Steinbeck, his history and writings, but was about the way his spirit is alive and well and inspiring not only scholarship and writing, but music and yes, the visual arts! Finally, just under a year ago, I was invited by William Ray to post something about my project on the site and I welcomed the opportunity. I love the Salinas Valley and found that my love for it and my need to express it is how I am sharing the spirit of John Steinbeck. This is a wonderful and engaging site and I enthusiastically say “Happy Birthday!!”.

  8. When reading Steinbeck late at night and have had a flare of enlightenment, I can run to Steinbeck Now as if running to a friend who’s lamp is also on and has made the same discovery.

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