The young John Steinbeck. Image by Peter Stackpole, New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Professor Gavin Jones of Stanford University has recently hailed as an “incredible find” a “lost” 1930 manuscript by John Steinbeck. The manuscript in question has long been known to scholars and has only been as “lost” as anything can be “lost” while residing, well catalogued and accessible, in one of the most prominent primary source literary depositories in the world: the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin.

Jones’s well-publicized announcement has, not accidentally, done much to raise the profile of his forthcoming book Reclaiming John Steinbeck: Writing for the Future of Humanity (Cambridge University Press/June 2021). So…


In Spring a young man’s thoughts turn to love. In the Spring of 2021 with the COVID-19 Virus still taking many lives, a much older man’s thoughts turn to death. This is where I find myself — at this particularly grim point in history — and where I suspect many of my generation find themselves both emotionally and spiritually.

And it is all so very digital.

Throughout the past decade, via the many virtual reunions enabled by Facebook, we’ve shared with our old friends from childhood the joyous arrivals of new grandchildren but also the deaths of our parents: all…


In her New York Times bestseller of 2008, Manic: A Memoir, Terri Cheney vividly recounted her long double-life as a manic-depressive suffering from bipolar disorder. On the one hand she was a chronic over-achiever: a Vassar graduate and a high-powered Hollywood attorney to the stars. On the other, she was also a deadly bundle of ricocheting emotions and moods ranging from the often-embarrassing highs of mania (when all self-restraint and self-discipline were thrown to the wind), to dungeon-like depressive lows of self-loathing and powerlessness, when suicide seemed not so much an option as an invitation.

As she tells us early…


Numberless crowded streets — high growths of iron, slender, strong,
light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies …

Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week;
The carts hauling goods — the manly race of drivers of horses — the
brown-faced sailors …

The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d, beautiful-faced,
looking you straight in the eyes …

A million people — manners free and superb — open voices — hospitality —
the most courageous and friendly young men;
The free city! no slaves! no owners of slaves! …

The city of such young men, I swear I cannot…


Reading my friend Paula McLain’s stunning new novel Love and Ruin — about Hemingway’s third wife, the inimiatable and brilliant Martha Gellhorn — has caused me to remember a somewhat-Hemingway-related story I’ve been meaning to write down for a long time, but never have.

In 1995 I was working on my book The Lion’s Pride, about Theodore Roosevelt and his sons — Ted Jr., Archie, Kermit, and Quentin — during the World War I period. As part of my research I was investigating the so-called military “Preparedness” movement as it manifested at Harvard and other campuses around the country. …


Last year, Israeli writer Dorit Rabinyan’s novel All the Rivers was banned from the national curriculum of Israel. According to the Israeli Education Ministry, the book poses a “threat to Jewish identity” with its tale of a Palestinian artist in love with an Israeli woman. …


In today’s Irish Times, retired Notre Dame English professor William O’Rourke uses the occasion of an essay on the superb writer Michael Collins to insult both the writers and readers of crime fiction and — by inference — also the writers and readers of all “popular” literature in general.

O’Rourke comments that “Too much ability can be a burden of sorts” when it comes to writing crime or — one has to assume — other popular genre novels.

O’Rourke cites Collins as a case in point, saying: “Michael, unfortunately, had, has, too much talent to succeed as a crime writer…


Kay Redfield Jamison, co-director of the Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins, stands as one of the most highly respected researchers, practitioners, and writers regarding manic depression. Herself a sufferer, she has authored several true classics in the field — among them Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide (1999), Exuberance: The Passion For Life (2004), and the acclaimed memoir An Unquiet Mind (1995). These are all in my personal library, in part because I find Jamison’s writing to be excellent, and in part because I myself am harassed by these same demons.

In her new book Robert Lowell: Setting the River…


First Edition published 2004 by Houghton Mifflin.

The recent political season has been rife with allusions to excellent dystopian fiction portraying the rise of totalitarianism in the United States. Sinclair Lewis’s brilliant It Can’t Happen Here (1935) has been much cited, as has Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962) and, to a lesser degree, Jack London’s The Iron Heel (1908). But I think Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (2004) to be the novel which best presents parallels to our present situation.

Roth imagines a triumphant, isolationist Charles Lindbergh elected to the White House on the Republican ticket in 1938, defeating two-term president…


Melville in old age.

I have come to regard this matter of Fame as the most transparent of all vanities.

- Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne, June 1851

As to [James Thomson’s] not achieving “fame” — what of that? He is not the less, but so much the more. And it must have occurred to you as it has to me, that the further our civilization advances upon its present lines so much the cheaper sort of thing does “fame” become, especially of the literary sort.

- Herman Melville to James Billson, December 1885

September 28th 2018 marked the 127th anniversary of the death…

Edward Renehan

Writer published by Doubleday, Crown, Oxford University Press, and other major houses. http://edwardrenehan.com

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