I have owed you this letter for a very long time — but my fingers have avoided the pencil as though it were an old and poisoned tool.

Letter to his literary agent, found on his desk after his death in 1968

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More from John Steinbeck

Time is the only critic without ambition.

I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession.

Accepting Nobel Prize, 1962

A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you.

I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.

Accepting Nobel Prize, 1962

How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?