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

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

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.

In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.

In diary

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

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

In diary