A book is like a man—clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.

Letter to his editor and friend, Pascal "Pat" Covici, 1952

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More from John Steinbeck

One man was so mad at me that he ended his letter: “Beware. You will never get out of this world alive.”

"The Mail I

It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome but if that is all we ever were, we would millenniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth.

Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.

The Mojave is a big desert and a frightening one. It’s as though nature tested a man for endurance and constancy to prove whether he was good enough to get to California.

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