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

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