nothing good gets away.

Last night I was asked about Steinbeck. If I like him. And the answer is no, not entirely, not overly much. (NB: East of Eden is widely exempt from that apathy.) So of course I wake up to read this (literary karma? I feel like there should be a more concise word for the phenomenon). To which my answer is actually, yes.

A Letter to His Son | New York | 10 November 1958

Dear Thom: 

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First -- if you are in love -- that's a good thing -- that's about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don't let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second -- There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you -- of kindness and consideration and respect -- not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn't know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply -- of course it isn't puppy love.

But I don't think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it -- and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone -- there is no possible harm in saying so -- only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.
Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another -- but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I'm glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don't worry about losing. If it is right, it happens -- The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.




Brookette said...


i love what you write. i love the way you write it. please keep it up.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. Thank you for finding it and sharing it.

Sum said...

I love the line "nothing good gets away." So beautifully written.

Megs said...

Travels with Charley: In Search of America also helps improve one's position on Steinbeck.

A. said...

My thoughts on him just changed a bit. I love this letter.

My thoughts on Hemingway though, never will. Midnight in Paris captured him so perfectly. (And reaffirmed my dislike.)

E. said...

Strangely enough, the Steinbeck conversation stemmed from a Hemingway one. And . . . the argument was convincing enough that I might just have to try to read Farewell to Arms again. Might. Maybe. May.

E. said...

It is people like you that make me feel not quite so silly about jabbering away at the internets---thank you for the bloglove; it means the most.

Paige Andy said...

I'm so in love with this.

Anonymous said...

I love Steinbeck. I have read this letter before but it makes me love him more every time I read this.