Steinbeck Project Blog Prompt #1, by Octavio Solis

Here it is, the first in our series of three prompts, designed to help inform our upcoming Steinbeck Project workshop. The Cal Shakes New Works/New Communities program would love for you to leave your input in the “comments” section below, via prose, poetry, links to video or audio, and whatever else you can think of. Posting your comments on an individual prompt blog during its first week gets you entered in a drawing to win a prize*, and all comments are eligible for publication in Cal Shakes newsletters, on our website, and/or in the program for John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven during our 2010 season.**

And so now, without further ado, here’s your first prompt, written by none other than Octavio Solis, the award-winning playwright of John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven.

In The Pastures of Heaven, as in most of his other novels dealing with Salinas, Steinbeck depicts the hard lives of the rural working class. There are migrant workers, chicken farmers, cattle ranchers, orchard growers, construction workers, etc., peppered throughout his works. Can you think of other contemporary writers working today who focus on this labor force? Has anyone in your background ever worked the land like Steinbeck’s characters? What particular kind of work did they do?

Photo of Octavio Solis by Anne Hamersky.

*Prize still to be determined. Please leave your email address somewhere in your comment!!
**Don’t worry, we’ll ask your permission first.


9 thoughts on “Steinbeck Project Blog Prompt #1, by Octavio Solis

  1. >In the1930s, my grandparents and mother (aged 11) and her 5 brothers and sisters used to pick fruit (peaches, apricots) in the Santa Clara Valley, which at that time before Silicon Valley, was only field after field of orchards. Because they had so many kids, they could pick more fruit, make more money & eat more fruit too! My grandmother said it was like Heaven after the coal mining country of Trinidad, Colorado. Every time I eat a peach, I think of her. . . .

  2. >Linda, you nearly quoted TS Eliot!I'm struck by how Steinbeck made such an effort to depict the working classes in his novels. I am trying to think of other contemporary writers who delve into blue-collar lives without judgment or a sense of superiority and can only come up with fiction writer Dagoberto Gilb, who started as a carpenter himself. He takes pride in the fact that he can build his own house with the same kind of care and craft that it takes to construct a story.There have to be more. Thanks for posting, Linda! octavio

  3. >He didn't write just about rural working class but there is Studs Terkel of course. My Dad was a labor negotiator for State of CA and Terkel's book "Working" was this huge like red covered bible my home growing up. My Dad had great stories like the time he negotiated a contract with a union of Blind employees and they used red dice to vote on things. He brought home these big bags of dice, I thought it was so cool!

  4. >My grandfather, my mother's father, grew up in Daly City on an artichoke farm as did many Italian immigrants at the turn of the last century. He carried his ranching and farming spirit with him all his life. He taught me to hunt and how to enjoy nature and the outdoors.

  5. >Hills of Gold. There's a line in one of the stories of The Pastures of Heaven where one of its founders says that "the earth only gives one crop of gold" as he turns his back on the Gold Rush fever of '49. But when he sees these great rolling hills and the vast and beautiful valley, he knows the real gold is the land itself. Thanks for posting,Octavio

  6. >I believe Larry McMurtry falls into this category of contemporary writers who write about the rural working class. "Lonesome Dove" is an excellent example with its depiction of cattle herders driving a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana to begin the first cattle ranch in the frontier territory.~~Vanessa M.

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