14,765 book reviews and counting...

Books in the Media Update

This website is no longer being updated; theBookseller.com is the home of all books related-content and will continue to be updated with regular articles about books featured in the media. Thank you for using this website, and we hope you join us on theBookseller.com.

Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck Reviews

Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck by William Souder

Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck

William Souder

3.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: WW Norton & Co
Publisher: WW Norton & Co
Publication date: 13 Oct 2020
ISBN: 9780393292268

A biography of one of America's most popular and misunderstood authors, John Steinbeck.

3 stars out of 5
3 Jan 2021

"The portrait here is by no means hagiographic"

William Souder is a veteran biographer, who has already successfully tackled John Jacob Audubon and Rachel Carson, two highly commendable subjects. This time he has a harder job, recuperating a less appealing figure: grouchy, sullen, truculent. The portrait here is by no means hagiographic: every one of Steinbeck’s flaws or misbehaviours is conscientiously noted. But Souder sees a pattern, ostensibly forgivable because divinely inspiring, behind these unattractive qualities. The figure in the carpet the biographer posits is indicated by the book’s title: Mad at the World.

Reviews

3 stars out of 5
28 Nov 2020

"something vulnerable and human about Steinbeck gets lost in translation"

Souder writes well, and this is a good place to start reading (or rereading) about Steinbeck. But Mad at the World sometimes feels a bit too terse and cursory, especially in the last 50 pages, and falls short of communicating a strong sense of the complicated, emotional life of a very complicated, emotional writer. For example, in his earlier, more extensive biography, Benson spent a full page describing the only meeting between Steinbeck and Hemingway (it was a disaster). Souder’s version of the same story is reduced to this: ‘Hemingway had interrupted the otherwise dull evening by breaking a walking stick over his own head to prove he could.’ 

3 stars out of 5
Claire Lowdon
8 Nov 2020

"the remarkable life of John Steinbeck"

Sadly it’s hard to get a solid sense of Steinbeck from Souder’s book, which is highly readable but, at 368 pages minus notes, feels too slim for such a lot of life, such a lot of work. And Souder, who has also written lives of John James Audubon and Rachel Carson, wastes valuable space trying his hand at Steinbeck-inspired evocations of landscape, or dispensing slightly cheesy wisdom about writers (“Writers write because they do care”).