When Washington Post literature critic Jonathan Yardley called John Steinbeck “artless” in a column last week, he received the following bitchfest from me:

“Man, I couldn’t let you pass on this one. I can’t believe you called Steinbeck artless. In my mind, he’s one of the greatest prose writers in American literature. Simple and precise—one of the few fiction writers I can actually read and enjoy. Conventional style is not artless; Steinbeck’s ability to achieve clear prose in a century of verbal diarrhea should be praised, not dismissed. His art is in his arrangement of people, not words.

Regarding Steinbeck’s simplistic politics, I got pissed about that when I read him in high school. You might as well say The Brothers Karamazov lacks subtlety, or that Homer is heavy-handed.

And “political orthodoxy?” Come on man. You’re writing in the friggin Washington Post. Don’t spit on his political orthodoxy like you’ve achieved anything different. It took years for Steinbeck to get that Pulitzer, and you should know that. When he did finally receive it, it was only because they could deny him no longer in the face of his overwhelmingly good work.”

What do you think?

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