The Great American Novelist
Steinbeck’s Chronicle of Conscience
At a presentation sponsored by the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking, McComas will give a presentation consisting of commentary and dramatic readings from four of Steinbeck’s novels as well as his 1962 travelogue, Travels with Charley: In Search of America. He will also pull out a guitar and perform Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” a song inspired by Steinbeck’s classic dramatization of Midwest farmers driven from their land during the Great Depression in The Grapes of Wrath.
Steinbeck was one of the nation’s towering literary giants in an epoch when authors strove to write “the Great American Novel” and many people actually read them, searching for a sense of what it meant to be American. “Steinbeck’s style was chameleonic and adapted itself to the material,” McComas says. “He made [the] personal [into the] political and the political into the personal. He led with his characters. He was the foremost American chronicler of the middle section of the 20th century—from the Great Depression through the Civil Rights Movement.”
Steinbeck’s last major work, Travels with Charley, drew from his eight-month road trip across the U.S., traveling counter-clockwise from the East Coast to the South, where he witnessed brutal, undisguised racism. “This presentation is about pulling Steinbeck off the shelf,” McComas says. “We just had an election where a candidate said, “I don’t care about the poor,’ and went on to become his party’s nominee for president. It suggests that we need Steinbeck in our day and age—maybe more than ever.”
The presentation will be held Monday, March 25, at 7 p.m., Marquette University Alumni Memorial Union, Ballroom D, 1442 W. Wisconsin Ave. Admission is free.