Books: It Started in a Garden

EAST OF EDEN (602 pp.)—John Stem-beck—Viking ($4.50).

John Steinbeck, now 50, has run a wobbly literary path for nearly a quarter of a century. Signposts along the way read: charming sentimentality (Tortilla Flat), left-wing melodrama (In Dubious Battle), maudlin blather (Of Mice and Men), tender innocence (The Red Pony), honest social indignation (Grapes of Wrath), meretricious sex (The Wayward Bus). His latest novel, East of Eden, comes under none of these labels, although it courts most of them for long stretches.

In 1938, while working on Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck wrote in his journal:...

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