Books: The Insecure Laureate

THE INTRICATE MUSIC, A BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN STEINBECK by Thomas Kiernan; Little, Brown; 331 pages; $12.95

John Steinbeck worked hard to turn himself into a genius and he almost made it. His youth was a laborious struggle to find his true voice. But as this first full-scale biography shows, the author flourished for a scant dozen years: from the publication of The Red Pony in 1933 to Cannery Row in 1945.

Kiernan (a journeyman who has written books on such disparate personalities as Yasser Arafat and Jane Fonda) met his subject only twice, and he worked without the direct cooperation of Steinbeck's widow....

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