Books: The Man Who Belonged Nowhere

THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF JOHN STEINBECK, WRITER by Jackson J. Benson; Viking; 1,116 pages; $35

Faulty timing marked his career. Though only three years younger than Ernest Hemingway, he was ineligible for the vocation of Great War novelist. While the young Hemingway was driving an ambulance on the Italian front, Steinbeck was a second-rate basketball player at Salinas (Calif.) High School. In 1925, the year that F. Scott Fitzgerald became famous for The Great Gatsby, Steinbeck, 23, was still studying "creative writing" at Stanford—too late, as well as too naive, to become a...

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