A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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March 2008, vol 4 no 1

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Tad Wojnicki


Burning Steinbeck   

What happened at Main and San Luis Streets goes unsung. The Salinas Public Library used to stand there, replaced by the Bank of America now. At that corner, in 1939, Steinbeck's books went up in smoke.

We burned them. We couldn't stand them. Describing the Salinas Valley as the hell of have-nots drove us nuts. We grabbed the books from the Library's shelves, piled them on the sidewalk, and burned the hell out of them.

Which shows, among other things, how hard it is to recognize a genius among ourselves, within ourselves. No plaque has been put at the corner and no book-burner has ever stepped forward to be cheered.

TheLibrary has moved to a cheaper corner, renaming itself the Steinbeck Public Library, and ordering a Steinbeck statue in front. The bronze catches the writer in his characteristic slouch--dragging his feet, arms dangling by his sides, out for a smoke. But the hard times to be recognized don't seem to be over--ordering the bronze, we got the pictures mixed-up: we had ordered Conrad, not Steinbeck. Everybody keeps mum.

Recently, an anti-tobacco nut knocked the cigarette from the statue's hand.   

butt knocked out 
index and big fingers 
flip a V