Tom Writes a Letter.


It’s no secret that John Steinbeck was one serious pencil user. Still, reading East of Eden recently, I found this passage about writing letters in pencil remarkable:

Tom opened the drawer and saw a tablet of Crane’s Linen Lawn and a package of envelopes to match and two gnawed and crippled pencils and in the dust[y]* corner at the back a few stamps. He laid out the tablet and sharpened the pencils with his pocketknife. [406]

There are several detailed pencil references, but another sticks out:

The writing stopped there. There was a scratch on the page and a splash of ink, and then it went on in pencil, but the writing was different. In pencil it said, “Later. Well, right there the pen give out. One of the points broke right off… “[34-5]

*(My centennial edition has quite a few typos, and I assume that’s one, too. Steinbeck, John. East of Eden. New York: Penguin Books, 2002.)

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