"There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do."
A state primarily recognized for its motion pictures thanks to the rise of the glittering influence of Hollywood shortly after World War I, it wasn't until the end of the Roaring 20s — the turn of a decade which saw the evaporation of the sparkling delusion of alcohol; forcing many Americans to awaken to the devastating, yet sobering reality of bottomless debts — that California began to witness a literary narrative prescribed to encapsulate the spans of its wide landscape.
Publishing his first novel in 1929, John Steinbeck — from the beginning of his career until the end of his life — went onto to establishing a legacy of timeless renown that few among the legends of American Literature — many of whom were situated in with New York or The South — could match.
With most of his work taking place in central California — encompassing areas such as Monterey and The Salinas Valley — Steinbeck is greatly revered for his realistic yet highly imaginative prose amalgamated with sympathetic humour and stoic social perception. A style that manifested into his novellas "Of Mice and Men", "The Red Pony", and his magnum opus "The Grapes of Wrath" for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
Bestowed a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, here are five of the best lines delivered by one who required neither lights nor a camera, but simply a pen and paper to write himself into the lasting annals of memory:
1. "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good."
All that is perfect is not all good; just as all good things are never perfect.
2. "There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do."
All that is good and evil is evil and good in name and perception only. At the root, both are just actions. Actions predicated by impulses and decisions tendered by human nature. A nature sown interwoven by roots that spring from seeds of both dark, and more redeemable qualities.
3. "It's so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had ever shone."
When all things fair and beautiful pass, it is their passage into memory that allows their beauty and fairness to remain. Something that cannot be, cannot be remembered, had they never been allowed to pass for all that is fair and beautiful.
4. "I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found."
To be found when lost is not to be found, but to become lost again.
5. "I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen."
Its one thing to look at somebody, but to see them remains an elusive matter entirely.
Although 51 years have passed since time has written Steinbeck into his unwithering, immovable place in literary renown, his tales — encapsulating California's vast valleys, forests, and deserts into a lucid yet hypnotic dreamscape — continue to linger among the shelves of bookstores and libraries. Forever reminding those who pass in and out of the aisles, in and out of California, in and out across America only to get lost and find they are lost again in search of something good, that no good thing can truly be lost. Not because it is perfect. But because it can be remembered.