Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Steinbeck's "Quintessential American Characters" Who Made Up a "Tea Party Before the Fact" Were Exaggerated? "Who Cares?" Yawns Le Monde

Even great writers sometimes have trouble finding inspiration
writes Corine Lesnes as she tackles Bill Steigerwald's Travels with Charley de-hoaxing. Le Monde's America correspondent goes on to devote about four-fifths of the space of her column to (re-)chronicling, with utter delight, John Steinbeck's travels across America with his dog (described as a French pooch, "born in Bercy") — discovering in the process the American heartland and the many truths thereabout, thanks to those quintessential American characters whom she alludes to as a "Tea Party before the fact".

Not before the last three or few paragraphs do we learn why this 50-year-old trip (1962) is of note in 2011. Reason's Steigerwald, of course, has proven that the whole book was, if not a lie then a very exaggerated recounting of what Steinbeck (and Charley) did and whom he (they) met.

What, then, is the purpose of devoting four fifths of a column to what turns out to be fiction in the first place?! Many, most of, or all of the encounters are made up, and if all of them are not, how are we to know which ones are and which ones are not? The three or four final paragraphs negates the reason for using the first four fifths of the column to retell several of Steinbeck's "true-life" (non-)adventures. Corine Lesnes admits that
Some of the colorful characters were not at the places where he [Steinbeck] says he ran into them.
But the truth, of course, is worse: several of the colorful characters seem to have been outright inventions. The column ends as follows:

La découverte a suscité quelque émotion dans les milieux universitaires spécialisés, pris en défaut d'esprit critique. … D'autres ont dit : peu importe. L'écrivain a tous les droits.

"The writer has all the rights."

Apparently, when it turns out that the prediction, the reasonable prediction, of someone from the right — be he an artist, a politician (George W Bush), or other — is mistaken, then it means that he is nothing less than a despicable liar who must be castigated endlessly, with every weapon at one's disposal.

When it turns out that the the personal testimony from someone on the left is wrong (and therefore is a real lie), then it means that… he is… still a great man ("a great writer") having "trouble finding inspiration" who is among those beings who have "all the rights"…