The Wayward Bus (Penguin Modern Classics)

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9780141186115: The Wayward Bus (Penguin Modern Classics)

The Wayward Bus travels through the backroads of the lush California countryside, transporting the lost and the lonely to new destinations. Juan Chicoy is at the wheel, a man of the land, hot-blooded and uninhibited. His passengers include Ernest, a travelling salesman out for fun, seventeen-year-old Kit, also known as Pimples, and Camille the stripper who dances at stag nights and takes the star-struck young Norma under her wing. This powerful and unsentimental novel becomes a story of crisis and passion, love and longing, as the travellers reveal their secrets and journey away from their pasts and towards, possibly, the promise of the future. The Wayward Bus, with its profound insight into human desires and failings, remains one of Steinbeck's most powerful novels.

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About the Author:

Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck is remembered as one of the greatest and best-loved American writers of the twentieth century. His key novels have been huge best-sellers in the UK for many years. His complete works will be available in Penguin Modern Classics.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

 

THE WAYWARD BUS

Title Page

Copyright Page

Introduction

 

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

 

NOTES

THE WAYWARD BUS

JOHN STEINBECK was born in Salinas, California, in 1902. He grew up in a fertile agricultural valley about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast—and both valley and coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City and then as a caretaker for a Lake Tahoe estate, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929). After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California fictions, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez. He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon Is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1947), The Pearl (1947), A Russian Journal (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history. The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. He died in 1968, having won a Nobel Prize in 1962.

 

 

GARY SCHARNHORST is editor of American Literary Realism and editor in alternating years of the research annual American Literary Scholarship . He has held four Fulbright fellowships to Germany and at present is professor of English at the University of New Mexico. He has published books on Mark Twain, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, W. D. Howells, Bret Harte, Horatio Alger, Jr., Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

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First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press 1947
Published in Penguin Books 1979

This edition with an introduction and notes by Gary Scharnhorst published 2006

Copyright John Steinbeck, 1947
Copyright renewed Elaine Steinbeck,
John Steinbeck IV and Thom Steinbeck, 1975

Introduction copyright © Gary Scharnhorst, 2006

All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Steinbeck, John 1902-1968
The wayward bus / John Steinbeck ; edited with an introduction by Gary Scharnhorst.
p. cm
Includes bibliographical references.

eISBN : 978-1-101-17719-8

INTRODUCTION

The Wayward Bus, for no good reason, is the most underrated of the major novels of John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. Published in February 1947, “the Bus,” as Steinbeck referred to it in his letters, was his first long and much-anticipated novel after The Grapes of Wrath eight years earlier and his last big novel before East of Eden five years later. With ten major characters, however, the novel’s unconventional ensemble cast or its unorthodox moral code or its overtly allegorical form may have limited its popularity. But make no mistake: “The Bus” is a major novel by a major American author and it deserves to attract a new generation of readers.

Steinbeck struck on the premise for the story in Mexico in the spring of 1945 while completing The Pearl. Originally he thought he would develop the idea in a tale of picaresque adventure “something like the Don Quixote of Mexico” or in a short novel the length of The Red Pony (1937). Gradually, however, the story of these pilgrims and their journey swelled into an ambitious novel of more than a hundred thousand words. As he wrote his friend and editor Pascal Covici from Cuernavaca on July 12, 1945, “The more I think of it the better I like it and the better I like it the longer its plan and the wider its scope until it seems to contain the whole world. From the funny little story it is growing to the most ambitious thing I have ever attempted. Not that it still won’t be funny but funny as Tom Jones and Tristram Shandy and Don Quixote are funny. And it isn’t going to take a little time to write but a long time and I don’t care, for my bus is something large in my mind. It is a cosmic bus holding sparks and back firing into the Milky Way and turning the corner of Betelgeuse without a hand signal. And Juan Chicoy the driver is all the gods the father you ever saw driving a six cylinder broken down, battered world through time and space. If I can do it well The Wayward Bus will be a pleasant thing.” What a whaling ship and a man of war were for Herman Melville and Jack London, what a stagecoach was for John Ford, a bus was for John Steinbeck. His wayward bus “Sweetheart” is the lineal ancestor of Ken Kesey’s psychedelic bus “Further,” another conveyance that would backfire into the Milky Way a generation later.

As for the title: The first synopsis of the story, Steinbeck remembered, “was written in Spanish” and “was called El Camión Vacilador. The word vacilador, or the verb vacilar, is not translatable unfortunately, and it’s a word we really need in English because to be ‘vacilando’ means that you’re aiming at some place, but you don’t care much whether you get there. We don’t have such a word in English. Wayward has an overtone of illic itness or illegality, based of course on medieval lore where wayward men were vagabonds. But vacilador is not a vagabond at all. Wayward was the nearest English word that I could find.”

Steinbeck wrote much of the novel at his kitchen table in New York “amid jampots and pieces of cold toast and stale coffee,” and he destroyed “about 20,000 words” in January 1946 because he was dissatisfied with them. In May 1946 he reported that “For two months I’ve been fighting the Bus and only now have I got a start which seems good. I’ve thrown away thousands of words. But I think it is good now. And at least it is moving.” He finished a draft in October 1946. In all, he spent nearly two years crafting the novel. Despite assertions that his writing was uneven, Steinbeck’s work on the story was not haphazard. “I haven’t any idea as to whether it is any good or not,” he admitted to friends. “But the people in it are alive, so much so that sometimes they take a tack I didn’t suspect they were going to.” “I hope you will like it,” Steinbeck wrote his boyhood friend Jack Wagner, “although ‘like’ is not the word to use. You nor anyone can’t like it. But at least I think it is effective. It is interesting to me—. . . This book depends on mood, on detail and on all the little factors of writing for its effectiveness. It has practically no story.” He elsewhere allowed that “It is what I wanted to say and I think it is in there for anyone who really wants to find it and there’s a top story for those who don’t.” As Steinbeck predicted, “It will be called simple character study and that is only the littlest part of what it is.”

Published to great fanfare, The Wayward Bus was an immediate bestseller. It enjoyed a first printing of 750,000 copies and was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. Two weeks before its formal release on February 15, Steinbeck reported that “The advance sale of the Bus are stupendous. Something near to a million copies. . . . This is completely fantastic. The people who are going to attack it are buying it like mad.” Steinbeck’s observation was prescient. The novel received contradictory or mixed notices at best. “The reviews of the Bus out today,” the author again wrote Wagner. “I should never read reviews, good or bad. They just confuse me because they cancel each other out and end up by meaning nothing. I should let them alone. The book is getting good notices mostly here [New York], although a couple of my congenital enemies are sniping. That is good for a book. The more arguments the better.” On the one hand, for example, the novel was hailed by Harrison Smith in the Saturday Review of Literature: “It stands by itself, the work of a writer as distinctively American as Mark Twain, who has developed in power and dramatic talent for almost twenty years.” It was also saluted by Carlos Baker, professor of English at Princeton University, in the New York Times: “This modern version of a medieval palimpsest will provide, for the thoughtful, one more handle to Steinbeck’s parable of Everyman.” Yet Frank O’Malley scorned the novel in Commonweal, a Catholic weekly. O’Malley’s hyperbolic review was particularly savage: “Steinbeck’s dreary, prurient pilgrimage has no real human or universal significance. It is nothing more than an unusually dismal bus ride—more dismal, depraved and meaningless than any man anywhere has ever taken.” Harry Hansen in Survey Graphic was even more caustic: “Another load of sleazy characters who deserved oblivion rather than the accolade of a book club.” A year later, Steinbeck wrote Covici that he hoped “some time some people will know what the Bus was about. Even with the lead, they didn’t discover.”

The “lead” to which Steinbeck referred, of course, was the epigram to the fable from the late-fifteenth-century English morality play Everyman. “The Bus” is a moralizing book, even if its moral is neither obvious nor particularly reassuring. Like a medieval morality play or any drama constructed according to the classical “unities” (including Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night), Steinbeck’s story transpires in the course of a single day, opening before dawn in the lunchroom at Rebel Corners and ending after dusk as the bus nears its destination of San Juan de la Cruz (Saint John of the Cross). Moreover, just as the characters in Everyman are personifications (for example, Beauty, Strength, Fellowship, Good Deeds), The Wayward Bus is a type of allegory temporally set in spring, the traditional season of pilgrimages, with archetypal or representative figures whose names denote their roles. Though Steinbeck had originally set the story in Mexico, he transferred it to his familiar Salinas Valley, where he was born and lived the first eighteen years of his life. Still, none of the place names in the novel, with the notable exceptions of such southern cities as Los Angeles, Hollywood, and San Diego, refer to actual sites. There is a Santa Cruz, California, of course, but no San Juan de la Cruz, as in the novel; and there is a San Ysidro, California, but it is located in San Diego County, nowhere near the San Ysidro of the story. Put another way, Steinbeck moved his narrative from Mexico to an imaginary central California because the novel is, at its top or most literal level, a commentary on post-World War II America.

Steinbeck establishes the parameters of his topical satire in the opening pages of the novel. The crossroads of Rebel Corners, where Juan and Alice Chicoy run the garage and lunchroom, was established during the Civil War. After the war its founders, Confederate sympathizers named Blankens—ciphers destined to disappear, as their name implies—became “lazy and quarrelsome and full of hatred and complaints, as every defeated nation does.” The novel appeared early in the cold war, of course, in the midst of a national debate over policy toward the defeated Axis powers. Only weeks later Secretary of State George C. Marshall would propose the European Reconstruction Act, better known as the Marshall Plan, designed to help European nations recover from the ravages of World War II and to contain Soviet expansion. The novel also contains a number of incidental references to World War II—to the draft, to rationing, to wage and price controls, as well as a subtle allusion in the first chapter to “Atom ites,” a new race of people who live in the shadow of a mushroom cloud. As Steinbeck wrote in his last book America and Americans (1966), “Under the pressure of war we finally made the atom bomb, and for reasons which seemed justifiable at the time we dropped it on two Japanese cities—and I think we finally frightened ourselves.” In the dialogue between Elliott Pritchard and the army veteran Ernest Horton in chapter 9, Steinbeck also glosses the then-current debate over how to integrate the discharged soldiers into a domestic economy most Americans believed was doomed to plunge into recession with the end of the war. In this sense, Steinbeck’s novel considers the predicament of the returning soldiers much like William Wyler’s movie The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).

Steinbeck also recognizes other major social changes endemic to the postwar period: increasing commercialization, especially the commercialization of sex, and the new roles available to women. The lunchroom at Rebel Corners is decorated with calendar girls and Coca-Cola posters picturing beautiful women. Despite their brand name, Mother Mahoney’s home-baked pies are baked in a factory, and Mother Mahoney, like Aunt Jemima and Betty Crocker, is a figment of an advertiser’s imagination. With a sort of rugged realism, Steinbeck insists on specifying the brands of cola drinks, candy bars, and cigarettes and the names of upscale Hollywood restaurants and hotels. Elliott Pritchard’s gold nail pick, watch, and key chain and his wife Bernice’s “three-quarter-length black fox coat” perfect...

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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The Wayward Bus travels through the backroads of the lush California countryside, transporting the lost and the lonely to new destinations. Juan Chicoy is at the wheel, a man of the land, hot-blooded and uninhibited. His passengers include Ernest, a travelling salesman out for fun, seventeen-year-old Kit, also known as Pimples, and Camille the stripper who dances at stag nights and takes the star-struck young Norma under her wing. This powerful and unsentimental novel becomes a story of crisis and passion, love and longing, as the travellers reveal their secrets and journey away from their pasts and towards, possibly, the promise of the future. The Wayward Bus, with its profound insight into human desires and failings, remains one of Steinbeck s most powerful novels. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780141186115

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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, The Wayward Bus, John Steinbeck, Drifting through its cast of vivid, earthy characters in a series of impressionistic vignettes, The Wayward Bus, published in Penguin Modern Classics, is John Steinbeck's Californian Canterbury Tales. The Wayward Bus travels through the backroads of the lush California countryside, transporting the lost and the lonely to new destinations. Juan Chicoy is at the wheel, a man of the land, hot-blooded and uninhibited. His passengers include Ernest, a travelling salesman out for fun, seventeen-year-old Kit, also known as Pimples, and Camille the stripper who dances at stag nights and takes the star-struck young Norma under her wing. This powerful and unsentimental novel becomes a story of crisis and passion, love and longing, as the travellers reveal their secrets and journey away from their pasts and towards, possibly, the promise of the future. The Wayward Bus, with its profound insight into human desires and failings, remains one of Steinbeck's most powerful novels. If you enjoyed The Wayward Bus, you might like Jack Kerouac's On the Road, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. "Sustained brilliance, complete credibility and vividness." (Saturday Review). "One of Steinbeck's best books." (Newsweek). Bookseller Inventory # B9780141186115

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