More recently translated, mostly Taishô-era Tanizaki short fiction

Though my enthusiasm for the writings of Tanizaki Jun’ichirô (1886-1965) has waned over the years and turned into ambivalence, I still think he may be the greatest of 20th-century Japanese writers. Some of his early work, when he was most influenced by writers from Europe and the US, has made it into English of late (2016-17). The novella The Gourmet Club and five shorter fictions, translated by Anthony Chambers and Paul McCarthy, were published in 2001. The title novella (first published in 1919) is very sensual. In it Count G discovers a sort of dining hall (not a restaurant open to the public, but only to Chinese) in a back alley and begins serving the members of his gourmet club (numbering five) exotic Chinese dishes appealing to multiple senses. There is not a plot other than his being blocked from dining at the Chinese establishment by its president.

Jun'ichirō_Tanizaki_&_Inazō_Nitobe_1908.jpg (1908)

The other stories are kinky, though lacking the foot fetishism that increasingly flared up in later Tanizaki fiction. The only late “story,” the 1955 “Manganese Dioxide Dreams” is mostly a plot summary of the 1955 Henri-Georges Clouzot thriller “Diabolique,” followed by examination of the narrator’s turds floating in a western-style toilet. I don’t much care whether the latter contemplation is fictional or autobiographical. Diary of a Mad, Old Man has some resemblances to this narrative, but is far better.

“Two Acolytes” (1918) is somewhat based on “the road not taken” (becoming a Buddhist monk) by Tanizaki earlier on. He definitely opted for the world of sensation rather than ascetism. I suspect that the sadomasochism central to the 1911 “The Children” is a mix of fantasy and schoolboy experience. In it a girl subdues her brother and two of his classmates into eager abjection. The perverse Mitsuko torturing male admirers is a very Tanizaki figure. And the man obsessed by an actress in “Mr. Bluemound” (1926) is also a very Tanizaki figure, though not the narrator. The narrator is a movie director who has explored his wife, Turako, with a camera for general delectation and is startled to find the lengths of imaginative bonding to which one fan whom he meets in a bar has gone.

Something of a change of pace—or at least of final destination—is offered in “The Secret” (1911) in which obsession eventually turns to disenchantment when the narrator runs to mundane reality his “dream woman” and learns her name (Yoshino). (The story also encompasses the pleasures of cross-dressing, but that is incidental to the usual heterosexual obsession.)

junichiro-tanizaki.jpeg post-WWII

I like the three earliest stories of the six the best, the last the least. Are they better? They are shorter. They are also more focused on sexual obsession (along with “Mr. Bluemound” rather than on the alimentary system. With “Red Roofs” (the title story, not the collection in which it is the title story), I think the four stories of sexual obsession in The Gourmet Club: A Sextet add to the body of Tanizaki fictions I find interesting. Early cinema is prominent in “Mr. Bluemound” as in the too-pat for me purported murder mystery Devils in Daylight (1918). (“Manganese Dioxide Dreams” shows that Tanizaki remained interested in international cinema, though plot regurgitation seems to me beneath his genius.)


©2017, Stephen O. Murray


Taishô-era Tanizaki short fiction

I long believed Tanizaki Jun’ichirô (1886-1965) to be the greatest 20th-century Japanese writer and the one who should have been the first Japanese writer to receive the Nobel Prize for literature (he was dead by the time Kawabata did in 1968). I was having qualms about his limits before the new batch of translations into English of work from the teens and twenties of the previous century appeared. Tanizaki’s foot fetishism is not prominent in them, though present in his 1925 “Red Roofs,” a story told from the point of view of Mayuko, a sadistic young (20ish) screen actress using men, including using young men to satisfy the cuckold fantasies of her 44-year-old patron, Odagiri, who seemingly felt but did not act on desires for the muscular young males who fucked his mistress. (Odagiri thought “it would be comical for a man of his age to have a fondness for boys” (151), though Mayuko is boyish.)


The narrator of the stories that — with the exception of the very overwritten and hallucinatory “The Magician” (1917) — read like reportage rather than fiction, are novelists like Tanizaki, even if provided another name, such as Takahashi in Devils in Daylight (1918), another tale of a willful woman (Eiko) and a patron happy to be manipulated and drained of his fortune. The narrator is a sort of Dr. Watson, the protagonist a friend named Sonomura (“obsessed with moving pictures and crime novels”), who drags Takahashi along to watch a murder that ends with eradicating any trace of the murdered man (in a bath of chemicals) and who fancies himself a brilliant, detached detective like Sherlock Holmes, though also longing for a woman who will destroy/murder him.

Devils draws on a code drawn from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold Bug,” which was Poe’s best-known work in English in the late-19th century and was well-known in Japan after Lafcadio Hearn kicked off a Poe boom there. (Tanizaki’s brother Seiji translated “The Gold Bug,” and was not the first to translate it into Japanese. The tribute of creating a pen-name Japanizing Poe’s was made by “Edogawa Rampo.”

Along with Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson (whose title “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was echoed by Tanizaki’s 1926 “The Strange Case of Tomoda and Matsunaga”), the young Tanizaki seems to me to have been influenced by French decadents (Huysman et al.), especially in “The Magician,” but also in the Nanjingbrothel crawl of “A Night in Qinhuai” (1919), a “story” with no plot. It is no wonder it was taken as a travel essay rather than as a fiction.

There are plots of sorts in the two novellas, and the other two stories translated by Anthony Chambers in Red Roofs & Other Stories. The novellas are both mysteries, albeit not (despite initial appearances in Devils) not murder mysteries. They are mysteries of quite perverse characters, male in “Tomoda and Matsunaga,” Eiko and various male collaborators in “Devils.”

Men willingly surrender all to the whims of beautiful (greedy, willful) young women in many Tanizaki fictions, notably including Devils and “Red Roofs” from the new crop of translations into English. In these early works, the supine, obsessed male is not the narrator. The novelist narrator writes about friends in “The Strange Case of Tomoda and Matsunaga” and Devils in Daylight. The perspective is that of the actress in “Red Roofs,” though it is told by an omniscient third-person narrator Tomoda complained that novelists are like policemen because “both like to find all about other people” (45—while revealing little about themselves).

For me, Devils in Daylight, “The Magician, and “Red Roofs” are overly contrived, “A Night in Qinhuai” undercontrived (without even a weak ending), so I guess “Red Roofs” is my favorite. I guess the fantastic “The Magician” is the least voyeuristic, having a male narrator who is bewitched by a male manipulator (the titular magician). The novelist narrator is inveigled by other persons to help understand the Tomoda/Matsunaga coincidences and the murders suggested in Devils.

P.S. I have to say that it is very strange that the title blurb by J. Keith Vincent of Red Roof & Other Stories, asserts that the title story is “about youth culture in Tokyo.” It is set in the countryside between Osaka and Kobe, and as Chambers and McCarthy pointed out, the Japanese movie industry had relocated from Tokyo to Kyoto after the 1923 earthquake. In an afterword the novella he translated (Devils in Daylight Vincent explains its title’s connotations, and the other two translators provided useful discussion of what exoticism meant in early 20th-century Japan and call attention to the unusual turn-around of sexual objectification in “Red Roofs,” which was “unusual among Tanizaki’s works in that it is narrated from a woman’s point of view—and a sexually predatory woman at that.”

Red Roof & Other Stories, translated by Anthony Chambers and Paul McCarthy was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2016, Devils in Daylight by J. Keith Vincent, was published by New Directions in 2017.

Also see Tanizaki’s breakout successful 1924 novel Naomi with its modern (moga—western-emulating) woman/vampire title character whose patron does not like being cuckolded and Quicksand (1929) with a more fatale femme fatale.

©2017, Stephen O. Murray



An Okinawan Holden Caulfield

In 1989 Brown University Japan Studies professor (now emeritus) Steve Rabson translated and contextualized two Akutagawa Prize-winning novellas by Okinawan writers (in Japanese): “Cocktail Party” (Kakuteru pātī, 1966) by Ōshiro Tatsuhiro and “Child of Okinawa” (Okinawa no shonen, 1971) by Higashi Mineo (born—on Mindanao— in 1938). Both were published while Okinawa was occupied by the US (the US still has large military bases on the island whose people chose to return to being a part of the country of Japan, despite a history of discrimination by “mainland” (Honshu) Japanese against Okinawans). Both have been adapted to the screen, btw (in 2016 and 1983, respectively).


Higashi does not try to take on as much as Ōshiro did. Tsuneyoshi, the titular Okinawan boy, is a sort of Okinawan Holden Caulfield. He is a junior high student who lives in Koza. His parents run a small bar that provides prostitutes for American servicemen. There are two prostitutes and only one bedchamber for their tricking, so Tsuneyoshi is sometimes ejected from his bedroom for a quarter hour or so (and a change of sheets). Also a drunk solider urinates in the container of drinking water Tsuneyoshi draws each day.


Tsuneyoshi hates depending on the income from Okinawans prostituted to members of the occupying army. He quarrels with his parents and frequently skips school, gravitating to the beach. Tsuneyoshi has something of a crush on Chīko, who treats him as a younger brother. One of her customers is frustrated at her refusal to go with him again and tosses a grenade into the bar, burning her. Tsuneyoshi cannot strike back, and decides to steal a boat and escape. He does not think this through, even to choosing a destination (though he dreams of Saipan, where he was born), and neglects to pack drinking water. He has been reading Robinson Crusoe and fantasizing about living alone on an unpopulated island.

After a series of flashbacks and vignettes of his present (1950s or 60s) reveries and frustrations and a typhoon (or, perhaps only when its eye arrives) he cuts loose a yacht.

Neither novella has a real end with a possibly more interesting journey (in the Okinawan court system of Ryukuan waters) beyond the cessation of the account of frustrations of occupied Okinawans. Tsuneyoshi’s are more those of a sarcastic virginal adolescent condemning his elders than specifically about the injustices inflicted by occupying armies. It invokes the particular geography and botany of Okinawa in 38 short chapters. Also Tsuneyoshi learns how to masturbate and wonders why the GIs need to pay to get off.

In Japan the book was hailed for having the rhythm of the Okinawan language (in Japanese), something that is lost in translation. The aggrieved point of view of a boy struggling against colonial emasculinization and engaging almost necessarily in voyeurism, however, comes through clearly. He casts off clutching a knife, though there is no prospect of anyone for him to stab in his solitary expedition, but “a surge of violent excitement set my whole body quivering” is the last phrase of the novella.

©2017, Stephen O. Murray



Stress at a multinational cocktail party in occupied Okinawa

In 1989 Brown University Japan studies professor (now emeritus) Steve Rabson translated and contextualized two Akutagawa Prize-winning novellas by Okinawan writers (in Japanese): “Cocktail Party” (Kakuteru pātī, 1966) by Ōshiro Tatsuhiro and “Child of Okinawa” (Okinawa no shonen, 1971) by Higashi Mineo (born—on Mindanao— in 1938). Both were published while Okinawa was occupied by the US (the US still has large military bases on the island whose people chose to return to being a part of the country of Japan, despite a history of discrimination by “mainland” (Honshu) Japanese against Okinawans). Both have been adapted to the screen, btw (in 2016 and 1983, respectively).


IMHO, Ōshiro stuffed too much into “Cocktail Party.” It begins on a base near Naha with a cocktail party for a mix of Americans and Okinawans with one Chinese thrown into the mix. The nucleus of the party, hosted by a Mr. Miller (who has hidden that his position is in military counterintelligence), is a group that is practicing/learning Chinese. The party breaks up when the Morgan’s son is discovered to be missing and everyone goes in search of him (it turns out that the Morgan’s Okinawan maid took him home without telling anyone; they eventually charge her with kidnapping).

The solidarity in facing possible harm to an American child completely breaks down when the daughter of one of the Okinawan guests, City Hall employee, Ogawa, is raped by an American serviceman, Robert Harris, who has been renting a room in the Ogawa house to copulate with his Okinawan girlfriend.


Mr. Miller is not willing to intervene on behalf of his Okinawan “friend.” Mr. Sun, the Chinese refugee attorney, is very reluctant to bring charges of rape against a G.I., knowing that the Okinawan court has no authority to punish an American (and that a court-martial will cover-up rape by servicemen of locals). Adding insult to injury, the raped girl is charged with assaulting Harris (she pushed him off a cliff after he finished with her, so it doesn’t count as “self-defense”).


Mr. Sun points out to Mr. Ogawa the latter’s acquiescence through silence of atrocities Japanese committed in China, including some of which Ogawa was aware. Moreover, Japanese soldiers had raped Mr. Sun’s wife. And Japanese had mistreated Okinawans both before and during the war when they were in authority there. Mr. Sun also acknowledges Chinese mistreatment of Japanese after Japan’s surrender. No group has clean hands, and justice is but a dream. Nonetheless, Mr. Ogawa brings charges in a court that cannot compel Harris to appear. The real victim of the story’s present (some time during the 1960s), the daughter, is not even given a name by Ōshiro.

(Rabson writes that Robert Harris is a catalyst rather than the villain. I think he Mr. Miller are villains and that Mr. Sun is the catalyst of recognizing that others occupying armies —most particulary Japan’s—mistreted the conquered peoples, not that this justifies Americans in raping Okinawans and jettisoning “international friendship” when something is asked of them.)

Alse see Medoruma Shun’s In the Woods of Memory, also centered on the rape of an Okinawan girl by US militart personnel.


©2017, Stephen O. Murray


The Steinbeck centenary + 15 writeoff homepage

I hosted Steinbeck writeoffs on epinions for his 99th and 100th birthday. I, alas, don’t have files for most of the 99th, but included four from the 100th with my own old and new discussions of Steinbeck books.

Following links to the three general ones, is a list in order of first publication by Steinbeck:

The Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California

The Portable Steinbeck

Movies based on Steinbeck writing


The Pastures of Heaven (1932)

The Red Pony (1933)

To a God Unknown (1933)

Tortilla Flat (1935)-Mridula

In Dubious Battle (1936)

Of Mice and Men (1937)

Sea of Cortez (1942, 1969)—Ed Grover

The Moon in Down (1942

The Wayward Bus (1947)—Alex Fraser

The Pearl (1947)—Ed Williamson

Burning Bright (1950)

East of Eden (1952)

Sweet Thursday (1954)

The Short Reign of Pippin IV (1957)

Once There Was a War (1958)

The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)

America and Americans (1966)

Journal of a Novel The East of Eden Letters (1969[1951]

Viva Zapata! (1975[1952])

King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976)—Peter Warn

What Steinbeck hoped would be his “most important work”

Peter Warn contributed the following to the Steinbeck Centenary Writeoff I organized on epinions and has kindly given his permission for its revival here.

Pros: Clear version of influential, enjoyable tales. Insight into Steinbeck’s thinking.

Cons: Steinbeck didn’t finish it.

The Bottom Line: Steinbeck provides an engaging version of the Arthurian legends. His letters about the project provide fascinating insights into his obsession with stories that brightened his youth.


John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1962), but he died in 1968 before he could realize his destiny. The author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men left unfinished his version of Sir Thomas Malory’s compilation of the legends about King Arthur and his noble knights. It was this work that Steinbeck described in 1957 as “destined to be the largest and I hope the most important work I have ever undertaken.”


The considerable chunk of that work that Steinbeck was able to complete, posthumously published as The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, follows the familiar parts of the story of the Arthur from his being raised by Merlin to his using the power of Excalibur to unite England with the help of his noble knights. He tells the stories in modern English, while always suggesting a magical time long ago and far away. He also fleshes out much of the story that might now be less familiar, from varied quests by numerous knights to Lancelot’s adventures, which tend to be overshadowed by his betrayal of Arthur. Steinbeck’s tale ends just as Lancelot and Queen Guinevere are about to commit the adultery that will ruin Camelot. Because he was not able to complete it, Steinbeck’s delightful presentation of the legends ends with his tantalizing suggestion in a letter to his agent that what he was planning to write about Arthur would be “strange and different”.

Steinbeck sought to introduce the Arthurian legends to contemporary readers whom he worried might otherwise get their understanding of the myths from comic books. Arthur lives at the end of Steinbeck’s book, which is not an irony brought about by the author’s death. He sought to remind the world that the work most commonly called Le Morte D’Arthur is about much more. The original title for the Malory manuscripts Steinbeck interprets was The Birth, Life and Acts of King Arthur, of his Noble Knights of the Round Table, Their Marvelous Enquests and Adventures, the Achieving of the San Greal, and in the End Le Morte D’Arthur with the Dolorous Death and Departing Out of this World of All of Them.

Malory’s stories hold power over readers, even over readers who are familiar with them only through the varied works they have inspired, from the musical Camelot to the DC Comics version, Camelot 3000. The characters are like dinosaurs: larger-than-life figures who are gone but who captivate us because their lingering presence suggests worlds full of unknown wonders. Steinbeck’s graceful retellings capture the magic, chivalry and intrigue that give the stories their power.

Merlin knows that he and Arthur are destined to suffer betrayals by the women they love, but he knows too that they are powerless to escape their fates: “Every man who has ever lived holds tight to the belief that for him alone the laws of probability are canceled out by love. Even I, who know beyond doubt that my death will be caused by a silly girl, will not hesitate when that girl passes by. Therefore you will marry Guinevere. You do not want advice–only agreement.”

Although they cannot change their natures, the characters have keen understandings of them. Arthur’s half-sister Morgan Le Fay, for instance, comes close to seducing Lancelot because she knows what he wants:


With power you can try on cities like hats, or smash them when you tire of them. Power attracts loyalty and requires none. The will to power keeps a baby suckling grimly long after he is fed, counsels a child to take his brother’s toy, reaps a gaggling harvest of concupiscent girls. What drives a knight through tortures to his prize or death? The power of fame. Why does a man heap up property he cannot use? Why does a conqueror take countries he will never see? What makes the hermit grovel in the black filth of a cell but the promise of power, or at least influence in heaven? And do the humble mad saints reject the power of intercession? What crime is there that does not become a virtue in the hands of power? And is not virtue itself a kind of power? Philanthropy, good deeds, charity, are they not mortgages on the currency of future power? It is the one possession that does not flag or become tedious, for there is never enough of it and an old man in whom the juices of all other desires are dried up will crawl on his tottering knees toward his grave still grabbing with frantic hands for power.

Much of Steinbeck’s story follows Lancelot, who comes across as a charming crank on whom the burden of being universally hailed “the greatest knight in Christendom” does not always rest easily. This Lancelot complains at length and with apparently unintended humor that women are always demanding that he perform some bit of gallantry for them. Even so, his honor demands that he ask every woman he encounters if there is something he can do for her.

The emphasis on Lancelot in what is supposed to be Arthur’s story seems odd, until one reaches Steinbeck’s letters about the project. His literary agent, Elizabeth Otis, and his editor, Case Horton, share much of Steinbeck’s correspondence about the project to which he devoted more than a decade of extensive research throughout Europe. These letters provide fascinating insights into Steinbeck’s thinking along the way, from his envying Malory for the time he could commit to his writing (Malory apparently spent much of his life in prison) to his admiring the progress Malory made as a writer. In one of his letters, Steinbeck suggests that Malory and he shared many of a novelist’s traits: “A novelist not only puts down a story but he is the story. He is each one of the characters in a greater or a less degree.” Malory, Steinbeck argues, saw himself in Lancelot.

The energy Steinbeck put into studying Malory’s writings and the varied histories and other sources that provided context for them suggests he identified with his characters as well. His writing is fueled by the energy that a knight would have needed as he sought the Grail. Death may have prevented Steinbeck from seeing his quest to its end, but he produced a work that drives readers’ imaginations on quests of their own.


SM comment: I was curious about this book that Steinbeck worked on for a long time. It sounds less dried up than I expected. A label on the gazebo from his Sag Harbor home says that he went to it to write day after day, writing nothing. It’s not like he had some other job or lack of income that kept him from writing. He had writer’s block, even if part of it can be attributed to the savagery of some New York critics in whose midst he chose to live (inexplicably to native or immigrant Californians!)

I hit similar statements about people wanting approval, not advice in Pippin IV and The Winter of Our Discontent, other late works of the master born a century ago today

Steinbeck’s epistolatory 1951 journal of writing East of Eden

To make it through the posthumously published (1969) Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters one must be very interested in how John Steinbeck spent 1951 and/or in what he regarded (from before he started writing it) as his magnum opus, East of Eden, which was published in September 1952 and became a blockbuster (601 pages) best-seller. A decade later, the Swedish Academy gave him the Nobel Prize in literature (a choice bemoaned by many American critics, a group that had long been hostile to Steinbeck’s writing).


While he was writing the book in New York City and on Long Island, Steinbeck wrote daily letters to his longtime editor, Pascal Covici, to “warm up.” That is, when he wrote about the book, it was mostly about what he planned to write on a particular day, not reflections on what he had written. (There are some postscripts about the day’s work that he hoped Covici would understand and like. I don’t understand how they could have been kept—on facing pages— in a notebook, since each week’s work was dispatched to Covici.

I also don’t understand how it is possible to use up 60 (#2 3/8 round) pencils a day, writing roughly 1500 words of novel and another 500 of epistles to his editor. He discarded a pencil as soon has he could fell the metal below/around the eraser, but that still seems like a lot of pencil to use up.

These puzzlements are part of the basis for my suspicions that the book is pervasively dishonest. He did edit the manuscript for publication, and purportedly did not think of publication, though I find it hard to believe that a professional writer who had published 22 books gave no thought to publishing anything of such length that he wrote. I also find it difficult to believe his frequent protestations that he was writing the book for himself and did not care if it were ever published. Is this credible from someone writing daily reports to his editor? Or trying to anticipate criticisms?

I also find it difficult to credit the perky cheerfulness. His third marriage seems to have been as happy as his second one was unhappy, and it is plausible that his wife Elaine told him she liked every single bit he read to her, knowing that he needed approval and encouragement not criticism however “constructive.” The journal periodically shows he was very, very sensitive to criticism—of which he got a great deal, being a best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

I have no interested in what the weather was like where he was between 12 February and 1 November 1951. There is, btw, nothing of his view of the ending or having reached the end of the bulky book on which he had worked most every workday, writing about six hours a day, for eight and a half months. It is followed in the published book by a draft dedication of the book that argued with sales personnel, proofreaders, editors, and critics. That was wisely replaced by a more conventional and less loquacious dedication to Covici (who had died in 1964, so did not make the decision to publish the unedited stream of letters to him).


There is little notice of the outside world, other than the weather and who was staying (notably his two young sons, warped by their mother, Gwyn). He went to the final National League playoff game with Bobby Thompson’s dramatic homerun and to the first World Series games, a crosstown series in which the Yankees beat the Giants. The parade for the cashiered General Douglas MacArthur stirred some fury (Steinbeck though MacArthur should not just be court-martialed for insubordination, but tried for treason; it was widely supposed at the time that MacArthur was going to run for president).

Along with many, many, many banalities, there are occasional nuggets of explication of Steinbeck’s intent. The story(/ies) seem to have been thought out before he began, though I doubt they flowed as smoothly as he pretended. For one thing, his plan to alternate the tale of the fratricidal Trasks with the economically unsuccessful Hamiltons (based on his mother’s family) dropped away. The Hamiltons were supposed (ca. 12 Feb.) to be the universal neighbors of the universal family (the Trasks). I’m not sure that Lee, the Chinese servant who mostly raised Aron and Cal was present in Steinbeck’s mind at the outset, though when he started writing about him, he claimed it had been. There is no doubt that Steinbeck was interested in Chinese in California, however.

There is also no question that Steinbeck saw Cathy/Kate as a monster from before her first appearance (27 March):

Cathy is a hustler, perhaps born, perhaps caused by accident, but Cathy is by nature a whore. She is also by profession a whore. Why Adam Trask should have fallen in lover with her is anybody’s guess but I think it was because he himself was trained to operate best under a harsh master and simply transferred that to a tough mistress.

If one can be born with a twisted and deformed face or body, one can surely also come into the world with a malformed soul.

Her life is one of revenge on other people because of a vague feeling of her own lack.

Steinbeck wanted the book to read like a history rather than like a novel (I’m not sure what he meant by that, and he did no elaborate). On 10 May he wrote that “the story comes to me as though I were reading it but not in final form. Then I must take the story I have heard in my ears and set it down.”

The plan to vary the A-C (Abel Cain) theme was also there before he started writing about Aron and Cal:

In the first part the burden was with Adam who was the Abel… The book was seen though his eyes and through his emotions. Charles was a dark principle who remained dark… Now in Part 3 I am going to try to do just the opposite. Caleb is my Cain principle. I am going to put the burden of experience through his eyes and his emotions… And since every man has Cain in him, he will be fully well understood. Part 3 is Caleb’s part.

The title shifted from Salinas Valley to My Valley to Cain Mark (a really bad title!) to the eventual (12 June) East of Eden to where Cain was banished after slaying Abel. Though he had had a string of memorable titles (The Pastures of Heaven, To A God Unknown), Of Mice and Men, In Dubious Battle, The Grapes of Wrath) he claimed not to be a “title man.” There is no mention of his having already used “valley” in The Long Valley, though he expressed concern that The Valley would be confused with How Green Was My Valley.

There is nothing about any editing of the manuscript which in the journal’s telling flowed smoothly in predetermined order through his #2 3/8 pencils. And it is generally difficult to be sure what in the published novel was being written (was going to be written!) on the day of a particular journal entry. Only if the journal was printed on the same alternating pages as the manuscript could a reader correlate the two texts. I don’t advocate doing this, since so much of the material in the journal is not about the novel (not to mention being of little interest!). I found Journal of a Novel close to insufferable (believing so little was accurate about his feelings), and skimmed many paragraphs about aches and pains and visitors and weather (I was interested in the maladjustments of his own young son (born in 1944 and 1946), but these were not detailed out of concern that they would read the journal when they grew up.)

©stephen O. Murray