First Hand Memories Of Steinbeck - 27 East

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First Hand Memories Of Steinbeck

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Mediator Stephan Hamilton, with panelists Nada Barry, Bret Anthony Johnston, Kathryn Szoka and Tommy John Schiavoni.

Mediator Stephan Hamilton, with panelists Nada Barry, Bret Anthony Johnston, Kathryn Szoka and Tommy John Schiavoni. DANA SHAW

Bret Anthony Johnston      DANA SHAW

Bret Anthony Johnston DANA SHAW

Bret Anthony Johnston

Bret Anthony Johnston DANA SHAW

Kathryn Szoka of Canio’s Books.

Kathryn Szoka of Canio’s Books. DANA SHAW

Kathryn Szoka of Canio’s Books.   DANA SHAW

Kathryn Szoka of Canio’s Books. DANA SHAW

Nada Barry, owner of the Wharf Shop.   DANA SHAW

Nada Barry, owner of the Wharf Shop. DANA SHAW

Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni.  DANA SHAW

Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni. DANA SHAW

Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni.  DANA SHAW

Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni. DANA SHAW

Mediator Stephan Hamilton, with panelists Nada Barry, Bret Anthony Johnston, Kathryn Szoka and Tommy John Schiavoni.   DANA SHAW

Mediator Stephan Hamilton, with panelists Nada Barry, Bret Anthony Johnston, Kathryn Szoka and Tommy John Schiavoni. DANA SHAW

Mediator Stephan Hamilton, with panelists Nada Barry, Bret Anthony Johnston, Kathryn Szoka and Tommy John Schiavoni.   DANA SHAW

Mediator Stephan Hamilton, with panelists Nada Barry, Bret Anthony Johnston, Kathryn Szoka and Tommy John Schiavoni. DANA SHAW

Efforts are underway to preserve the former home of the Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

Efforts are underway to preserve the former home of the Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

John Steinbeck during a trip to Finland in 1963. PHOTO IN PUBLIC DOMAIN

John Steinbeck during a trip to Finland in 1963. PHOTO IN PUBLIC DOMAIN

Author John Steinbeck in 1962. NOBEL FOUNDATION ARCHIVE

Author John Steinbeck in 1962. NOBEL FOUNDATION ARCHIVE

The Steinbeck property in Sag Harbor.   GAVIN ZEIGLER FOR SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The Steinbeck property in Sag Harbor. GAVIN ZEIGLER FOR SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The Steinbeck property in Sag Harbor.   GAVIN ZEIGLER FOR SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The Steinbeck property in Sag Harbor. GAVIN ZEIGLER FOR SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The Steinbeck property in Sag Harbor.   GAVIN ZEIGLER FOR SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The Steinbeck property in Sag Harbor. GAVIN ZEIGLER FOR SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The Steinbeck property in Sag Harbor.   GAVIN ZEIGLER FOR SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The Steinbeck property in Sag Harbor. GAVIN ZEIGLER FOR SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The Steinbeck property in Sag Harbor.   GAVIN ZEIGLER FOR SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The Steinbeck property in Sag Harbor. GAVIN ZEIGLER FOR SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

Joyous Garde, John Steinbeck's writing studio in Sag Harbor. KATHRYN SZOKA

Joyous Garde, John Steinbeck's writing studio in Sag Harbor. KATHRYN SZOKA

Joyous Garde, John Steinbeck's writing studio in Sag Harbor. KATHRYN SZOKA

Joyous Garde, John Steinbeck's writing studio in Sag Harbor. KATHRYN SZOKA

Stephen Hamilton on May 11, 2022

One thing everyone could agree on at the May 1 “Projections” panel discussion at the Sag Harbor Cinema was that, if it were only possible, Community Preservation Funds should be allocated to preserve the extraordinary spirit and cultural memory of Nada Barry, doyenne of Main Street and a true Sag Harbor treasure.

Barry, longtime village activist and owner of the venerable Main Street toy store The Wharf Shop since 1968, regaled the 75-plus attendees with personal stories of her friendship with the Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, the preservation of whose Sag Harbor home was the focus of the afternoon discussion. Following the panel, the cinema hosted a screening of “The Forgotten Village,” a rare 35mm documentary directed by Herbert Kline and penned by Steinbeck in 1941, about the tensions between the local residents of a Mexican village and the outsiders who wanted to modernize their traditional way of life.

It was a story that Steinbeck knew well.

Steinbeck and his wife, Elaine, purchased the nearly two-acre property at the end of Bluff Point Lane on Sag Harbor’s Upper Cove in 1955. The celebrated novelist, whose works include “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath” — for which he won a Pulitzer Prize — referred to the home as “my little fishing place” in his 1962 travelogue “Travels with Charley.” He began the 10,000-mile transcontinental journey chronicled in that book from his Sag Harbor home, and it was also where he wrote his final novel, “The Winter of Our Discontent,” which is set in a fictional coastal town much like Sag Harbor.

Set on a grassy peninsula, the property features a one-story, cottage-style house, a 120-square-foot guest cottage, and Steinbeck’s 100-square-foot, hexagonal writing studio, named “Joyous Garde” after Sir Lancelot’s castle.

If current efforts are successful, the property would be preserved as a writer’s retreat. During the panel discussion, Kathryn Szoka spoke passionately about Sag Harbor’s history as a literary destination. She cited the Nobel Prize that Steinbeck won in 1962 as being a direct result of the “The Winter of our Discontent” being written in the Bluff Point studio.

Bret Anthony Johnston, who runs the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas in Austin, referenced Steinbeck’s support of emerging writers, noting that the author had donated his $1,000 Pulitzer Prize check to a fellow writer, and later offered his home to help that writer finish his novel.

But it was Nada Barry who closed the discussion with the most poignant story of the day. Recalling that John Steinbeck’s funeral in 1968 was sparsely attended, Barry described how her friend Elaine, John’s widow, came to her with tears in her eyes.

“We must not forget him, Nada,” she said. “Please help me keep the memory of John alive.”

Steinbeck In Search Of America Series
 

“Steinbeck, In Search of America” is a series of talks, films and more celebrating Sag Harbor’s Nobel Prize-winning writer, John Steinbeck. All are welcome to participate. The series is presented by Canio’s Cultural Café.

Thursday, May 19, 6 p.m. — John Jermain Library, 201 Main Street, Sag Harbor

Discussion of “The Moon Is Down,” with guest lecturer Don Coers on John Steinbeck’s World War II novel. Richard Hart, Steinbeck Review editor, will join the discussion.

Wednesday, May 25, 6 p.m. — Sag Harbor Cinema, 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor

Film screening of Steinbeck’s “The Moon Is Down” with Q & A following.

Saturday, September 11, TBA — The Church, 48 Madison Street, Sag Harbor

Forum on “Travels with Charley” with Steinbeck scholar, Susan Shillinglaw, English professor at San Jose State University and former director of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California.

Sunday, September 12, TBA — Canio’s Lawn, 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor

Dramatic readings from Steinbeck’s work, with music and celebration.

In addition, Sag Harbor Cinema will screen Steinbeck films “East of Eden” (1955); “Grapes of Wrath” (1940); “Viva Zapata!” (1952) and “The Pearl” (1947) with schedule to be announced.

For more information visit canios.wordpress.com.

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