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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 24, 2010

Take a tour of Steinbeck's early years

Advertiser Staff

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The National Steinbeck Center will celebrate the birthday of its Pulitzer Prize-winning namesake on Feb. 27.

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WHERE: Monterey County, Calif. Born in 1902, John Steinbeck wrote many books based on his early experience growing up in Monterey County. These include "Cup of Gold" in 1929; "Tortilla Flat" in 1935; "The Grapes of Wrath" in 1939, for which he received a Pulitzer Prize; "Cannery Row" in 1945; "East of Eden" in 1952; and "Sweet Thursday" in 1954. Steinbeck was the first author from California to receive the Nobel Prize, in 1962. He is California's most famous novelist and has been called Monterey County's favorite son.

The National Steinbeck Center, which opened in 1998, features an exhibit hall devoted to Steinbeck's life and literature, a movie theater, lecture forums, a museum shop, rotating exhibition gallery, restaurant, library and a 30,000-piece archive including letters, photographs and first editions. The center in Old Town Salinas is just two blocks from the Victorian house in which John Steinbeck was born and reared.

IF YOU GO: The National Steinbeck Center is at 1 Main St., Salinas, Calif., about 30 minutes east of Monterey. 831-775-4721, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, www.steinbeck.org

The National Steinbeck Center will celebrate Steinbeck's birthday on Feb. 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; special activities are included in the general museum admission price of $10.95; $8.95 seniors over 62, students and military with ID; $7.95 ages 13-17; $5.95 ages 6-12.

LODGING: The Monterey Hotel's Steinbeck package includes accommodations, tickets to the National Steinbeck Center, a continental breakfast and a copy of "Cannery Row," which takes place on a small Monterey street lined with sardine processing plants known as Cannery Row.

The novel revolves around the people living there during the Great Depression. Key characters are Lee Chong, the local grocer; Doc, a marine biologist based on Steinbeck's friend Ed Ricketts; and Mack, the leader of a group of bums. The novel is by turns nostalgic, comical and sad.

The Steinbeck package is available Sunday to Thursday through August; room rates range from $99 to $189 (weekends are an additional $30).

The Monterey Hotel on Alvarado Street is close to the Soto Adobe where Steinbeck lived; it is also near Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row, which figure prominently in Steinbeck's work. Spanish-Colonial-era structures and walking tours are in the hotel's neighborhood, or guests may borrow "Footsteps of Steinbeck," a self-guided driving tour CD from the front desk. 800-966-6490, www.montereyhotel.com.