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Items From Steinbeck's Storage Locker To Be Auctioned Off Next Month

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's begin this next story with a saying.

JAY PARINI: You know, as they say, one man's junk is another man's treasure.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Especially when it is the junk of John Steinbeck. He wrote novels about struggling people down and out on the road, and he famously wrote of going on the road himself.

INSKEEP: More than 50 years after Steinbeck's death, students still read "The Grapes Of Wrath," "East Of Eden," "Of Mice And Men." Along with Steinbeck's literary legacy, there's the legacy of all his stuff, which brings us back to that saying. Let's hear it again.

PARINI: You know, as they say, one man's junk is another man's treasure.

KING: Jay Parini wrote a biography of John Steinbeck, and he was close to the author's widow, Elaine.

PARINI: She would often show me bits and pieces, doodads. Steinbeck was a whimsical collector of little objects that he adored. If you read his fiction, it's full of symbols, and I think he filled his study, his life, his houses with objects that had kind of - a kind of power over him.

INSKEEP: There's a curl of Steinbeck's baby hair, a trash bin made from the foot of an elephant, a hummingbird in a miniature coffin. And all these items are now going up for auction. Any takers?

PARINI: I can't imagine that the general public would want to buy any of this stuff. But, I mean, if you want to be close to Steinbeck, if you love "The Grapes Of Wrath," if you love books like "Of Mice And Men" or "Cannery Row," you might want a little piece of the man's life.

KING: The auction starts next month on John Steinbeck's birthday, February 27. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.