Steinbeck, Ricketts and Hedgpeth - John, Ed and Joel:
California Pacific, Still Wild and Still to be Discovered at Ballona
Robert Jan van de Hoek
Los Angeles, California
May 3, 2020
The great magazine, PACIFIC DISCOVERY, by the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) changed the name of their magazine to "CALIFORNIA WILD" (circa 2000) for reasons not known to me at this time. Nevertheless, I found my name in print in the same article, immediately alongside the name of Marcia Hanscom. The writer of the article, Gordy Slack, interviewed both of us together in Playa del Rey, at a cafe, near the Ballona Wetlands. I was pleased to be in an article in Pacific Discovery, speaking for and defending nature, but I still remain conflicted as to which magazine name I prefer, PACIFIC DISCOVERY or CALIFORNIA WILD. Sadly, the magazine was discontinued, not too long after the Ballona article was printed, which would also make Joel Hedgpeth sad, if he were still with us today. And this brings me to a discussion of the fascinating of 2 book reviews by Joel Hedgpeth, namely SEA OF CORTEZ and CANNERY ROW, which simultaneously serves as a sad goodbye to Ed Ricketts in this small biographical note about Edward Ricketts and the sadness that John Steinbeck felt as well.
In 1953, when the article by Joel Hedgpeth appeared, but that he likely penned and finished writing in 1952, we know that Stanford University Press reprinted BETWEEN PACIFIC TIDES as a 3rd edition in 1952, edited by Joel, who gladly did so, in honor of a friendship with Ed, who had passed away sadly, four years earlier in 1948.
Also in the early 1950s, John Steinbeck, circa 1951, allowed a reprinting of a portion of the SEA OF CORTEZ, what today we refer to as the LOG, excluding the large APPENDIX, which is actually a very well written 'natural history' and 'ecology' of the marine life found by Ed & John during their month-long cruise in the Gulf of California (aka Vermilion Sea or Sea of Cortez). In front of the LOG, John Steinbeck penned the first biography of his friend, Edward Ricketts, which is entitled: ABOUT ED. The biographical essay is approximately 30 pages in length, and very fascinating to read again today, and to reread periodically, in my opinion.
Basically, the 2 book by Steinbeck and Ricketts, SEA OF CORTEZ and BETWEEN PACIFIC TIDES were back in print in the early 1950s, both revised, and played a role for the CAS to allow their editors of PACIFIC DISCOVERY to allow a brief essay by Joel Hedgpeth to be written. We can never know what Ed Ricketts thought about this new article by Joel Hedgpeth, but there must be some kind of paper trail for what John Steinbeck thought about this small book review and the title chosen by the editors and Joel Hedgpeth for the title with a fascinating capitalization pattern: "SEA of CORTEZ Revisited, or CANNERY ROW Revised" which has intrigued me for about the last 20 years, on and off again. I am curious what other people think of this capitalization style that was implemented by PACIFIC DISCOVERY magazine editors.
And now, the years have passed by, from 1953 to 2020, for 66 years, with the 2 books being around for 80 years, give or take, both in print and available, with a following, and English professors and English students still writing about John Steinbeck and Edward Ricketts and their books, virtually non-stop, with only small gaps in time, between conferences and annual gatherings, in Monterey and occasionally in the eastern USA, and even internationally, as in Japan, and possibly in Europe, if I am not mistaken.
The novel, CANNERY ROW, written by Steinbeck, about Ricketts, appeared only a few years earlier at the end of WWII in 1945, but reprinted often, including the early 1950s. And soon thereafter, Steinbeck wrote a second story about Ricketts, nicknamed again as "Doc" in SWEET THURSDAY I 1954, only a year after the essay by Joel Hedgpeth. One wonders if Joel Hedgpeth knew that John Steinbeck was writing a second novel about "Doc" and if what Joel Hedgpeth penned about Steinbeck and Ricketts, influenced and played a role in this second novel. In essence, a period of 10 years (1945-1954) elapsed between the two novels about "Doc" and in a manner of speaking also a kind of extended biography of Ed and simultaneously, an autobiography of John, if I dare to say so, at this time.
And now, here I am, publishing on the World Wide Internet at a web site, yet another essay about Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck, as both a history and biography, but also as geography, anthropology, sociology, psychology and philosophy, which can also be classified as 'environmental history' or 'history of biology' and 'conservation' writing, and perhaps as an unusual 'natural history' essay as well. I hope some people enjoy the look back in time to the writing by Joel on the topic of Ed and John.
If I were to complete this essay without mention of at least one animal and one algae and one plant and plankton and one specific place on the Pacific coast, in this essay, I would be remiss, and a good way to do so would be to elaborate on what Joel Hedgpeth referred to in his book review in the phrase, "cross-reference" which is the use of of a symbol, seldom used in English, but which Ed liked, John acknowledged, and Joel promoted, which is called a 'section symbol' and provides an effective method to refer to species and to find the species in revised editions with changed page numbers, and in other books, so the technique goes beyond a page number, to guide us to find species in books, and that section symbol has the appearance of two overlapping 's' letters ( '§'), which is relatively easy to find on a computer keyboard in the 21st Century.
This 'section symbol' code ("§") is used effectively in both BETWEEN PACIFIC TIDES and in the SEA OF CORTEZ and would have been implemented again in the proposed and planned book, "THE OUTER SHORES" if Ed had not died suddenly in 1948, and if John had not lost the energy and spirit to complete the book with his friend, Ed, as a posthumous coauthor, and printed and published circa 1953, when the article by Joel Hedgpeth appeared in PACIFIC DISCOVERY, and where the public first learned widely that there was going to be a third book by Edward Ricketts about the wonder of seashore animals as a kind of 'Pacific Discovery' about the 'California Wild' that was supposed to be a joint effort.
And finally, not yet mentioned here, but only discovered recently in the unpublished writings and journals of Ed Ricketts, we now know that Ed had planned a 4th book to encompass the sweep of the North Pacific from the Equatorial Tropics to the North Pole, not just the eastern North Pacific but the western North Pacific of Japan, Korea, Russia, and China, to be entitled, 'NATURAL HISTORY OF THE NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN: SEASHORE & PLANKTON' as a title he suggested but I have supplemented here, knowing that Ed had become deeply interested in plankton, as well as the seashore. I could have added 'Cultural' alongside 'Natural' and 'Geography' as both people and place are prominent in the works of Ed, whether in his 2 book, or his published writings in newspapers and magazines, covering a period of publication from circa 1920 to 1948, a period nearly 30 years of writing by a renaissance man indeed.
SEA of CORTEZ Revisited, or CANNERY ROW Revised
Joel W. Hedgpeth
Volume 6, Number 1, page 28-30
Toward the end of 1941 a well-known novelist by the name of John Steinbeck, and Edward F. Ricketts, a marine biologist of less renown to the world at large, presented to the somewhat bewildered world of letters a thick book about a collecting trip to the Gulf of California, under the title: Sea of Cortez: a leisurely journal of travel and research. With a scientific appendix comprising materials for a source book on the marine animals of the Panamic faunal province. To the critics who were convinced that something was wrong with Steinbeck as a writer, this sort of cioppino of travel, biology and philosophy was full of clues and material for essays, and in recent years three such essays have appeared in the Pacific Spectator alone.
At least one well known reviewer of nature books somewhat innocently thought that the colleagues of the learned Mr. Ricketts would be surprised to learn that he drank great quantities of beer, and wrote, or concurred in certain bawdy speculations. He did not, however, miss the fundamental point that the book was the joint effort of two authors, who had a lot of fun putting it together.
That was ten years ago. Steinbeck and Ricketts had such a good time with this enterprise that they planned another -- northward, this time -- at first, to the Aleutians, then more realistically, to the Queen Charlottes; and Ricketts began to develop a scheme to interlock his Between Pacific Tides with Sea of Cortez and the new book, The Outer Shores, which was to be in part the result of this northern expedition. He had an elaborate set of cards in two sizes and several colors printed to record all this information, with spaces for cross references to the other books. In the meanwhile, Ed Ricketts had become the Doc of Cannery Row and the legend was beginning to grow. Then one day in 1948 Ed forgot about the afternoon train to Pacific Grove and drove his car into its path. It was not a pleasant or an easy way to die, and the manner of it increased our sense of loss. For many of us, the heart has gone out of Cannery Row now, and only the curious passers-by go down to look at the shack that was once the Pacific Biological Laboratories. Steinbeck was the hardest hit, because Ed was perhaps the only friend who was not in the least awed by his reputation as a writer and treated him first as a human being.