A Rediscovered John Steinbeck Story About a Chef and His Cat Has Been Published in English for the First Time

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Literary quarterly The Strand Magazine just published a recently unearthed John Steinbeck short story that is so charming it’ll have you asking yourself “Did John Steinbeck definitely write this?”

He definitely did. The 1500-word piece, titled “The Amiable Fleas,” was part of a 17-story series he penned for the French newspaper Le Figaro in the mid-1950s, but it’s never been released in English until now. In it, Mr. Amité, an anxiety-ridden chef at the fictional restaurant The Amiable Fleas, seeks his second Michelin star with the help of his taste-testing cat, Apollo. The kitchen is fraught with small calamities on the day of the Michelin inspector’s meal, which culminates in a fight between Mr. Amité and Apollo, after which Apollo leaves. Without the cat’s culinary instincts to guide him, the meal is dreadful. According to The New York Times, “then comes a plot twist, a second chance, and a revelation about a secret ingredient.”

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The Strand Magazine’s managing editor, Andrew F. Gulli, hired a researcher who uncovered the story among the rare books and manuscripts at the University of Texas at Austin's Harry Ransom Center. “From the perspective of a short story editor, this one really interested me,” he told The New York Times. “There was something universal about it with the gourmet, the cat, the family conflict, and the tension.”

The story also includes a witty depiction of the intellectuals who frequented The Amiable Fleas, which The New York Times posits may be based on the real-life Parisian café Les Deux Magots, where artists and authors used to congregate in the early 1900s. There’s a painter who paints with invisible ink, an architect who hates flying buttresses, and a poet who writes such obscure poetry that he himself doesn’t understand it.

Though such a whimsical tone may seem out of character for an author acclaimed for heavy works like The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, one Steinbeck scholar thinks otherwise. Susan Shillinglaw, a San Jose State University English professor and former director of its Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, told The New York Times that Steinbeck “liked to spin up funny stories and he had a great sense of humor ... What’s important about this is his range—that he could write something silly as well as be profound. I think that sort of effortless charm is characteristic Steinbeck.”

[h/t The New York Times]

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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How Lolita Author Vladimir Nabokov Helped Ruth Bader Ginsburg Find Her Voice

Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2016.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2016.
Supreme Court of the United States, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The road to becoming a Supreme Court justice is paved with legal briefs, opinions, journal articles, and other written works. In short, you’d likely never get there without a strong writing voice and a knack for clear communication.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg learned these skills from one of the best: Vladimir Nabokov. Though most famous for his 1955 novel Lolita, the Russian-American author wrote countless works in many more formats, from short stories and essays to poems and plays. He also taught literature courses at several universities around the country, including Cornell—where Bader Ginsburg received her undergraduate degree in the early 1950s. While there, she took Nabokov’s course on European literature, and his lessons made an impact that would last for decades to come.

“He was a man who was in love with the sound of words. It had to be the right word and in the right word order. So he changed the way I read, the way I write. He was an enormous influence,” Ginsburg said in an interview with legal writing expert Bryan A. Garner. “To this day I can hear some of the things that he said. Bleak House [by Charles Dickens] was one of the books that we read in his course, and he started out just reading the first few pages about the fog and Miss Flite. So those were strong influences on my writing.”

As Literary Hub reports, it wasn’t the only time RBG mentioned Nabokov’s focus not only on word choice, but also on word placement; she repeated the message in a 2016 op-ed for The New York Times. “Words could paint pictures, I learned from him,” she wrote. “Choosing the right word, and the right word order, he illustrated, could make an enormous difference in conveying an image or an idea.”

While neither Dickens nor Nabokov were writing for a legal audience, their ability to elicit a certain understanding or reaction from readers was something Ginsburg would go on to emulate when expressing herself in and out of the courtroom. In this way, Nabokov’s tutelage illuminated the parallels between literature and law.

“I think that law should be a literary profession, and the best legal practitioners regard law as an art as well as a craft,” she told Garner.