East of Eden, finally ….

January 28, 2009

With the help of a snowed in day without power, I finally managed to polish off the last 200 pages of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

Ultimately, it took me over 25 years to do, since watching the Jane Seymour TV miniseries in 1981 – which, coincidentally is currently being offered on DVD via pre-order on Amazon. Things never managed to work out, and the book stayed on my shelves in the nicely jacketed Book of the Month Club collection of six or so of Steinbeck’s books. I’ve been struggling to complete East of Eden since before Christmas, through the holidays and other stressors and dealing with writing my own stuff.

I’ve never read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath either, a glaring omission in my list of books read, although I have read Of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flat, and The Pearl. Maybe some day. I think Steinbeck’s reputation intidimated me, as did the idea of his “big books.” It took me years to read Hemingway, thinking that his writing could not possibly live up to his reputation. I think I judged Steinbeck the same way. Steinbeck considered East of Eden his “big book,” bigger than the biting social commentary of The Grapes of Wrath, and he crammed it full of the Salinas Valley where he grew up, and the stories of and members of his own family on his mother’s side, the Hamiltons.

I’m glad read it, especially having read Journal About a Novel twice about the writing of East of Eden. It gave me a bit more insight into the ‘how’ of it, and some of the more quiet, less thunderously-stated themes.

It also helped make it through a pretty cold day without power.

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