Sunday, October 25, 2009

East of Eden

A few weeks ago, I bought a used and tattered copy of John Steinbeck's book, East of Eden. I've heard of Steinbeck before but I've never read any of his works. I knew that at some point he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. I also knew his books are classics and are read in elementary and high schools all across the US.

I had several books in my hand at the used-books store, the day I bought East of Eden. What made up my mind was the setting of his novel: Salinas Valley in Northern California. This was the same reason I read Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (set in San Francisco). Northern California holds a certain appeal to me, maybe because San Francisco (and by extension, the Bay Area) is my all-time favorite city. But I digress.

I finally finished East of Eden tonight. From the first page of that novel, I was in awe at Steinbeck's writing. His prose flows out of the page and into your imagination and the senses. He describes a stream and you feel the water running through your hand and you feel its coolness and silkiness. He describes a valley covered in grass and flowers and out from the page comes the scent of the dew and the freshly rained-on earth. It is a magnificent experience reading Steinbeck and halfway through East of Eden, I purchased Grapes of Wrath from the same used-books store.

At some point, I want to write something about East of Eden, its issues and conflicts, the theme, and its characters. It's an absolutely wonderful book. But right now, I don't think I'd do a very good job of it. It hasn't all sunk in yet.

The point of this entry: if you haven't done so, pick up a Steinbeck and read it. I'm going to start on Grapes of Wrath tonight, and maybe Of Mice and Men next. Let's see where the wind will take me.

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