Sweet Thursday (Steinbeck)

Every once in a while, I need some Steinbeck in my life. I still love teaching Of Mice and Men, and soon I’ll start on my second and third  read of most of his work. I know he has his detractors, but I think if you immerse yourself in his world, you will find hope and an idea of America the way it ought to be. I like the folks on Cannery Row. Who wouldn’t want to know Doc?

I know Steinbeck is criticized for the apparently simplicity of his writing and his weakness for the grand statement. Having read most of his work, I think he’s working on a grand canvas, that he’s not afraid of the kind of big statements that this country claims as its own.

For example (18-19):

Men seem to be born with a debt they can never pay no matter how hard they try. It piles up ahead of them. Man owes something to man. If he ignores the debt it poisons him, and if he tries to make payments the debt only increases, and the quality of his gift is the measure of the man.

More (147, and remember, he’s writing in 1954):

In a foreseeable future we shall be smothered by our own numbers. Only birth control could save us, and that is one thing mankind is never going to practice.

And to the seer (61, and who else gets away with calling a character the ‘seer’?):

It’s one of the symptoms of our time to find danger in men like you who don’t worry and rush about. . .The doctrine of our time is that man can’t get along without a whole hell of a lot of stuff. You may not be preaching it, but you’re living treason.

Wise man; wonderful words.


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