Thursday, February 19, 2009

1/12 of the way there

I just finished The Grapes of Wrath. Reading this novel felt like work. I haven’t read too many books as boring as this one, but I also haven’t read too many books as genius as this one. Steinbeck takes a relatively common story from the Depression and makes it meaty while never glamorizing one aspect of the lives the Joads live. Steinbeck’s power of description and his talent with words impressed me when I was least expecting. For example, a character put into words the way I feel about hunting, but he accurately did so in a few sentences.

Ever see a cock pheasant, stiff and beautiful, ever’ feather drawed an’ painted, an’ even his eyes drawed in pretty? An’ bang! You pick him up—bloody an’ twisted, an’ you spoiled somepin better’n you; an’ eatin’ him don’t never make it up to you, ‘cause you spoiled somepin in yaself, an’ you can’t never fix it up.

Also, a poignant quote from one of the Joad men about going out to look for work:

We been a lookin’, Ma. Been walkin’ out sence we can’t use the gas no more. Been goin’ in ever’ gate, walkin’ up to ever’ house, even when we knowed they wasn’t gonna be nothin’. Puts a weight on ya. Goin’ out lookin’ for somepin you know you ain’t gonna find.

And then a passage that so precisely captures my feelings about some things that happened in 2008.

There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. 

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