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Steinbeck is underrated

11/22/11 12:44:10PM

Most people cannot understand the brilliance of John Steinbeck. In high school we were assigned to read The Red Pony and Of Mice and Men, so I can understand why 14-16 year olds could not appreciate his writing, but after reading East of Eden and Tortilla Flat, I was addicted. I am currently reading The Pastures of Heaven, which means that by the end of it I will have read twelve Steinbeck novels.

Sure, not much happens in most of his novels so I could see why they aren't the most entertaining things to read. And they are not overtly filled with deep philosophies - pushing ideologies and experiences onto the reader, creating feelings and reactions that spur inner turmoil for days. BUT, in their simplicity, Steinbeck novels satisfy me. Even with longer novels, like The Grapes of Wrath,Steinbeck manages to keep things simple. Whenever I finish a Steinbeck novel I kind of just sit there for a moment, enjoy the experience I just had and all the little moments that occurred, and then I move on. Each story is like a quiet, undramatic trip into the every-day lives of a different community of people. You experience their hardships and their small moments of peace and contentment.

The key to Steinbeck's stories is the way he portrays and introduces his characters. Rather than concentrating on the appearance of a character and his/her in-depth biography or history, which says a lot about a person, he presents characters to you as they are in that moment. You learn what kind of people they are through their actions and conversations and the impression they give to other characters in the book. He allows you to figure out for yourself whether or not they are "good" or "bad", and then you realize that no one is exclusively good or bad. Novels like Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, and Sweet Thursday are filled with these sincere, comical, and simple people that you fall in love with. They make mistakes and cause pain to each other, but they are never the "bad guy". In this way Steinbeck stands out from other authors that I have read.

I could go on even longer about why Steinbeck is underrated, but I think you get the point. If you haven't tried to read a Steinbeck novel I suggest going to the library and picking up one of his more comical novels like Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday and Tortilla Flat. His last book, Travels with Charley: in search of America lets you experience a cross-country road trip from your couch. When you're ready, East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath are a must-read.

I would love to hear comments and discussions about Steinbeck...let's just keep the arguing to a minimum.

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