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Burning Bright: A Play in Story Form

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  1,521 Ratings  ·  152 Reviews
Written as a play in story form, this novel traces the story of a man ignorant of his own sterility, a wife who commits adultery to give her husband a child, the father of that child, and the outsider whose actions affect them all.
Paperback, 112 pages
Published May 1st 1994 by Penguin Classics (first published 1950)
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3.5 Stars

I have a fondness for Steinbeck, and so it is with great regret that I have to criticize this novella. My edition comes in at a whopping 93 pages, and I really think that about a quarter of that should've found its way to the cutting room floor. There are better ways to convey concepts and ideas than repetition. There are better ways of showing emotion than overwrought dialogue. Perhaps if this had been written in more of a standard play format, it wouldn't have felt that way... but wo
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Nesta coisa híbrida a que Steinbeck dá o nome de romance-peça, os personagens interagem entre si em cenários cambiantes, cada acto é único nesse aspecto, mas as suas motivações permanecem constantes e a acção é perfeitamente linear. Da minha curta experiência, o diálogo de Steinbeck, que ganha ainda mais relevo numa obra como esta, é só equiparável ao de Hemingway.
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, modern-classics
Burning Bright was my first ever Steinbeck piece (I know, I know, WHY HAVEN'T I READ OF MICE AND MEN YET?) so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. As as theatre studies undergrad, I was interested about the play-novelette structure of the piece, but other than that, I really didn't have any expectations towards this one. And I am kind of happy that I didn't, because I was allowed to be surprised about how much I actually find myself enjoying this one.

Burning Bright is one of the books I will prob
Sareh Ghasemi
«با وجود تمام ترسها و خطاهایمان باز هم در وجودمان نوری میدرخشد و این مهمترین چیز است: در درونمان آتشی فروزان است.»
«ترجمهی مرضیه خسروی»
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Човек никога не може да сбърка със Стайнбек, по мое мнение.
Дори в рамките на стотина страници, човекът успява да сътвори чудеса.
Единственият проблем с книжката (както и със "За мишките и хората") е, че ти се иска да беше писал още, още, още.
Nov 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A "play novelette" about the Balinese cure for male sterility as Elizabeth Gilbert describes it in Eat Pray Love. The dialogue is a little hokey, and sometimes the melodrama is hard to take seriously, but it's still a smart and effective story. I've always liked that vein of American fiction that delivers their sexually charged themes through a framework of insinuation and tension, like Tennessee Williams and old Hollywood. This is among them, although it's maybe a bit more explicit. The coolest ...more
Tom Bentley
It boggles that I'd give any Steinbeck work a three-star rating, since I think he's one of the hallowed masters, but this little curio of a book didn't move me. It's such an odd work—he dubbed it a "play-novelette"—set in three acts, with the stage trappings of place and character declaration drawn in, to me, stiff caricature. The speech of the players often has a blustery formality that kept me at a distance, though some passages have the rich Steinbeck hand. Perhaps if I hadn't read a good dea ...more
وائل المنعم
The play novellette is what Steinbeck talking about, but the real thing is that he could't write a play. What he discussed in the foreword didn't convinced me at all. It's a novellette where all events happened in one place every chapter, or a play with a lot of description.

I liked "of mice and men", didn't read "the moon is down", but "burning bright" was a complete disaster, the story is very silly and stupid, the chracters are shallow and unconvincing, the only remarkabe thing is that changin
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star-books
My husband and I had met each other only a few weeks before I read this unforgettable little novel. He could not believe that a book could make anybody cry so much!
Natacha Martins
Apr 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
"Chama Devoradora" é um livro original na forma como conta a história que Joe Saul, Mordeen, Vítor e Amigo Ed partilham. Estes são os nomes que Steinbeck decidiu dar às suas personagens, mas poderiam ter sido outros porque o que eles representam é a espécie humana, as nossas preocupações, os nossos anseios, os nossos desejos e objectivos. As realidades de onde vimos até podem ser diferentes, mas na essência somos de facto muito semelhantes, programados para preservar a espécie, embora muitas vez ...more
Христо Блажев
“Ярко сияние” на Стайнбек е нещо малко и красиво:

Не очаквах това книжле да ми хареса. Купих го, защото обожавам Стайнбек, особено потресаващите “Грозодовете на гнева” и “Тортила Флет”.

И все пак останах потресен след изчитане на стотината странички. Големият майстор доказва за пореден път, че може всичко, наистина всичко.
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My least favorite Steinbeck novel, but I'm glad I gave it a second chance. I still think it's a failure, and by far the least satisfying of his play-novelette experiments, but there are still moments of classic Steinbeck brilliance, in the characters and the descriptions, if not in the story.
May we all have a friend like Friend Ed.
Jul 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bir Gazap Üzümleri değil ama John Steinbeck ne yazdıysa okunur.
Martin Hernandez
Gracias a la explicación ofrecida en el prólogo, supe que ésta es en realidad una obra de teatro, escrita de manera que sea accesible para quienes no suelen leer libretos de teatro; de otra manera no me habría enterado, pues la narrativa fluye sin tropiezos. Imagino que, para ser una obra de teatro publicada en 1950, debió haber sido bastante experimental, pues en el primer acto los personajes son trapecistas de circo, y en el segundo acto son granjeros, y terminan siendo marineros en el acto fi ...more
Josh Karaczewski
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit soap-opera-ey, but elevated by Steinbeck's strong voice. Here he was experimenting with what he called the "play-novelette" with the book consisting of three acts, with four scenes altogether, each scene contained to one setting. Dialogue-heavy, Steinbeck said, "It is a play that is easy to read or a short novel that can be played simply by lifting out the dialogue."

But I was most excited and intrigued by the way he experimented with his settings, a trick which I will not give away here -
Kelly ...
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, classics
I finally read a Steinbeck book that I didn't love.
Sep 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
the third and final of steinbeck's "play-novelettes" (after of mice and men and the moon is down), burning bright is a brief, yet remarkably powerful exploration of pride and paternity. steinbeck considered the work an experiment, "a combination of many old forms." in the foreword he outlines his reasons for attempting this synthesis, well aware of the format's inherent obstacles: "the difficulties of the technique are very great. the writer whose whole training has lain in the play is content t ...more
Mar 11, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Burning Bright is a "play in story form." A short novella in three acts revolving around a marriage: Joe Saul and Mordeen. Joe Saul is an older man, and Mordeen is his devoted wife. She'd do anything to please him. What Joe Saul wants more than anything is a child, a son. But what Mordeen knows--and Friend Ed knows as well--is that Joe Saul is sterile. What's a good wife to do? Enter Victor. A man who is mad over Mordeen. At first, the reader doesn't know what kind of madness this it lus ...more
Aug 15, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Burning Bright is a lesser known short piece that Steinbeck calls a play written in fiction form.

There are three parts to this story: the circus, the farm, and the sea. The chapters are broken down into acts, and although the setting of the story changes the characters stay the same.

This is Steinbeck in his purest form, writing again about the human condition in a way that cuts straight through pretense.

In Act One, Joe Saul is an older circus performer married to a beautiful young woman named
Kent Winward
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part of Steinbeck's attempts at putting theater into his play-novella form along with Of Mice and Men and The Moon Is Down, Burning Bright struggles in the novella form. Yet, when I shifted to thinking about the play dramatically, I could see with the right actors and the right direction, the repetition, the different settings, and the slightly altered characters could have explored issues of infidelity, love, friendship, and legacy in a powerful night at the theater.

Steinbeck is probably a vic
Feb 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Cup of Gold Steinbeck disavowed, but this he appreciated? While there are definite strengths--the allusion to the Biblical story of Saul, the unusual structure, the compelling set-up, and moments of great dialogue and description--there are also big drawbacks. The novel/play (whatever) builds too quickly, lending the first third an unintended melodramatic quality; the sea section is a great change, but under-utilized--it might have as well taken place on land; and the climax in which Joe Saul re ...more
Jul 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, classics
Burning Bright is a play written as a short novel. There are four characters: Joe Saul (a widower in his 50s), Mordeen (his much younger second wife), Friend Ed (Joe and Mordeen's friend), and Victor (a younger man who works with Joe). Joe Saul badly wants a child, and Mordeen, having deduced that Joe is sterile, has a brief affair with Victor and plans to pass off the child as Joe's despite Victor's insistence that he will reveal that both she and the child are his. The story is told in three a ...more
This was a weird one. I like the idea of a lineage of knowledge and values, but I think the central theme (love and guidance are the responsibility of all men toward all children and the idea of a "bloodline" being all-important is narrow and contemptible) just seems too self-evident to me. I'm sure it was a revolutionary idea for Steinbeck at the time but I'm not a man in the 1950s so for me it doesn't seem like a story I particularly needed to hear. The changing of the setting between acts mus ...more
Jan 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Steinbeck has the right idea with his play-novel. I don't have the patience to read something in play format. This was much more enjoyable and basically reads like a novel, with a bit more repition of the names than a regular novel would have, and a structure that jumped around from act to act as a play often does.

The story line got pretty heartbreaking toward the end. You could point out examples of tragic irony and the like if you were so inclined, but I preferred to read it as a novel and ap
A.E. Shaw
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013

As novella-plays go, this is perfect. The format is the perfect vehicle for Steinbeck's economy with words, and the character's voices rang in my ears whilst I read. What it'd be like to watch as a play is incredibly easy to imagine, so much so that I feel like I saw this as much as that I read it. For that method and its effectiveness, all the praise and appreciation. The characters respective issues, not something I initially felt interest for, gathered pace and emotion with each speech, and t
Christopher Sutch
The concept of this novel (based on an unsuccessful Broadway play Steinbeck wrote) is terrific; it's the kind of play I'd write. I especially like the changing of setting, biographies of characters, etc. between acts. But there are two problems: the language is ridiculously flowery. Maybe Steinbeck deliberately chose to do this; the play is not realistic in almost any other way. But it still doesn't work: it distances the reader/audience from the characters and their emotions. The second problem ...more
Randy Cauthen
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is Steinbeck in very stylized, "mythic" mode, kind of like "The Pearl." If you don't like the writing in that one, you won't like this one.
And the ending might make you say, "Jesus, it took three people dying for him to be able to figure that out?" But it's from 1950; very few other people seem to have figured that one thing out at the time, and maybe this book helped a few of them do it.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Steinbeck has a reputation as a realist, but he was a romantic at heart. This play-novella (a novella that can be acted by lifting out the dialogue) is about the deep urge to create new life, how circumstances can frustrate that urge, and how emergency measures can be taken to remove that frustration. The dialogue is muscular poetry. A wonderful short work.
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John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley
More about John Steinbeck...
“I've given you everything a friend can give, Joe Saul-even contempt, and that's the hardest thing of all.” 4 likes
“He moved very quickly to her and put his arms around her. And there was hunger and eagerness in his body and in his face.
"Not angry," he said. "No, not angry. And still, angry."
He stroked her cheek.
"Angry at time when you were away. Angry at time. Irritated with the minutes when you aren't with me."
"I like that," she said. "It's good to be missed. I came back as soon as I could. It's good to be away a little. Then I know how well and strongly I love you."
He strained her tight to him.
"I get frightened," he said. "My mind plays games, it whispers that you don't exist, it sneers that you'd gone away, it whines to me that there's no Mordeen. It's a cruel and mischievous game.”
More quotes…