Monty J Heying's Reviews > Sweet Thursday

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
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Oct 22, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: literary-fiction
Read in December, 2008

In his early career when Steinbeck was married to Carol Henning, Joseph Campbell had a very public--and for John a very painful--affair with her after the botched abortion Steinbeck insisted she have. (Complications from the abortion resulted in an hysterectomy.) As the rumor goes, Steinbeck got revenge a few decades later by lampooning Campbell with the character Joe Elegant in SWEET THURSDAY. Judge for yourself from the following quotes.

"Joe Elegant was a pale young man with bangs. He smoked foreign cigarettes in a long ebony holder and he cooked for the Bear Flag [a restaurant/bordello]. ...He sneered most of the time, and except at mealtime kept to himslef in his little lean-to behind the Bear Flag from which the rattle of his typewriter could be heard late at night."

p.133: "After lunch Joe Elegant read Fauna his latest chapter. He explained the myth and the symbol. 'You see,' he said, 'the grandmother stands for guilt.'
'Aint she dead and buried?'
'Yes.'
'That's a kind of a messy guilt.'
'It's the reality below the reality,' said Joe Elegant.
'Balls!' said Fauna." [Fauna is the madam.]

I don't regard this as one of Steinbeck's better books, but Ch. 23, "One Night of Love," stands out for how it conveys a deep understanding and compassion for humanity and the transformational power of love. Steinbeck rarely comes right out and talks about love, but he does so here in a way that proves he's given it a lot of thought. Doc and Suzy [a novice prostitute, driven to it out of poverty] are dining in a restaurant in Monterrey [they've not yet had sex]:

"The shock of a necktie was leaving Doc. He looked across the table and smiled at Suzy and he wondered, What is beauty in a girl that it can come and go? This Suzy did not faintly resemble the tough hustler who had screamed at him the night before. He raised the coctail glass. 'You're pretty,' he said. 'I'm glad you came with me. Here's to both of us.'

Suzy swallowed a gulp, held back her tears, and waited for the spasm to pass."

Doc knows she's a prostitute yet he treats her as a lady, and she behaves accordingly. She's beautiful enough to turn heads when she walks into the restaurant. The maitre d' defers to her. Doc wore slacks, tie and jacket. This isn't a paid transaction, either; it's a bonafide date, arranged by Fauna, Suzy's madam and a trusted friend of Doc's.

The entire book is worth this one scene.

And Steinbeck got his revenge.

(Check out my eBook, BIRDBOY1-: Prince
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008...
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