Steinbeck fans discussion

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Anyone up for a relaunch?

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message 1: by James (new)

James | 10 comments Amen. I'm with you. Steinbeck's simplest sentences are amazing. From Pastures of Heaven, one of my favorites: "Small boys, those lieutenants of time in its warfare against the works of man, had broken out all the windows and carted away every movable thing."
Amazing. There is a touch there that is pure Steinbeck.


Matthew Seckinger | 28 comments Mod
I am coming at this from the perspective of someone who has a license to teach high school kids about literature ... ouch! ;-0

The Grapes of Wrath is, fortunately and unfortunately, taught to many freshman or sophomores across the country. I remember back to when I was in high school. I didn't want to read a thing teachers put in front of me. I think a lot of students are resistant to required reading because of that very fact, it's REQUIRED.

TGofW is still, to this day, one of my favorite books of all time. I do need to pick it up again quite soon. I have now gotten into the habit of taking notes on my computer when I come across what I think to be really beautiful writing. I just reformatted my computer a few months ago and put all of the notes I took from East of Eden on my external hard drive. This weekend I will post some of my favorite passages here on Goodreads!


message 3: by James (new)

James | 10 comments Oh, that sounds very fine. I look forward to reading your notes. I agree - being assigned a book in high school can set appreciation of a book back years for a person. Perhaps the best teachers overcome this...
I was assigned Cannery Row in High School, and actually did appreciate it. But I did not have the same experience with other good books that I was assigned by more ham fisted teachers.


Eternaldisturbance | 9 comments Steinbeck is sheer magic. I turn back to him every now and then.Here are a couple of my favorite lines/passages:


" Two gallons is a great deal of wine, even for two paisanos. Spiritually the jugs may be graduated thus: Just below the shoulder of the first bottle, serious and concentrated conversation. Two inches further down sweetly sad memory. Three inches more, thoughts of old and satisfactory loves. An inch, thoughts of old and bitter loves. Bottom of the first jug, general and undirected sadness. Shoulder of the second jug, black, unholy despondency. Two fingers down, a song of death or longing. A thumb, every other song each one knows. The graduation stops here, for the trail splits and there is no certainty. From this point on anything can happen."

That one is from Tortilla Flat.
And this one from "The log from the Sea of Cortez" is Steinbeck at his absolute best:

"And as always when one is collecting, we were soon joined by a number of small boys. The very posture of search, the slow movement with the head down, seems to draw people. "What did you lose?" they ask.
"Nothing."
"Then what do you search for?" And this is an embarrassing question. We search for something that will seem like truth to us; we search for understanding; we search for that principle which keys us deeply into the pattern of all life ; we search for the relation of things, one to another, as this young man searches for a warm light in his wife's eyes and that one for the hot warmth of fighting. These little boys and young men on the tide flat do not even know that they search for such things too."


message 5: by James (new)

James | 10 comments Both excellent. I have thought before that a jug based on the Tortilla Flat passage could be made with the distinct levels labeled, to be sold at the Steinbeck Center in Salinas.


Matthew Seckinger | 28 comments Mod
We're talking about short, simple sentences that either roll off the tongue or say something profound?
I am glad now that I kept some notes of East Of Eden from when I read it.
I will go sequentially and add a quote/snippet every day or two.

Here is a favorite from Chapter 13:
— But some men are friends with the whole world in their hearts, and there are others that hate themselves and spread their hatred around like butter on hot bread.

It's not a revolutionary idea, and the butter on hot bread image is a bit cliche, but it is Steinbeck telling me, the reader, exactly how this character sees the people he comes across in life. I really like the way this sentence works. I hope you guys like it, too, and can maybe spawn a discussion from it. Does it remind you of a character from another one of Steinbeck's works? I can think of one, in particular, but I will keep my mouth shut for now ... until I hear some feedback from y'all.


Eternaldisturbance | 9 comments Victor from "Burning Bright" fits the bill.


message 8: by Pandora (new)

Pandora  | 42 comments Actually though of Mice and Men though is a good choice. The book is short enough to do in a class and has enough to keep High School kids intrested. A sixteen year old page in my library discovered Steinbeck through Mice and Men. It has the plus of being one of signature works. The other two for being Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden.

Unfortunately I got The Pearl which was enough to keep me away from Steinbeck for a long time. Finally though I gave East of Eden a try and got hook on Steinbeck.

One question though what does Steinbeck have aganist cats? Being a cat lover I had trouble with Carney Row. Then I picked up Dubious Battle. A good book but, did he have to put in the line about the guy running over cats?


message 9: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 I joined this group but never posted so in an effort to redress this I thought I'd post to say that i've started reading Tortilla Flat and despite the fact that the very old copy i was given has some slightly dubious illustrations(stereotyping and possibly a tiny bit racist), I am enjoying it very much.


message 10: by Erik (new)

Erik Malvick (emalvick) I think I am one of the few who actually disliked Of Mice and Men. I've read it 3 times since I was 12 years old (now 35) and I just have never liked it.

I had wanted to like it as one who grew up in California and close to the Salinas valley, but it wasn't until I read The Grapes of Wrath at the end of High School that I realized the greatness of Steinbeck. I love that book (read it twice), although it wasn't until I finished graduate school, at the age of 30, that I finally picked up another Steinbeck.

I've only read about 6 of his books at this point, but I have many queued up in my "to be read" pile, and hope a group like this might inspire me to read them sooner rather than later.


message 11: by Pandora (last edited Apr 29, 2011 07:30AM) (new)

Pandora  | 42 comments Erik I was curious as to why you didn't like Of Mice and Men? Not every book is for everyone. As a librarian book lover I do like to know why people like or don't like a book. It is helpful when doing readers advisory to see a book from anaother's person point of view and you do learn more sometimes from a different view then from one that always the same.

I am glad though you found The Grapes of Wrath. My favorite Steinbeck is East of Eden. Though unfortunately my experience of The Pearl in the eighth grade kept me away from Steinbeck until I was forty. I also have to give you points for trying Of Mice and Men three times. Someday I plan to give The Pearl another chance. The reason I didn't like it in 8th grade was first the teacher who was popluar hated it. I also think I was the wrong age to be reading the book. I don't remember much about the book except it was very slow.

Have you or Shovelmonkey1 ever read The Moon is Down? It one of the best proganda novels I think ever written. Right up there with Uncle Tom's Cabin in terms of effect.

PS What are other Steinbeck you are thinkking of reading?

PSS Did either of you check under More Disscussions? There are some good posts there waiting for more answers.


message 12: by Erik (new)

Erik Malvick (emalvick) Pandora Kat wrote: "Erik I was curious as to why you didn't like Of Mice and Men? Not every book is for everyone. As a librarian book lover I do like to know why people like or don't like a book. It is helpful when d..."

I never read Of Mice and Men as a student (at least I don't think I did) but rather because my mother had it and suggested it. At 12, I really didn't understand the significance of it, but the second time I read it was at 18 after reading the Grapes of Wrath. At that point, I found the Grapes of Wrath so good that I felt Of Mice and Men was almost too simple.

I realize the themes are complex and understand them, but it just didn't excite me. I also have to say that the dark nature of the book hit a little too close to home as I grew up in a small farm town in California's Central Valley. While my own youth was 50 years after the setting of this book, there are many things that haven't changed, and even now that they have changed, it hasn't been for the better. Given it is a quick read, I should probably give it another try, but it won't be high on my priority list.

Speaking of The Moon is Down, that is actually at the top of my Steinbeck list already. It has appealed to me in a review of Steinbeck's works because of I come from a family with roots in Norway, so there is a cultural appeal. My other high priority will be East of Eden.

While I am a fan of Steinbeck, I'll admit that my experience is limited to Of Mice and Men, Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, Tortilla Flats, and Travels with Charley.

As a casual reader (~20 a year) that is still recovering from the overload of graduate school in engineering, I do mix up my reading quite a bit, so I've spread out these Steinbeck books amongst others. I suspect I'll read one of those two in the next year.


message 13: by Pandora (new)

Pandora  | 42 comments I thought it might have been the darkness Of Mice and Men you didn't like. I can see your point. For me one Steinbeck I didn't enjoy as much was The Wayward Bus. That is because it is a character study so, not a lot happens in the terms of plot. I perfer books with complex plots like Scarmouche or East of Eden.

If you want to you could post when you are ready to read another Steinbeck. Then perhaps, a group of us could read it together and discuss it.

Being a children's librarain when I got overloaded on reading I read through the children's books. Makes for better reader's advisory. The other adventage is that I can usually finish a children's book in a couple of days.

I glanced at your reading list and saw that we have the same opinion about The Great Gatsby.


message 14: by Erik (new)

Erik Malvick (emalvick) On Of Mice and Men, I was alluding to the darkness of it, although in my case the fact that my hometown / region was still in the darkness in many respects.

I can usually handle a dark story, movie, etc, but when that darkness hits home, it becomes a bit tougher to swallow. This is especially the case when the darkness is beyond your ability to challenge (for lack of a better word).

I'll definitely let this group know when I get to tackling my next Steinbeck, although I suspect it may be something many have already read.

Currently I'm hungup on a rather long non-Steinbeck book that I am reading at a snails pace; not because it is bad, but because work leaves me busy.


message 15: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberhmlarson) | 8 comments Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "I joined this group but never posted so in an effort to redress this I thought I'd post to say that i've started reading Tortilla Flat and despite the fact that the very old copy i was given has so..."

I'm just starting to read Tortilla Flat as well, however my edition does not have any illustrations in it. I would like to see the ones that you speak of. Do you believe that Steinbeck was a racist man? Hmmmm... something to ponder while reading some more of his books! :)


Matthew Seckinger | 28 comments Mod
What are people's experience with TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY? I picked it up a year or so ago and never got to reading it. I've done GRAPES OF WRATH, WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT, EAST OF EDEN, THE PEARL, OF MICE AND MEN, and CANNERY ROW. I'd love to pick up TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY. What can I expect from this read?


message 17: by Pandora (new)

Pandora  | 42 comments Erik I can certainly understand that problem with Mice and Men that it hits too close to home. For me in as a bigger issue it was hard to read anything on the Holocaust because I am German American. I finally conqured that. On a smaller scale being a cat lover I found it impossible to enjoy Cannery Row.


message 18: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberhmlarson) | 8 comments Pandora Kat wrote: "Erik I can certainly understand that problem with Mice and Men that it hits too close to home. For me in as a bigger issue it was hard to read anything on the Holocaust because I am German America..."

Hmmmm... interesting! I am a cat lover as well and now I am inclined to read Cannery Row so that I can understand why you do not like it. :)


message 19: by Pandora (new)

Pandora  | 42 comments Good luck but, be warned. Gee this is great that the group seems to have come back to life. Anyone up for a group read? My suggestions would East of Eden or The Moon is Down. I could also go for The Grapes of Wrath maybe even The Pearl. I am curious to find out if it was as bad as thought it was in 8th grade.

As for Travels with Charley I never read it so that could be an option to. No on Canney Row.


message 20: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberhmlarson) | 8 comments Pandora Kat wrote: "Good luck but, be warned. Gee this is great that the group seems to have come back to life. Anyone up for a group read? My suggestions would East of Eden or The Moon is Down. I could also go fo..."

I'm totally up for a Steinbeck read! I haven't read The Moon is Down or Travels with Charley yet, but I also loooooved East of Eden, so I'm fine with any! :)


message 21: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Count me in for a group read!


Matthew Seckinger | 28 comments Mod
I want in on Travels With Charley.


message 23: by James (new)

James | 10 comments I'm in. And Travels is a good one to talk about. I really love the book, and am up for reading it again. That said, I understand some of the criticism of it, and I'd be interested in hearing thoughts of others in 'real time' so to speak.
Maybe start with Travels, then do East of Eden next, for something really complex?


message 24: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 Amber wrote: "Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "I joined this group but never posted so in an effort to redress this I thought I'd post to say that i've started reading Tortilla Flat and despite the fact that the very old c..."

I think like much of his writing, it just reflects attitudes at the time. I also think that given Steinbecks love for his subject, he is sometimes a bit tongue in cheek. The illustrations in the book are little black and white ink sketches and they're quite nice but they do tend to portray the characters with slightly dopey looks on their faces.


message 25: by Pandora (new)

Pandora  | 42 comments So, let's start with Travels with Charley. What date do you want to use as for finishing the book and starting discussions? I was thinking either the last full week in May or the begining of June.


Matthew Seckinger | 28 comments Mod
I am totally OK with that!


message 27: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberhmlarson) | 8 comments How about we aim for finishing the book by June 1 and start discussions then? I just placed a hold on the only copy of the book from my local library. So excited!!!

On another note - does anyone know if the moderator of this group is still active? Perhaps we can get him to join in our revival of the group.


message 28: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberhmlarson) | 8 comments Matthew wrote: "I am totally OK with that!"

Blonde moment... I see that Matthew (the moderator) is up for a re-launch as well. Yay!


message 29: by Pandora (last edited May 02, 2011 12:23PM) (new)

Pandora  | 42 comments I already checked out a copy from the library. Look forward to reading it together. So, June 1st will be a target date. Matthew since you are the moderator would you set up the new disscussion post or is there someone who knows the book better that would like to lead the discussion?


message 30: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 I bought this a while ago and its near the top of my TBR pile so i can easily dig this out and join in the discussions!


message 31: by Erik (new)

Erik Malvick (emalvick) I look forward to the discussions on this one, as well. I read it last fall, and I think I'll read it quickly again as a refresher.


message 32: by Buck (last edited Aug 19, 2013 08:49AM) (new)

Buck (spectru) | 58 comments Amber wrote: "Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "I joined this group but never posted so in an effort to redress this I thought I'd post to say that i've started reading Tortilla Flat and despite the fact that the very old c..."

I'm just starting to read Tortilla Flat as well, however my edition does not have any illustrations in it. I would like to see the ones that you speak of. Do you believe that Steinbeck was a racist man? Hmmmm... something to ponder while reading some more of his books! :)


Steinbeck's feeling's about racism are revealed in Travels with Charley. In 1960 and probably much before, Steinbeck's attitude could surely be said to be not of the prevailing mainstream of the time.


message 33: by Mark (new)

Mark | 35 comments Travels with Charley is, I think, the only place that Steinbeck dealt (directly) with issues of race. He might be criticised for omission, but hardly for racism. As Buck suggests, his views in TwC are made very clear. The illustrations in an edition of TF (I've never seen this edition)were probably without his knowledge - certainly the characters in the book are NOT stupid; in fact, he sees them as Knights (of the Round Table).


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