Collared by Steinbeck

In spite of all my good intentions to cut corners this semester, I have to tell you that watching a film adaptation of the assigned novels just isn’t working for me. It all started with Their Eyes Were Watching God. I saw the movie and hated it, about a year ago.  So I read the book. WOW. Amazing. Zora Neale Hurston has officially joined ranks with my favorite authors and I’ve only just now met her. Highly recommended.

As for The Old Man and The Sea. Really? You can catch the power of Hemingway’s language by watching Spencer Tracy sitting in a boat alternately grimacing or smiling goofy-eyed at the clouds for an hour an a half? Good for you; I had to sit down and read the book. (FYI: it was shorter than the movie.)

Of Mice and Men. There’s a book I dropped in horror during my youth; it fails the three-strikes rule within the first page or two. I made the assumption that the movie’s dialog was just as colorful and decided to spare my children by sticking with silent text. I’m sorry, but if you are an educated adult, professing to understand world literature, you should probably read it.

Its language is flat out unforgivable, but the message and the profound understanding of character takes you by the collar, lifts you up off your toes and stares deeply into your soul. Of all the varieties of profanity filling the airways and the world of print, Steinbeck’s bothers me most.  I don’t know how to reconcile that with the fact that when I finished the book, I set it down almost reverently.

Except that if I follow the advice of John Wesley’s mother on how best to determine the virtue of things, I cannot in good conscience dismiss Steinbeck’s efforts. Said she, “Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.” This book didn’t do any of those things, for me. I suppose you’d have to judge for yourself.

The Great Gatsby is up next. In PDF format. I have to say I prefer an honest to goodness book in my hands, but the library didn’t have it. (Are you surprised? This is Moses Lake.)


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