Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tramplin' out that there vintage

now finished: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Fun Fact: John Steinbeck insisted that "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" be printed in the first published edition of The Grapes of Wrath. Upon receiving some galleys/proofs/something, he wrote his publisher or editor (I forget which) saying No, the whole thing! Print the whole song! It's relevant!

The Grapes of Wrath. An evocative phrase that says so much while being admirably just out of reach of those who don't want to think too much ever in figuring out what something means. Another Fun Fact: Steinbeck was slaving away on the novel and really trying to get its essence right and his dutiful wife (who typed his freaking manuscript - ugh! - but also made corrections and suggestions, so there's that) suggested the title! And then he rejoiced and was thankful and told his editor that Wife had come up with the genius title. Who knew?

OK, maybe some people knew. Just like maybe some people -- by which I of course mean "thousands upon thousands" -- knew all about how totally, incredibly awesome The Grapes of Wrath is. This is one of my finally-finally-dreadfully-late-to-the-party-finally books that defies all finally books.  Earlier this year, while the particular blog you are now reading was still taking its Great Firewall break, I posted elsewhere my list of Seriously-I-Have-Meant-to-Read-These-Forever books, which inspired me to get off my reading a** and go out and acquire one of them, and so I finally got The Grapes of Wrath, thus enabling me to check off a book on many a list: the Pulitzers, the Modern Library's Top 100, the Nobel winners, etc., and most importantly the oh-my-god-why-haven't-I-ever-read-this?! list.

One of the astonishingly good things about Grapes is that every time Ma or not-preacher Casy or Al or the couple they meet by the side of the highway or just about anyone in the book opens his or her mouth, you just get to ooze with delight at the wonderful things they say. How anyone's heart can not be warmed is beyond me.

Tragedy. Americana. One heck of a  road trip. Observations. Disaster. Avoidable disaster. Greed. Selflessness. Poverty. Compassion. Mistakes. Togetherness. The desire to be productive, which must be tempered by the equally important desire to not be wasteful. It's all in there.

Should I get spoilery on here?  The ending is something to behold, undoubtedly. I think for the moment I won't spoil, but I'll just say that it stunned me as it has stunned many a reader over the years. And I do mean the ending-ending, as in, the last paragraph. Perhaps I'll do a future, spoilery post about the ending.

Basically, I revamped my approach to life while reading this book. I now want to ask everyone I know to read it. If they haven't read it, I want to give them my copy that they might do so immediately if not sooner. If they have read it, I want to rejoice over it with them (and also maybe ask them why they never checked to make sure that I, too, had read it).

I think that if you have read it and don't like it, maybe you're kind of a jerk. I'm just sayin' ... It's just really, really enjoyable, while simultaneously being soul-crushingly devastating and heartwarming. How does he do that?!

And of course, the obligatory early 2000s comments: my, how history repeats itself! The more things change...! When will we ever learn?  And so forth.

Stop reading my blog and go read The Grapes of Wrath.  (But then come back here and we'll talk about it.)

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