Take a ride on the virtual literary road trip!

Hi everyone!

Fellow book blogger Alison Doherty over at Hardcovers and Heroines has embarked on a virtual literary road trip this summer where a select group of bloggers discuss literary sites and landmarks around the country. I think that it’s a fantastic idea, and not just because I was invited to participate!

Click on this link to read my contribution. I mention three excellent stops in Northern California, including the National Steinbeck Center, Jack London Historic Park, and City Lights bookstore.

If anyone’s planning on taking a summer road trip and making their way to my neck of the woods, I hope that these suggestions make your vacation extra memorable!

Masterpiece Monday: East of Eden

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 4 out of 5

Here in California, you’re pretty much obligated to respect John Steinbeck. King of Salinas, most high school students take a trip to visit his museum in the city (a trip I highly recommend, by the way). Many of those students have also been spending their summer vacations reading his hefty novel East of Eden, and now that school’s back in session, they’ll be gearing up for plenty of essays and assignments on the tale.

Published in 1952, East of Eden follows two families: the Trasks and the Hamiltons. While I won’t divulge into the multiple generations of these intricate family trees, I will give some summary on the major characters. Brothers Charles and Adam Trask are the novel’s first versions of the biblical Cain and Abel.

Adam marries the devious Cathy Ames, and they become the parents of Caleb and Aron, which if their names are any indicator, also are Cain and Abel incarnate. Growing up believing their mother to be dead, they’re shocked to learn that she’s actually a prostitute who goes by the name “Kate.” The novel’s ending deals with the aftermath of the boys’ emotional trauma and their attempts to mend their relationships with their father.

Depending on your version, East of Eden easily clocks in at 500-600 pages, which is why teachers make it required reading during the summer. My teacher also instructed us to research a list of biblical allusions, given that Steinbeck includes tons of them in the novel, such the mark of Cain, the prodigal son, and my brother’s keeper.

Steinbeck has been quoted saying that he believes East of Eden is his best work, and although I have only read one other novel of his, Of Mice and Men, I would have to agree. His descriptions of the Salinas Valley are unbeatable, and his characters have rich arcs of development. Yes, it’s a long read, but it’s worth the challenge.

After you finish reading the novel, you can treat yourself to the 1955 film adaption, directed by Elia Kazan and starring James Dean as “Cal” (Caleb). It’s an excellent movie, which won at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and Cannes Film Festival. And did I mention that James Dean is in it?

Do you even need another reason to watch this film?

So whether you’ve read East of Eden, watched the movie, or have an opinion on Steinbeck in general, be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section! Swooning over James Dean also perfectly acceptable!

Favorite Quote: “And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”

Masterpiece Monday: Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rating: 4 out of 5

BEWARE: SPOILER ALERT!

Hope everybody had a happy Easter yesterday! Because I’m more interested in the time spent with family than the spiritual aspects of the holiday, I usually associate Easter with egg hunts, chocolate, and–of course–bunnies. As I was brainstorming what to discuss for Masterpiece Monday, my morbid sense of humor immediately thought of John Steinbeck’s 1937 novella Of Mice and Men. If you don’t understand the sick joke yet, stay with me.

Of Mice and Men is about two migrant workers, Lennie and George, living in California during the Great Depression. Because Lennie is mentally challenged, it is difficult for them to find work. Lennie’s dream is to own land and raise a bunch of rabbits. Unfortunately, his love for soft things often results in killing them because he is not aware of his own strength.

This serious issue escalates from mice, to puppies, to finally, the wife of their boss’ son. George, aware that Lennie will continue to be a danger to himself and others, chooses to end their friendship in the most tragic way. After meeting one another and reminiscing over Lennie’s dream bunny farm, George shoots his companion in the back of the head.

I would hate to label this novel a “bromance,” but it does exhibit one of the most famous male friendships in literature. What makes it special is that the ending forces the reader to determine just how loyal of a friend George was. Was murder the only option? Was it malicious or merciful?

Other than Steinbeck’s excessive descriptions of scenery (I mean, I live in the Central Valley of California, but how long can a man talk about landscape? Geez!), this is a great novella with many timeless themes. I recommend this book, not only to anyone living in this state, but to all those who want more classic American literature in their lives.

And for those of you who are familiar with the story, go watch Looney Tunes again, because you’ll see the Abominable Snowman in a whole new way!

See what I mean? Nothing’s better than finding out your favorite cartoons are smarter than you thought they were!

Favorite Quote: “I seen hundreds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads . . . every damn one of ’em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.”