Wednesday, March 17, 2010

John Steinbeck

Almost three years ago, I developed an intense fascination with the great James Dean. This post isn't about that love, though it is relevant. As a result of falling in love with Jimmy, I decided that it was only appropriate to watch all of his movies, which unfortunately there are only three as his life was taken tragically in a car accident in the 50s. Anyway, his first feature film was the film adaptation of John Steinbeck's East of Eden. The movie encompasses only the very latter half of the novel, when Caleb Trask is focused on. Cal, played by Dean, is completely and utterly fantastic. His character is distraught and torn between his desire to be good and his pull to do evil.  His character is contrasted with his brother Aron, who is all good. The two are representative of Cain and Abel, two brothers who strive to make their father proud, the one succeeds while the other fails. The movie is fantastic and it led me to read the book, which is even better.

Though I talk incessantly about my love for the YA fantasy novel, I can take pride in the following statement: my favorite book is without even a glimpse of doubt, East of Eden. It is a fantastic novel that spans over the lives of three generations and focuses on the existence of good and evil within individuals. The plot is full of incredible depth despite its true simplicity.

I have recently started reading Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, which is John Steinbeck's description through the process of writing his novel. I opened it thinking, blah, boring! But I really am enjoying it. It is fascinating to see the workings of such an amazing writer in relation to such an incredible novel. More or less, it is like I am reading John Steinbeck's blog. He is brilliant and charming. I have even taken to highlighting! What have I become!?

Here are a few quotes that I totes love:

"I can't think of anything else necessary to a writer except a story and the will and the ability to tell it."
"It is though the words were not only indelible but that they spread out like dye in water and color everything around them."
"Even if I knew nothing would emerge from this book I would still write it."
"I can hear that in my ears and see it with my eyes and there is no reason why my pencil should not write it."
"Well, it just has to be because this is the way I am going to do it willy or nilly."

(John Steinbeck)

As a novelist myself, and I use that term with a lot of freedom, the things he says really have an impact. East of Eden has had an influence on my own novel, thus to be able to take a glimpse inside Steinbeck's head is like accessing free wifi. To see that though his talent trumps mine ten fold, he still thinks of writing in a similar manner. 

He often talks about how when he doesn't write he feels a certain sadness. I haven't written anything since Saturday and I feel like my characters are getting annoyed with me. They aren't visiting my thoughts and I start to question if theirs is the story I still want to tell! I think what I need to remember is exactly what Steinbeck has said. Even if nothing ever comes from this novel, I still need to write it. The story still needs to have a beginning, middle and end. Willy or nilly. 

1 comment:

  1. I Love Steinbeck! I picked up one of his books in 8th grade (The Wayward Bus) and was amazed at how easily I got lost in the world he created. I'm sure some of the themes were beyond me at that age, but I still enjoyed the read from cover to cover!


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