Posts Tagged ‘john steinbeck’

The Wayward Bus

Thursday, February 18th, 2016 | Books

The Wayward Bus is a 1947 novel by John Steinbeck. Many of Steinbeck’s novels are long-ranging affairs, some taking place over several generations. In contrast, The Wayward Bus takes place over a single day.

What is the novel about? Well, it’s about a bus that gets stuck in the mud. This only happens towards the end of the novel. The rest is build up to the bus getting stuck in the mud. Looking back now, I am not sure entirely sure how Steinbeck spun out an entire novel based on that. He did though, and it was interesting.

One thing I have always enjoyed about Steinbeck’s work is his ability to create emotion within me. With The Gapes of Wrath I felt a small sampling of the frustration felt by the farmers who were victims of the financial system. With The Wayward Bus I experienced if only for a moment, the frustration of being trapped in a small town with dreams of getting out.


Travels with Charley

Friday, July 3rd, 2015 | Books

Travels with Charley is a non-fiction book by John Steinbeck about his travels across America. Indeed it is titled “In search of America”.

He is not a man who messes around. When he decided to go travelling he wrote to the truck company and design him a special truck. They did. When his boat was in danger he jumped into the stormy water and swam out to it. It was a time when men were real men, women were real women, and everyone suffered because of gender inequality.

He does not go alone however. He takes his dog, Charley, who is as much a part of the story as Steinbeck himself. He begins by driving across the northern states (Steinbeck, not Charley, who does none of the driving) and then comes down the west coast and back across.

It is an interesting story. Steinbeck writes about his experiences in the colourful and descriptive way you would expect.

It is not, however, a description of Americana. Probably because, as Steinbeck points out, summing it up would be impossible. However, it is more a collection of anecdotes in sequence than a description of the areas he passes through.

It also all gets a bit horrible near the end when he visits the southern states and runs into a lot of racists. He quickly falls out with them. Thankfully he is then on the road again heading back to New York.

Travels with Charley

Cannery Row

Saturday, May 30th, 2015 | Books

John Steinbeck is better known for his serious and deeply-moving novels, notably The Grapes of Wrath. However, he did have a sense of humour too and wrote several darkly satirical novels, one of which was Cannery Row.

Set in a working sea-front town in the Great Depression, Cannery Row reminded me every much of Catch-22. Probably because both of the audiobooks I have had the same author. But Heller and Steinbeck display the same utterly dry sense of humour when it comes to writing about less-than-ideal conditions for humans to live in.

It’s fairly short, especially compared to some of his other works, and wanders around with a much more relaxed feel to the plot line.


East of Eden

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 | Books

I am a big fan of Steinbeck. While Of Mice and Men was enjoyable, it was The Grapes of Wrath that truly sold me on his writing. I do not consider myself that well read, but if you said you had you were and had concluded Grapes of Wrath was the best novel ever, I would find that totally believable. His graphic deception and insisting of emotion and hopelessness has been surpassed by no other book I had read.

It was for this reason that I picked up East of Eden.

Given the success of his earlier work, it seemed odd to discover that Steinbeck believed that everyone has one great novel in them – and that East of Eden was his.

I am glad nobody really asked me what it was about in my first few weeks reading it. The truth is I had no clue. It wasn’t about something notable like the Great Depression. It was just about life. Life in Salinas Valley, particularly the life of two families, the Hamiltons and the Trasks.

Is it Steinbeck’s finest work? That I am not sure. However, I did enjoy reading it just as much as any of his other work.

East of Eden

The Grapes of Wrath

Monday, March 18th, 2013 | Books

Having finished the very serious, adult and deep prose of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series recently, I decided it was time to read something a bit more lighthearted. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath seemed a good choice. I had already read Of Mice and Men, which is enjoyable and I would recommend if only so people get my references, and was eager to read his works further.

It’s considered Steinbeck’s seminal work, winning the Pulitzer Prize and being cited as a key reason for Steinbeck being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. It’s easy to see why – the powerful, touching and vivid description of people struggling through the Great Depression is one of the most moving texts I have ever read.

The book tells the family of the Joad family, who lose their farm in Oklahoma, and are forced to travel to California to find work, only to find the grass isn’t so green as they were lead to believe. Or, more accurately, that the grass is greener, but the machinery of society we have build up – the banks, the economics and the systems of government – prevent the poorest from walking on it.

Steinbeck’s vivid language paints a detailed picture of life during the Great Depression, providing a thought provoking insight to the suffering, without dwelling on it any longer than required. The monster of the system we have created is deconstructed in a way still relevant today. As the story goes on, you feel their frustration, their anger and the unfairness of their plight.

Like many for the Great Depression, the novel doesn’t have a happy ending. Or more accurately, an ending. It isn’t an unhappy one – just one without conclusion, as the family are left to continue to struggle on, without much food or money, and with winter on the way.

On a lighter note though, I have fallen in love with the name Rose of Sharon, pronounced Rosasharn. Definitely a contentor if I ever have a daughter.