Even John Steinbeck can be dull sometimes

It takes many months for me to have completed reading ‘In Dubious Battle’. After enjoying marvelous stories by John Steinbeck in ‘East of Eden’, ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, it is hard to believe that ‘In Dubious Battle’ is written by the same author who is my most favorite author, in par with Thomas Hardy.

‘In Dubious Battle’, now a major motion picture, is so vocal about labor movement and its relation with politic at the time when the book is composed. I don’t really mind about that. John Steinbeck is said to put much focus about politic. Reading ‘Travels in Charley: In Search of America’ makes me realizing his huge love for his country. He is a nationalist by the heart.

What disturbs me so much is how the plots are woven. They are like cut shorts here and there. Dialogs are made so frontal. John Steinbeck lets his writing style so straight-forwarded in the work that I don’t enjoy reading it at all. Despite the tone of the book that is ‘furious’ I instead feel unmotivated because of his technique.

I hope ‘In Dubious Battle’ is as emotionally-moving as ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. Both speak much about poverty and labor issues. Yet, the ways each of the novel tell stories are way different. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ completely stresses me out in good ways. I am so absorbed by the plots. The book leaves me with mixed feelings. John Steinbeck’s way of writing is superb. Beautiful, deep, philosophical. No wonder that the title brings him wining Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. He is so total in producing the story in terms of plot, message and storytelling style.

But in ‘In Dubious Battle’ I can sense that he seems in a rush. He looks like forcing himself doing the work. The finale is clear yet he doesn’t work well in bringing readers into imaginations. Lack of emotion as well.

Looking at the two titles somehow reprimand me that even brilliant author like John Steinbeck can mess up. Not all his ideas are well-executed. I haven’t researched what prompt him creating ‘In Dubious Battle’. Whatever reasons behind the book all I can tell to myself that being good writers take a bloody efforts. Doing so doesn’t necessarily guarantee your books will score massive successes. Well, defining success can be relative but at least you can sense whether you make it or not by reading your own books.

“East of Eden’ is his first title that really wows me. The self-influenced novel grabs my attention to his name. It so moving, the words are so wonderful, and the message is so related to my life and I think people’ lives in general.

As much as I love ‘East of Eden’, John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my most beloved title of his, as a matter of fact, ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my most favorite novel thus far. It cuts so deep. It is better than ‘East of Eden’. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ gives me another chill because the book is so powerful. It is a boom!

Reviewing all experiences regarding all of the titles I can sum up that proficient authors like John Steinbeck can sometimes have hard times. He can make very wonderful fictions but not free from making bad ones. Men, he is a human being after all. Being at the top throughout his whole life sounds godly, too good to be true.

Lessons learned is this: while worldly-proven authors can be bad sometimes then why can’t I be? This doesn’t mean to aide myself whenever I am lazy to write or read but the point is creating fictions is a very long process. I can be at the high but down sometimes. Or in between. The key is accepting who I am and what I can achieve at whatever level I am at.

 

Three novels that inspire me to write my own

Although ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my all time most favorite novel it’s not one of the books that encourage me to create my own one day. Here I’d love to share three novels that I quickly take inspirations from when it comes to write a novel:

  1. East of Eden

This title is the door of all the novels that I have read so far. It’s true that “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is the first one that leads me to read more about classics but ‘The East of Eden’ is the first that opens my perspective in understanding the truest value of great novels. I love the book, and it remains one of the titles that is very memorable. The story between Caleb and Aron which is inspired by Cain and Abel from the Bible is the part that interests me so much. The different reactions from the brothers when it comes to receiving the fact that their mother, Cathy, is a prostitute, suggest me in learning that imperfection is what makes humans so natural. That’s the grandest message of the book that I don’t only remember but also get my views right. What I’m trying to say is that I have to firmly understand the most essential point of writing great books lies on characterizations. No matter how big topic or social circumstances that become the background of the story, still, stunning novels are all about humans. Thankfully, I read the book at the beginning of the years-long literary trip thus I am not carried away with various, historical events that form some titles that I have read along the way because what I have on the top of my mind is characterization.

 

  1. The Mayor of Casterbridge

 

I think there is no better book to enjoy human inner journey from a bad to good one than ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge.’ What makes the book more fascinating lies on the way Thomas Hardy flawlessy transforms Micheal Henchard through ups and downs, unexpected events, foolishness, wise acts throughout the book. I think Henchard’s life journey perfectly reflect that of us, as human being, though we may not as goosey as him by selling his wife and daughter to a stranger when he is so drank. What I like more from the book is that it doesn’t sound preachy. It describes Henchard as a normal person with all of his mistakes and dark sides. His effort to fix the wrong things that he has done in the past is one of the best lessons that I can draw from it.

 

  1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

There are three sensations that I get by reading the book. The atmosphere, criminal acts that are mentioned in the book successfully terrify me as I read along the book. Robert Louis Stevenson deploys everything that later on produce thrilling, frightening effects to all its readers. While this has been sufficient for making me glued at the book, Edward Hyde’s struggles to tame his devious side has made the story becoming more complicated. How he acts as a good person in the day then turns into a monster in the night is a good thing to observe. The fact that the evil side eventually triumphs becomes the climax of all and this turns out to be so devastating. Isn’t this so common? That oftentimes are are bound to either follow our good or bad side? The last one if feeling high over heels with the beautiful, civil words despite illicit tone and the puzzled story plot that keeps me reading the book until the last page.

 

 

Five reasons John Steinbeck remains my most favorite author

john steinbeck quotes

credit for this picture goes to www.pinterest.com

I write this post because it has been a long time I haven’t read his another title. So, I kind of missing reading his books then I think of writing these five reasons why he remains my most favorite writer after a number of novels from other novelists that I have read, too:

Common people, the poor are the kings in his masterpiece His magical words put the poor, the struggling laborers truly have their say. He is the first author from whom I learn much to see the big, valuable voice in those unheard men. My most favorite example are George Milton and Lennie Small in “Of Mice and Men” (1937). Also, the Joad family in “The Grapes of Wrath” (1939). All the characters have one thing in common: survival. I think they can represent the society at that time: the dying American Dream in “Of Mice and Men” and the Great Depression in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

The straight-to-the-point language, third person narrative style Reading his books are a joy to my eyes given his straight-to-the-point language. Even if he is a master of storytelling I don’t find his language too wordy. He keeps on his direction when it comes to describe some places, people or events. I can say almost his novels don’t bore me. While third person narrative style is always my preference. The fact that he applies this method entertains me so much because I regard his voices are split into several characters within a book thus making me able to comprehend his stance in each and every character.

He loves writing dark comedy starring the outcasts If you have read “Tortilla Flat” and “The Cannery Row” I bet you’ve got my point. Laughing at the characters’ stupid actions or silly jokes while having a sense of pity for them is what I feel while reading the two. Despite the high humor doses, he inserts good critics regarding the characters. They both reflect the people who maintain their sanity in modern life. Their lives are great samples about those who stick at their given traits and won’t be consumed by materialism. As such, they are poor by intention. They know exactly that their lives are the path less taken.

I can always see the light at the end of the dark tunnel Even after reading more than 500 pages containing problems about poverty, moral crisis, religion mockery, and death, “The Grapes of Wrath” ends in a positive tone. Those who have read “Of Mice and Men” I think will agree with the finale of the book although I have to carry the sadness for quite some time. He lived far before the millennium yet I bet he foresees the world would be much cynical, skeptical than it has already been. I guess the books are best legacy he has left for readers from many generations to come. It’s not a matter of satisfying, happily live ever after endings, it’s more about hope.

Wisdom in the ‘East of Eden’ Although ‘East of Eden’ is a bit preachy I find the book as an exceptionally wise one that thoroughly examines every character’s personality. Reading the novel makes me understand the value of imperfection in human being. It’s the best book where I learn that in order to be a whole person we have to have big hearts in making peace with bitter facts that are against our wishes. The characterizations of Cal and Aron Trask are good samples to observe those values. Years after reading the book, the concept of thimsel ‘thou mayest’ still echoes in my mind, which it best describes the characters’ options to overcome sin in the book. I myself interprets the phrase as life is all about making choices.

A New and Improved Relationship with the Victorian Literature

During hectic daily activities as a reporter covering legal issues at the Corruption Eradication Commission, my former best office mate Erwida Maulia invites me to join her weekend gateway by visiting Kinokuniya bookstore on an uncertain weekend I forget the date is.

I have no intention of buying books at the time given my super busy daily life as a journalist. But I can’t help admitting myself that I arrive at an artificial paradise once I am inside the bookstore. Looking at the literature section brings my memory back to the years when I was a student of the English department at the Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. I remember almost all the titles, the novelists, but I soon realize that I have yet to read most of the titles. If so, I must have done that for the sake of getting good grades.

After a few moments of title selections, I decide to give a try for Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. I know the title from my most favorite lecturer, Pak Dayat. I always admire Wilde’s drama but have yet to read this (if I’m not mistaken) only novel he has written. And you know what? This title is the first one that kicks off my pure, new and improved adventure not only with the Victorian literature but also with the literature in a large extent.

The book is the first English novel that sets out my journey as an outsider, a refreshed likeness from a literature great fan. The novel is the first that I completely enjoy, the one that later brings me to so many titles during the span of six years of the so-called reading trip. Needless to say about the book. It’s so marvelous. I can recall the gothic feeling each time I remember about the novel. I really wish Wilde writes more books than drama but he does the other way around.

In between tight working schedules, I always try to find time to read books. I can’t remember exactly which books that I read after ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. After the awesome first reading experience, I quickly remember the name John Steinbeck. I don’t have any ideas why I didn’t read any of his books when I was at the college. Again, thanks to Pak Dayat, what I firstly remember about Steinbeck is ‘Of Mice and Men.’ Pak Dayat once tells to the class how powerful the novel is and I am left being so curious. However, it’s not quite easy to find the book.

Again, me and Wida visits the store and this time around I come with one name in my head: John Steinbeck. I am quite surprised to have found some of his books in the store. Since I haven’t seen ‘Of Mice and Men’, I grab ‘East of Eden’ instead. Prior to the visit, I browse about the book and enough to say, the title itself makes me peculiar. The more I read its synopsis I get even more curious. The core of the story lies on two brothers with opposite characteristics. Steinbeck takes the essence of the book from Adam’s sons whose tragic story becomes the first ever murder in the world.

The novel is quite expensive but it is so much worth it. It takes less than a month to complete reading the book and I totally loooove it! It is so surprising to read the novel saga which is full of wisdom, family issues and human flaws as Steinbeck is greatly associated with social and labor issues. ‘East of Eden’ pulls me deeper into this reading journey. So far, I have read seven of Steinbeck’s novels and will definitely read his remaining books later on.

I finally read ‘Of Mice and Men’ and I can’t agree more with Pak Dayat’s statement on the power of the book. It remains my most beloved book until now. So thin yet so mind-blowing. It tears my heart apart.

In between the so-called Steinbeck’s literary experience, I taste Asian culture through Arundhati Roy, Aravind Adiga, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai with the most favorite one is Amitav Ghosh. ‘Life of Pi’ teaches me a bit about philosophy. ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ tells me that a teenager’s naughty side can instead be the truest voice ever. The novel represents modern generation that is so lost, so divided between personal choice and future consideration.

After feeling enough with post-modern themes, Asian culture, I don’t know what goes through my mind that I return to the Victorian novels. ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ is the second Victorian novel that brings me back to the vintage era. It is less fantastic compared to ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ yet ‘Far from Madding Crowd’ is more than enough to eventually guide me to where my real, final reading taste is, Victorian literature, despite the fact that John Steinbeck remains my most beloved author. I really love his boldness in writing, straight to the point. So far, no authors can surpass the way he emotionally kills readers through ‘Of Mice and Men’. All in all, my general preference is Victorian novels.

After I have read Hardy’s six novels, I move on to George Eliot, now Elizabeth Gaskell. I don’t really care about moral values or social issues as seen in the Victorian novels actually. What makes me glued to the books written in this era is as simple as its language. Once I open the Victorian novels I feel like I see an abundant, very beautiful landscape in front of my very eyes. I can write down authors’ quotes or beautiful phrases. The Victorian novels are indeed such an art.

Given my experiences as a journalist, I would like to dig deeper into the Victorian books then put them down into pieces of interesting writings that won’t merely discuss on the content or characterizations of the books as the ones you may always find in school textbooks. That’s so boring. I know that. Rather, I’d love to play with some dynamic topics, like comparing Hardy and Eliot’s writing type. Also, I’d love to take out several significant characters from the Victorian authors as topic of discussions. I will be so happy to make the Victorian novels as everlasting topics, not too old to be talked about when you meet friends. The books can be in sync with modern era, though.

It’s been three years since I have started out my second reading trip with the Victorian literature. Firstly, I kick it off as a reader, no longer seeking good grades, but simply as pleasure activity. Now, I start thinking to learn making creative stories from all the Victorian novels that I have digested with the help of relatively short experiences as a journalist because reading alone can be worthless if I don’t share it with others. I have done this since 2011 but this time around I want to be more elastic without leaving the Victorian novels’ serious issues.

From obligatory to literary satisfaction now comes to the time when I try to get committed to blend the two. This mission is surprisingly giving me so much fun!