Friday, January 06, 2006

East of Eden

Here's a book I resisted for a long time--I thought it was that story about the two brothers that they made into a James Dean movie. That movie was nothing special.

Imagine my surprise to find that the novel is a big, brawling, philosophical tome, a passionate dissertation on the fourth chapter of Genesis and the question of free will. I read it through, all 602 pages, and then I opened it up to page one and read it again. I think this is the only book that has ever had that effect on me. I don't know if it is significant that the key passage is EXACTLY in the middle of the book, on page 301, where Lee tells Samuel about his study of the Genesis passage, and spells out the theme of the book. Steinbeck is kind to his readers. He's friendly. He tells you the story and he even tells you what the story is about. I appreciate that. It may be that the whole book is perfectly symmetrical--someday I may do a study about that. In the meantime, I'm satisfied that it is nicely balanced, and crafted by a master.

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