Monday, August 4, 2008

captivated just East of Eden

I haven't had an un-sleepable night such as this in quite some time. Or, if I have, I haven't given into it and allowed myself to descend the bunk bed ladder to write or read or do anything peacefully enjoyable. At times such as these, I've often tossed and turned and felt a little sick and tried my best to convince myself that I can fall asleep... when in actuality, I can't. Sleep aids are being rebellious tonight, but I don't seem to mind.

I've been reading John Steinbeck- The East of Eden. I saw the film (starring James Dean) a number of years ago and it quickly became one of my favorite films. It is powerful and dramatic and deep. I will watch it again after I've finished the novel. I wonder if it will be as I remember it.

A few weeks ago, while on a long drive north with my dear friend, Jonathan Rivette, the book was recommended to me. Though Jonathan has not seen the film and had not even been aware of its existence, he firmly informed me that I would absolutely have to read the book.

We went for a walk around the Town Green in Windsor. We had lunch at a pizzeria, spent some bills at Powell's candy shop, and (saving the best for last) entered a little bookshop. I can't remember it's name, but I've been there twice now.

Bookstores are my favorite type of store. I could stay for hours, if permitted, and be perfectly content. And, I could easily find more books than I could carry (or afford). Books are my treasures, see.

In a bookstore, I become completely absorbed in the titles, covers, and scent-and-feel of all the new volumes however desirable or undesirable they may be. I slowly and curiously make my way around the New Release tables, speed past the self-help bores, eye the youth adventure and fantasies, and wish I had more money.

In the middle of looking through the youth novels, I abruptly remembered Jonathan's recommendation. I asked the lady behind the counter if she had the book and she guided me to a shelf where I found selections of John Steinbeck's works. East of Eden was there beside Of Mice and Men and other titles I don't recall.

The feel of the book- the weight in my hand, the leafy-light unevenly cut pages, and the smooth-yet-not-glossy cover made it impossible to return to the shelf. Jonathan told me, I "must," and so I did (along with Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad, of which I have read excerpts and found thoroughly entertaining and witty as expected of good 'ol Mr. Samuel Clemons).

And then tonight, I practically had to force myself to put away East of Eden and try my hand at sleeping. And to no avail, clearly.

Steinbeck's book is brilliant. He has such an interesting writing style. I can't describe it. The words "clean" and "clear" and "direct" swarm around, but they really don't make an accurate description nor elude to his genius creativity.

You care about the characters, almost without realizing that you do, and you wonder what else they think about when Mr. Steinbeck moves on or refrains. He divulges much and little at the same time and I don't have a clue how he does it. Contradiction works for he is both verbose and simple, blunt and subtle, vulnerable and insensitive, colorful and commonplace. It's not at all bedtime story-ish, but is perfect for bedtime. Quite frankly, I don't get this guy. But, I definitely love what he's done.

The book is a whopping 601 pages long, but I anticipate that at it's end, I'll probably think that it could, very well, keep on going (or wish it would). Steinbeck is rather incredible with his words and very unique in his storytelling. And so I'm grateful for the 601 pages. After it's end, I'll probably be torn with picking up another of his masterpieces and opening A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, which should have arrived from by then.

I guess this is what the next few years of my life can be like: reading books.

And Borders Rewards keeps tempting me with 40% off coupons.

(Photograph by some guy named Ben: Salinas Valley, setting of East of Eden)