Read it at Last
It was around ninth grade that my father started to nudge me to read a wider variety of works. Maybe it was because I was showing interest in writing as a living or because he was just trying to do his job as a parent.
Regardless, he found me receptive and I can recall being allowed to sit in the Living Room (usually reserved for company), my over-sized headphones on and listening to the albums on the record player (yeah, I’m old — deal with it) as I worked through the recommended books.
I remember the very first book he recommended to me years before, Isaac Asimov’s Asimov’s Mysteries and since I liked it, was receptive to the suggestions that came now. Today, I don’t remember them all, but there had to have been five or six in total before I started finding things to read on my own.
Of those books, I liked Lord of the Flies and was utterly taken in with Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t go Home Again. On the other hand, I found Holden Caufield a complete asshole and waste of my time. (I enjoyed Salinger’s short stories better when I read them in 12th grade.)
Then there was the book I never finished. I started to read John Steibnbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath but after the early chapter that was little more than a turtle crossing the hot highway, I put it down, unable to comprehend how I’d ever suffer through something so slow.
I wasn’t ready, I guess. And I’ve never seen the movie either.
Every few years, as I was opening my Christmas presents, I’d find my copy of Grapes. It was Dad’s subtle way of saying I really should read it. And I’d put it back on my bookshelf and let it sit there.
He’s been gone a decade now, and a few years ago, Kate heard about this and decided to keep up the tradition.
On Sunday, I was looking for a book to read this week and saw it on the stack of To Be Read books and said, maybe it’s time.
I just finished the book this morning and liked it. Didn’t love it, won’t hail it as the greatest American novel ever written, but I saw what it was, appreciated its place in the books that sparked concern for social justice. The Joads and the people like them were let down first by society and then by the Government.
I appreciated how Steinbeck managed to convey feelings and emotions even though his characters were poorly educated and couldn’t even express themselves properly to one another. The Joads’ world was their farm and then their truck and the few places they stayed in while trying to work. It never occurred to any of them to appeal to local, state or federal representatives to help everyone. Never got discussed. Today, it seems natural as can be, but back then in the 1930s, during the Depression, thinking about work and food was the overwhelming factor.
I find many of the characters thinly formed and don’t appreciate how heavy-handed he was being by depicting everyone carrying a badge being a close-minded stooge of big business. That being said, Ma’s growth and evolution is more fascinating to me than anything that happened to the others.
I’m glad I finally read it, pleased I finally honored one of Dad’s wishes.