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Old 11th Feb 2011, 9:38   #21
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Default Re: Book 59: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck

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The story-telling was a bit too "straight" for my liking. Good is good, bad is bad. What the author wanted me to think, I thought. There was no room for interpretation that I could see. Except maybe...

...Kate, the character who inspired this book choice... is she really pure evil? I'd argue no, she is not.
I've just read the part about Cathy's relationship with the middle-class pimp. Overtly, the way it's written seems to portray him as the relatively innocent party in the relationship, this a man who 'runs' groups of girls in several towns (forcing them to have often-fatal abortions if they get pregnant). Even his eventual frenzied attack on her is presented as an inevitable consequence of her behaviour. I'm sure Steinbeck doesn't mean us to take his presentation of events at face value - given all the little details he has provided along the way.

And that whole episode was a hell of a thing to pack into about twenty short pages.


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Unfortunately, my brother borrowed my copy and hasn't even started reading yet. I knew there was a reason I don't normally loan out my books... Anyway, carry on without me and I'll add some commentary later when none of you care anymore.
Paul, we always care.
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Old 12th Feb 2011, 11:55   #22
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Default Re: Book 59: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck

Hello . I tried to convince myself I don't want to take part in this round of book group but in the library couldn't resist going straight to the Steinbeck's shelf... To be honest, it wasn't Steinbeck tempting me so much, but the thought of coming back to our reading group. Actually, the choice put me off - too voluminous.

It's a reread for me. I read East of Eden when I was about sixteen, remember liking it, going for The Grapes of Wrath, liking it less. I never tried anything else by Steinbeck later, even not Of Mice and Men. However, when I picked up EoE yesterday and read the first two chapters I realized I like to read it for its own sake. I don't have much time presently, so I will probably have read it well after Paul...
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 12:54   #23
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Default Re: Book 59: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck

Thanks to amner I now have a copy of East of Eden in possession and plan to get cracking tonight. My second proper book of 2011!
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 13:30   #24
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Default Re: Book 59: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck

That's got the same front cover as mine, am - don't let it put you off though.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 14:50   #25
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Default Re: Book 59: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck

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I have to say I was most overwhelmed by Lee, as much as by the conclusion of the Trask family's heartache.
I think I now know what you mean by this Col, having finally finished it myself. If Cathy / Kate is a depiction of evil, would you say Sam Hamilton and Lee are wholly good?

I can also see what Ang means about very 'straight' storytelling - clear signposts with all the A/C relationships, but I don't mind that, and I appreciated Steinbeck's exploration of the spectrum of goodness and badness in people. And interesting that he went so far as to include a physical mark in some cases - why? To strengthen the analogy and leave the reader in no doubt? Or just as an illustration of his theme?

The more I think about East of Eden, the more I feel I enjoyed it. I think it's one I'll come back to, and it's done its job of making me keener to read The Grapes of Wrath which I've had on the shelf for at least a year.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 17:26   #26
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Default Re: Book 59: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck

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And interesting that he went so far as to include a physical mark in some cases - why? To strengthen the analogy and leave the reader in no doubt? Or just as an illustration of his theme?
I believe, though it's been a while, that the mark is representative of the mark of Cain, so I'd go for with "to strengthen the analogy and leave the reader in no doubt."
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 18:07   #27
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Default Re: Book 59: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck

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I believe, though it's been a while, that the mark is representative of the mark of Cain
Well, quite, that's the analogy I was referring to. It's not as though there's much room for doubt anyway... Adam / Charles, Adam / Cathy, Aron / Caleb, Abra / Caleb...
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 20:32   #28
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Default Re: Book 59: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck

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Well, quite, that's the analogy I was referring to.
I figured, but commented just in case.

It was little things like that, where Steinbeck can't help but reinforce what is already pretty blatant, that turned me off the book.

Though I must say that I do like The Grapes of Wrath.
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 9:05   #29
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Default Re: Book 59: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck

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Steinbeck can't help but reinforce what is already pretty blatant
I think at one point when Adam has gone missing, Caleb actually says something like 'Am I supposed to look after him all the time?'

I remember another example of this unnecessary reinforcement, when Caleb looks at his brother's pale hair and wide eyes, and realises why his father loves Adam so much. Steinbeck seems to find it necessary to add another sentence saying it is because of his physical resemblance to Cathy, when I think most readers would infer this anyway.

I can see this being a downer for some readers, but being a somewhat lazy reader I didn't find it so, so much. And I think with the Cain/Abel thing I might have seen it more as a desire on the author's part to bolster the biblical imagery and make it really full-blown, than condescending to the reader by really spelling things out for them.
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 9:44   #30
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Default Re: Book 59: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck

I don't remember (or perhaps never knew) the story of Cain and Abel well enough to have figured out "the mark of Cain". I see from this that Steinbeck was even more heavy-handed than I thought.

Yet, there are a couple passages which I just didn't get what I was supposed to. (page numbers are Penguin Classics edition)

p. 414 ch 34 – “I remember clearly the deaths of three men...” - I think it is supposed to be obvious who the three men are, but I don't have a clue.

p. 528 ch 48 sec 2 – “A soup carrier...” (Joe, about Kate. What is a soup carrier and why does he think she is one?)
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