Monday, February 18, 2013

Ode to Steinbeck

This past weekend Seth and I ventured to Carmel to eat at his cousin's restaurant with a couple of his college roommates. Before we ate, Seth was nice enough to brave Monterey traffic so I could explore Cannery Row. I had not been to Monterey since 1997 - aka before I discovered John Steinbeck and all his literary genius. I wanted to see one of the places that inspired Steinbeck's writing. As one of California's native sons, I feel like Steinbeck defines California heritage in a way no other writer has done, and so Seth and I wandered a few streets, watched the waves crash against the rocks, and then decided we were starving, so it was time for Carmel (more on that later). Steinbeck is everything that a writer should be, and so Cannery Row and the central coast of California is exactly as I had pictured it from his carefully crafted sentences.
 A couple pieces of Steinbeck's writing have been on my mind lately. One is a simple line from The Winter of Our Discontent when he says, "I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen." The other comes from Steinbeck's most epic work, East of Eden, when he says, "In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world."  How amazing is that?!  That same chapter goes on to say, "We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is." I love that so, so much.  I just can't help myself.

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