Saturday, 13 February 2010

Sweet Thursday

When I took my degree as a mature student a few years ago, the American Literature module was by far my favourite part of the course. I would probably never have discovered the poetry of Emily Dickinson or the novels of Willa Cather if I hadn't taken that module. The course was also memorable for what it left out. No F Scott Fitzgerald, no Edith Wharton and no Native American texts.

John Steinbeck didn't feature on the reading list either. I suspect some aspects of his work are a little sentimental for some, but he is a very fine writer. I've been reading Travels with Charley for the Cornflower reading group and Sweet Thursday which is the follow-up to Cannery Row. Oh to visit Steinbeck's California! To hear the sea lions barking at China Point, to beachcomb the spring tides at La Jolla, to see the pelicans on the sea rocks and the orange monarch butterflies descending in clouds on Pacific Grove.

Speaking of vintage American literature - Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country arrived today!

9 comments:

Mad Housewife said...

The Custom of the Country is a great book!

I haven't read Steinbeck since high school: we read The Pearl and The Grapes of Wrath. I'll have to read him again. You know how it is: in high school you really prefer reading your own books to assigned!

Maybe I'll find a copy of Travels with Charley.

Anonymous said...

If you do visit Steinbeck California, please stop at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Ca in John's home town

Herb Behrens

Mae said...

I love how things can say just as much as when they're left out. Out of curiosity, why were native american texts left out? Are they already covered extensively in high school?

And I love John Steinbeck although he can be quite depressing. One of my favourite books is 'Of Mice and Men'.

LizF said...

Currently reading Travels with Charlie and enjoying it. Have managed to get a copy of Cannery Row which is just the right size to fit in my work bag so it will be coming with me while I trek back and forth.
Must find my copy of The Grapes of Wrath which I have had forever but never read.

bookssnob said...

To my shame I have never read any Steinbeck, but I have several of his novels gathering dust on my shelves. You have inspired me to dig them out!

makedoandread said...

I think I had too much Steinbeck in high school - I've never felt compelled to pick him up again. :)

But I'm really looking forward to hearing what you think of The Custom of the Country. Undine is one of the characters not easily forgotten!

Lulu said...

I need to read more Steinbeck. I've only read The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. On the subject of American Lit, have you tried Carson McCullers? I only discovered her last year, though she was a name I'd heard many times, and I have to say, I love her! Even her titles are inspirational - The Ballad of the Sad cafe...The Heart is a Lonely Hunter...

Vintage Reading said...

Mad Housewife, If you have any other Wharton recommendations do let me know - I've only read The House of Mirth and this novel.

I liked Travels with Charley but I prefer Steinbeck's fiction. I'd recommend Cannery Row to start with.

Herb, some day I'll get there.

Mae, I think it's actually a lack of space on the course rather than deliberately, say, leaving Native American texts out, but literature courses do always seem to be dominated by male writers.

LizF, I'm enjoying Travels with Charley but I prefer Steinbeck's fiction. Please let me know how you like Cannery Row - it's quite a short read.

booksnob, that's the trouble with reading book blogs, you just end up adding more to your tbr list.

makedoandread, Undine is quite a little madam isn't she?! A product of her upbringing I suspect. Not as sympathetic as Lily Bart. I'm wondering how this novel will end.

Lulu, I've not read Carson McCullers. Checking this writer out on Amazon straight away ...

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

I've read all of Fitzgerald's short stories and letters, but have never liked the novels to the degree that I've appreciated the stories. I'll be curious to hear your response when ( or if?) you get around to F. Scott.