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east of eden.jpg

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

By Brian Prisco | Books | June 23, 2009 |

By Brian Prisco | Books | June 23, 2009 |

I feel bad when we read classic literature pieces on the Cannonball Read, because it seems more or less like an opportunity for English majors to get out their inner Prisco by unleashing wrath about how unlearned the rest of us are in comparison to them and their bookshelves. That’s because we don’t laud the same titles or expound for miles on great books, we’re somehow idiots. The entire purpose of the Cannonball Read was to open our minds to 100 new books. Whether they be tomes of rich greatness, classics, or junk food paperbacks from the airport. It’s not meant to be a goddamn honors thesis, just a few scattered thoughts about the material.

I can’t rightly say what makes John Steinbeck so fucking great. I never had to read him in school, so he wasn’t forced on me by an inept teacher (not that all high school English teachers are inept, but my American lit teacher was fucking wretched and almost spoiled the entire genre for me — yes, ALL American lit) and so I had a chance to enjoy myself with him on my own time. I loved the hell out of Tortilla Flat for no good reason.

And a friend and writer I trust has been pushing this book on me ever since I’ve been trying to make out with her. I’ve owned my copy of East of Eden since 2000, but I finally managed to read it this year. It’s a huge sprawling story set during the early part of the 20th century, covering several branches of the Trask family tree. It contains one of the most brutal femme fatales in literary history in Cathy/Kate, even more so for the complexity of her character. Entire academic careers can be pinioned on the servant Lee. I can’t tell you what it’s about, because the whole point of reading East of Eden is having the story unfold and wrap around you.

I sat down and tried to go over the events of East of Eden to relate them in the review, but I was baffled. It was like taking a warm bath and trying to explain it in a poem. I’ve always felt that way about Steinbeck. I love reading his work, but whenever people ask me why, I have no answer. It’s like trying to describe a color to a blind person. It just is.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read. For more of Brian’s reviews, check out his blog, The World According to Prisco.

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