Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Prong's 16th Review - East of Eden

Hey folks!! It has been awhile right? Hope you haven't forgotten about us, as we certainly haven't forgotten about you.

While we have been on hiatus your beloved marauders have been diligently reading and working ideas for the future of the blog!! While we are excited to continue all of the community efforts we have been involved in so far, we are also looking forward to getting back to some of the basics.... aka. reviewing more books, providing more kick-ass literary information.

So for those of you who occasionally enjoy what we have to say, look forward to more from us in the future as we have quite a bit in store! With out further ado, here is Prongs latest review of the 'brick' that is considered to be Steinbeck's 'Magnum Opus'.

"To a monster the norm must seem monstrous, since everyone is normal to himself."

East of Eden

by John Steinbeck

Disclaimer: It is a difficult task to review any 800 page novel, let alone one of this magnitude. Sorry if it gets a bit informal folks but there really was no good way to go about this other than to speak from the heart, which is exactly what this book forces you to do.

Despite the fact that I have been a fan of Steinbeck’s shorter works for some time, I was a bit embarrassed to admit that I had never tackled one of his longer, more revered novels. It literally came down to coin flip when deciding between East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath… obviously the first won. Now I am not sure if I could call this flip of the coin chance, or if it were in fact fated for me to read; perhaps Steinbeck would have called it both. Regardless, the outcome of my silly choice lead me to experience what I consider to be one of the most poignant and substantial pieces of literature that I have ever had the honor to read.

And when I say experience, I mean that with every since of the word. Like much of Steinbeck’s other work, he not only describes a world to you; he gives it life. The sights, sounds, and smells of the world that Steinbeck loved so much overflow out of the page and into your soul. It is clear from his detailed account of Salinas that this work is not only about the love and life between the characters, but between the author and an entire town.

I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer—and what trees and seasons smelled like—how many people looked and walked and smelled even.

East of Eden follows the timelines of two generations of families living in the Salinas Valley who lives are constantly intertwined. As you might know, the men of the ‘Trask’ family, often reflect a modern retelling of the story of Cain and Able. If you are unfamiliar with this story from the bible, I highly suggest doing a bit of wikipedia-ing before beginning, as it will help in the long run.

In these families you will see both good and evil, love and hate, jealousy and betrayal, but most importantly the free will to experience all of the above. Steinbeck spins a timeless tale where characters reflect our own inner struggles with out becoming cliché, our own inner questions with out becoming pretentious, and most importantly our own inner strength, when the weakest within us fears that we cannot go on.

The most important generation that the novel focuses on seems to be Adam Trask and his twin sons Aaron and Caleb (notice any similarity to some names mentioned earlier?). Physically abandoned by their mother, and emotionally abandoned by their father from birth, the boys epitomize the good and the bad that is capable within us all. Through these characters Steinbeck introduces the theme of free will and the power to choose, an invaluable question that every character and reader must consider.

“And I fell that a man is a very important thing—maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent towards gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed.”

There is so much more than can be said about a novel that touches on almost every aspect of human life, but the only thing that could truly bring this work justice is to be read, loved, and re-read again. That being said I will leave you with the intro from the book written by John Steinbeck, which I personally feel, says more about this work than I ever could.

Dear Pat -

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?”

I asked that you wanted, and you said, “A box.”

“What for”

“To put things in.”

“What things?”

“What ever you have,” you said.

Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts—the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.

And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.

And still the box is not full.

- John

oh ps. Make sure to check out the quotes page if me telling you how amazing this book is hasn't convinced you yet.


  1. I will go out and buy it as soon as I can!

    Thank you for this great review straight out of your heart! Loved it.

  2. This was a gorgeous book, but I admit that I liked Grapes of Wrath far better, and it took much less time. Like, I read GoW in 4 days, but read EoE in 6 weeks.

  3. I adore this book. I remember reading it a few summers back, and the impact it's had on my life since then. The type of book you hope would never end..


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