Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Grapes of Wrath

I reread the Grapes of Wrath for the first time on the plane home from Belize. (I love plane reading, I finish whole books all the time.) I am now all filled with thoughts from it. It fits in so perfectly with my crazy love of other people. I have three main books/movies that reinforce what should be the obvious ground rule of life, which is that other people are what matter and your relationships with other people are what is sacred in this life. I had dinner with a friend the other night who has just been broken up with, and it was a sad dinner, but it was a happy one too because I felt like I was building another relationship, and like I was being part of a support network for someone. I believe so strongly in the support network. At therapy, just prior to my dinner with my friend, I went on a mini-rant about it, and I kind of feel like the conversations I have with my support network are infinitely more valuable and productive than the ones I have with my therapist. (You may say that perhaps I should get a different therapist, and I agree with you.) But anyway, the point is there are three books that I believe in.

In About a Boy, in the movie at least (I haven't read the book in ages), Marcus decides that "Two people aren't enough. You need backup. You need three at least." Wholeheartedly, I concur. You can never pour all of your anxiety and worry and need into one person, and you can't keep it to yourself either. You need backup.

Then there is Kurt Vonnegut. The advocate for the extended family. I believe in many ways I achieve that with my own "urban family." I need to reread Slapstick so I can find the precise moment where the main character declares that everyone in the country will be assigned new middle names which will connect them to other folks in an artificial family. But really, all of Vonnegut's book reinforce the same point, which is why I love him.

And then there is the Grapes of Wrath. When I read it this time I was shocked by how much more it stood out to me than the last time I read it. It just meant more, resonated more, glowed more, was more luminous. Anyway, so I am about to quote away:

"Before I knowed it, I was sayin' out loud, 'The hell with it! There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do. It's all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain't nice, but that's as far as any man got a right to say.'...I says, 'What's this call, this sperit?' An' I says, 'It's love. I love people so much I'm fit to bust, sometimes.' An' I says, 'Don't you love Jesus?' Well, I thought an' thought, an' finally I says, 'No, I don't know nobody name' Jesus. I know a bunch of stories, but I only love people. An' sometimes I love 'em fit to bust, an' I want to make 'em happy, so I been preachin' somepin I thought would make 'em happy.'...Anyways, I'll tell you one more thing I thought out; an' from a preacher it's the most unreligious thing, and I can't be a preacher no more because I thought it an' I believe it...I figgered about the Holy Sperit and the Jesus road. I figgered, 'Why do we got to hang it on God and Jesus? Maybe,' I figgered, 'maybe it's all men an' all women we love; maybe that's the Holy Sperit--the human sperit--the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever'body's a part of.' Now I sat there thinkin' it, an' all of a suddent--I knew it. I knew it so deep down that it was true, and I still know it."
-- the Reverend Casy

Sometimes I don't know why I bother writing much because some people have written things so much better than I have already. (These are the times I want this to be more like a Tumblr, so I can just post quotes and things and not feel the inadequacy of my own writing compared to people like Steinbeck. But when it comes down to it, I can't keep quiet and I need to write my mangled prose anyway. Can't keep me quiet, I guess.

2 comments:

Casey said...

See? I told you this needs constant rereading.

--The (other) Reverend Casey

Lisbeth said...

I was knocked out by Grapes of Wrath when I first read it. Love the praying-for-the-car-to-make-it scene, among others. Love Reverend(s) Casey.

Bookgroup read one of his; I think it was East of Eden. It has a starting-the-car scene, too. Can you tell I've had troubles with cars?

Anyway, there were people who objected to Steinbeck's over-the-top style, but my comment then and now is, if anyone can get away with over-the-top (florid?) writing, he can.

I wish I could write dialect! But at least I can read it without too much difficulty.