Pop Culture Princess

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Monday, July 27, 2015

The Road of Rereading decides to head East of Eden with John Steinbeck

I know that for my summer selection on my Road of Rereading series, my initial choice was George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, which I confess that I made very little headway in. Therefore, I've decided to make a change in course by rereading East of Eden by John Steinbeck instead.

 Perhaps reading both Deronda and Middlemarch at the same time was too daunting, along with some family health issues concerning my mother(she's in need of surgery) that is hindering my interest in that book right now. Regardless of why, my lack of progress with Daniel Deronda was a sign that a new fictional footpath needed to be taken.

While rearranging one of my bookshelves recently (in order to make room for that new Harper Lee), East of Eden came to the forefront in more ways than one. It's been a long time since I read that late in life novel, first published in 1952, well before it received renewed interest as an Oprah Book Club pick back in 2003.

The story is pretty much Steinbeck's take on the generational saga, with a pair of families in California's Salinas Valley, the Hamiltons and the Trasks, whose fates become intertwined. The Trask family in particular takes over a huge portion of the story as the tale of Cain and Abel plays a major role in the lives of more than one generation of Trask brothers, along with other themes about fate and free will:

Many of the literary critics back then found EOE to be rather heavy-handed yet readers out and out loved it, which is probably why the book was turned into a Hollywood movie by 1955.

That film made James Dean a star, thanks not only to his performance but to the directing talents of Elia Kazan as well. The adaptation only deals with the latter half of the book that focuses on the sons of Adam Trask, Aron and Cal(played by Dean) and yet when it came to Academy award wins, it was supporting actress Jo Van Fleet who took home an Oscar here.

Her role as Kate is a pivotal key to unlocking many of the dark secrets of the Trask family and just as important as Dean's part, if not more so:

In 1981, ABC did a three part miniseries version that stays closer to the book and starred Jane Seymour as Kate, with Sam Bottoms as Cal. The rest of the cast includes such TV friendly favorites as Bruce Boxleitner and Timothy Bottoms along with former movie matinee idols as Raymond Massey and Anne Baxter.

I'll be seeing both adaptations(well after that batch of bad movies that I need to view for August), since thankfully, Netflix has them available in DVD and for an interesting compare and contrast.

 Will the longer, more faithful rendition of EOE be a marked improvement over the 1955 cut to the chase classic? Perhaps less will be truly more, as they say. Either way, my food for thought should be much more filling than the usual bucket of buttery popcorn here:

Already, I can tell that I made the right decision as the flow of the writing has me firmly hooked into this story and while it's far from a happy story, the rhythm of the novel is soothing nonetheless.

Granted, this isn't the biggest decision of my life right now but having some sort of focus that helps me cope with the current situations that I'm dealing with is a good thing. Sometimes, you have to make a change in order to get back on track or be prepared to take some new turns. Reading is a small part of that yet every little bit helps there.

Maybe sometime in the future, I'll give Deronda another try but for now, East of Eden is the right road to return to. Steinbeck's stark yet poetic story weaving has a great down to earth tone that is as comfortable as a pair of reliable old shoes, which is a bonus as it's best to walk down a rough road with as much ease as possible. Plus, this is a road that many have already traveled upon and have left some significant sign posts upon the path, offering their finer points of interest which makes this trip a lot less lonely to be on:

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