14 March 2014

On rereading: East of Eden

I'm rereading Steinbeck's East of Eden right now. I've read it twice before, but the last time was about half my life ago, so I won't go on about how much I have forgotten.

It's a long and meandering novel. I know this is popular to say about books, but I really don't think it would be published now. Actually, maybe more to the point, I don't think it would be written like this now. The narrator is a very minor character in the book (Steinbeck himself as a child) but is also clearly omniscient. Are novels written this way anymore? I don't think so, though if I'm wrong, please let me know.

I'm only about 2/3 through (only! I'm on page 524!) and while I am loving so much about it--the vividness of his descriptions, his language--I am getting tired of the how the women are portrayed in this world. They are either saintly suffering women who cook and clean all the time, or they are devilish manipulators. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground, and I'm not sure this would even pass the Bechdel Test.

The novel does feel like a throwback, something from and for another time. It's interesting, to me, that it was published in the early 1950s and my beloved Gloria took place about a decade later. I wonder if Gloria ever read East of Eden?

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