Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

This "book" is only sixty pages, and yet it took me a week to read. I'm just trying to give this thing away to Carlton.

But anyhow, Of Mice and Men is one of John Steinbeck's short novels--a list that includes some really fantastic works like Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row, and some dreck like The Red Pony and The Pearl that are the reason no one who ever went to high school likes John Steinbeck. I'd say that Of Mice and Men falls pretty squarely in the middle of those, lacking the detail and flavor of the former two but not making me want to kill myself like the latter. Part of the reason is that Steinbeck meant it to double as a novel and a play--that is to say, it is written with a heavy concentration on dialogue and interaction over description. The result, I'm sad to say, is that it tends to be a little dry.

But the plot is pretty neat (spoilers): two migrant workers, the cunning, cynical George and the hulking man-child Lennie, find work as "bindle stiffs" (this is something to do with hay, or something) in a migrant worker community. Their plan is to make enough money to buy a little plot of land where Lennie can tend rabbits and George can do a little farming, and it seems as if their plan is close to fruition when the old one-handed ranch hand Candy agrees to pitch in with his considerable savings. But, you know what they say, the best laid plans of something or other. Lennie, who has the strength of an elephant but the mind of a six-year old, accidentally murders the boss' wife while trying to stroke her hair, and, well, everything goes to hell after that. The final scene, in which George shoots Lennie from behind to spare him an awful death at the hands of a lynch mob, is one of great resonance and power even if I'm not sure I completely buy George's actions.

In any case, I don't recommend this book, if just for the fact that Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row are so much better. Read those, and then save this one for the days when you need to catch up in the Fifty Books Project.

7 comments:

Carlton said...

From now on if you use my name in a review, I would appreciate it if it were linked to a picture of me, or at least my book list.
Thank you.

Carlton said...

You should read To A God Unknown. I am planning on Reading East of Eden, but I also may read another of his short novels.

Nihil Novum said...

I appreciate the title of To a God Unknown, Carlton, I just don't enjoy it.

Elizabeth said...

Hulking Man-Child. Nice

Carlton said...

The phrase "hulking man-child" is all over my Match.com profile.

Christopher said...

Tortilla Flat is my favorite. My friend Taylor is a huge Steinbeck fan and his favorite is Cannery Row.

Carlton said...

I will read Tortilla Flat then, because I know you and couldn't care less about the opinions of your friend Taylor.