Parenting is hard work. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s a well-earned cliche.
Kids are pretty awesome, and they can even teach you a thing or two about reading, but they also have their moments. That’s why, if you want to be a parent, it’s important to make sure you are not a mental whack job.
Mental whack jobs who are parents usually produce kids who eventually become mental whack jobs themselves. This is not good.
Since fiction is often just a mirror of reality, there’s a lot to learn from literary parents, both good and whack jobbish.
Quite a bit, actually. Let’s take at some parenting tips I put together based on lessons I’ve learned from literary parents.
So, as you may know, Time Magazine chose not to rank the 100 All-Time novels when they created this list, but I thought I’d be a dove and help them out. So I rank each novel after I’m finished with it. I like to call these my totally meaningless and highly subjective rankings.
After every 5-6 books, I take a little time to explain why I ranked each book as I did. It’s my way of staying accountable to you and letting you rain down hate upon me in the comments section, if you so choose.
So, here’s how I ranked books 46 through 51:
I know I should be past The Grapes of Wrath now. I’ve reviewed it. I’ve previewed Atonement. And it’s time to move on.
But, today, I’ve got one more post.
While writing my review for The Grapes of Wrath, I was struck by how many quotable passages the book has. I’ve shared many of them with you throughout all of my posts about this novel.
Today, I thought I’d put them all in one easy to find place. If you ever need an insightful quote to put on Facebook or Twitter, then Steinbeck is your guy.
Here’s a sampling from The Grapes of Wrath:
Sometimes, bad weather just sucks.
You can be hanging out one minute, relaxing with friends, and 10 minutes later you’re cramped in a tiny closet while a tornado rips the roof off your house.
That’s the quick, almost instantaneous stuff. And then there’s droughts—months and years of little to no rain—that ravage the landscape and make life hell on earth for farmers.
That’s how The Grapes Of Wrath begins—right in the middle of one of the worst droughts in U.S. History, the Dust Bowl drought in the 1930s.
The drought trashed the crops and brought massive dust storms that ripped up soil and made it almost impossible to farm for years to come. That’s when “The Okies”—as they were derogatorily called—decided to pack up and move out.
I do my best to not give away the endings of the novels I’m reading on this blog.
We can talk about themes, symbolism, writing style, etc, etc, etc, without getting into the specifics of the ending.
With that said, SPOILER ALERT on today’s post about The Grapes Of Wrath. Really, this isn’t a huge spoiler. The ending makes no sense unless you’ve read the novel. It’s not like the entire Joad family gets eaten by coyotes or anything like that.
So all I want to do today is share with you the final passage of The Grapes of Wrath. If you’ve read the novel, you know that last paragraph is just weird–and a little graphic.
To set the stage, Rose of Sharon, who is recently pregnant and just lost a baby, and a few of the remaining Joads have found shelter in an old barn. Upon entering, they realize two men, obviously struggling and near death, have already occupied the abandoned barn.
So, without further nonsensical ramblings:
Who is that strange man? Where did he come from? Who photographed him?
Those are the questions that arose during my recent post about The Grapes of Wrath covers. I wondered if it might be Henry Fonda from the movie. Though there didn’t seem to be a movie tie-in with that particular cover, the guy kind of looked like Fonda.
Bba said it might be Tommy Lee Jones’ doppleganger. Yes, I see the resemblance. But then MutantSuperModel saved the day by posting this little tidbit of information she pulled from the web:
I love it when writers make up funny crap—especially when they create strange words.
Twice during this 101 Books journey, I’ve encountered the term “howling” used in a humorous way.
The first time was during David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. When a character had the “howling fantods,” they had the “creeps.” You might call it the “willies” or the “heebie jeebies.”
Here’s an example of the howling fantods in context from the novel:
This is how art works.
In 1939, John Steinbeck publishes The Grapes Of Wrath. You know all about that.
The novel wins The Pulitzer and sells a trillion copies.
Somewhere along the way, a guy named Bruce Springsteen reads the novel. He likes it–so much so that he decides to write a song inspired by it. In 1995, nearly 60 years after The Grapes Of Wrath was released, Springsteen releases an album that includes the song, “The Ghost Of Tom Joad.”
One of the things I love about The Grapes of Wrath? The dialogue.
It’s filled with slang and colloquialisms, and it can be difficult to read at times, but it feels right. I can hear the characters speaking when I read it. That’s much different than, say, Gone With the Wind–where the dialogue seemed over-the-top and goofy–and Neuromancer–where the dialogue seemed artificial and stilted.
Within conversations throughout The Grapes of Wrath, you’ll want to pay close attention to some of the word choices and terminology. Steinbeck included quite a few funny terms that I had never heard of before reading this book.
Some examples (with definitions from Clifs Notes):
The last few years in Nashville have been full of weather extremes.
In 2010, our city experienced what was called “The 1,000 Years Flood.” Around 14 inches of rain in two days soaked the ground and flooded The Cumberland and Harpeth Rivers, causing several people to lose their lives and thousands of people to lose their homes.
Last year was a ridiculous tornado season. And while we just missed the brutal tornadoes that ravaged Alabama last April, the threat of a serious tornado was a weekly event.
This summer, it’s just been hotter than an Eskimo in the Sahara. We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 straight days of 100 degrees or more, topping out with 109 degrees on one day, which was the highest temperature ever recorded in Nashville.
Anyway, all that to say, despite these crazy weather conditions, despite the heat and the rain and the tornadoes, I still have my home. I still have my job, my car, my family.
That’s a stark contrast to the insane weather phenomenon—the Dust Bowl drought—that inspired John Steinbeck’s The Grapes Of Wrath.