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Next Up: The Grapes Of Wrath

Classic. Classic. Classic.

If I was going to pick one novel that epitomized what a top 100 novels list should be, The Grapes of Wrath might be it.

This is brilliant literature, and I’m beyond excited to dive into it again. This is one of the five you guys selected in a recent vote on the blog.

In brief, The Grapes of Wrath is the story of the Joad family—a hard-working Oklahoma farming family in the Great Depression who, because of bad crops and government tractors that will run over people, is driven out of their homes.

With nowhere else in the Midwestern “Dust Bowl” to find work, they load up in a crappy, old car—all dozen or so of them—and drive to California to find work in the fields of abundant fruit.

A few quick facts about The Grapes of Wrath and its author, the legendary John Steinbeck:

  • Published in 1939, the novel won the 1940 Pulitzer and National Book Award.
  • The title, which was suggested by Steinbeck’s wife, comes from a verse in the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
  • The novel sold 439,000 copies in 1939 and has sold around 15 million copies, including 100,000 each year.
  • An opera, yes an opera, based on The Grapes of Wrath was performed in 2007 by the Minnesota Opera. An opera.
  • Bruce Springsteen named his 11th studio album, “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”
  • The Grapes of Wrath is one of the most controversial and banned books in the history of American literature. It’s been burned many times.
  • The novel was turned into a film starring Henry Fonda in 1940.
  • Steinbeck authored 16 novels, 6 nonfiction books, and 5 short story collections. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.
  • He passed away in 1968, at the age of 66.

What did Time Magazine say?

The Joads find only bitterness, squalor and oppression as migrant agricultural workers living in “Hoovervilles,” but their indomitable strength in the face of an entire continent’s worth of adversity makes Steinbeck’s epic far more than a history of unfortunate events: It’s both a record of its time and a permanent monument to human perseverance.

The Grapes Of Wrath is literary realism at its finest. Some creative blogger could probably write a daily blog about this novel alone, so I shouldn’t have any problem coming up with content for 101 Books over the next few weeks.

I can’t wait to dig deeper into this novel. Come along with me on this one.

*Unrelated to today’s post: I was featured on Writers on Reading yesterday, a great weekly blog. Check out the interview

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23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Matt #

    Love this book. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

    Like

    August 2, 2012
  2. Great book–can’t wait to hear what you think.

    Like

    August 2, 2012
  3. Teresa #

    Haven’t read this one. Maybe I’ll give it a try.

    Like

    August 2, 2012
    • You haven’t read it? I’m shocked! I thought you had read everything!

      Liked by 1 person

      August 2, 2012
  4. This is actually next on my to-read list!

    Like

    August 2, 2012
  5. A great book…and yet. Let’s be clear, Grapes is also a political polemic, a Socialist populist diatribe against capitalism that more recently found (an ineffective) voice in the “Occupy” movement.

    That’s not to say, of course, that capitalism isn’t without it’s flaws in its execution; of course it is. Steinbeck makes sure you see and feel every one of those flaws as they existed during the Great Depression, while the Joads are the sainted and (in the end) saintly noble innocents, particularly in Rose of Sharon’s final act, which I won’t reveal for those who haven’t read the book. That act is a stunner, and, like much else that happens in the book, highly symbolic. Without the symbolism, though, the book’s ending can be highly unsatisfying because the book doesn’t really end–there’s no resolution (a very post-Modern technique)–but just stops.

    Robert, you haven’t liked some of the lecturing other authors inflicted on you. Brace yourself for more. More skilfully done, to be sure, but hectoring nonetheless.

    Like

    August 2, 2012
    • I hear you. I’ve read it and I was much younger, but I vaguely remember the socialist theme. The question is whether I can overcome the preaching and appreciate it for what it is.

      Like

      August 2, 2012
  6. If you’re not on Google+ yet, this may be the PERFECT time to jump on board. There’s a Book Club on there and they’re doing Grapes of Wrath this month with a Hangout to discuss the book on August 12
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/107103909655175004746/posts

    Like

    August 2, 2012
    • I’m not on Google Plus! I don’t know if I can handle another social network, but I may look into it. Thanks!

      Like

      August 2, 2012
  7. I’d probably put it very near the top of my list. Re-read it about a year ago & was blown away by how modern the style felt. The politics are only half the pleasure. He really went out on a limb when he write it & got a lot of flak for doing so. Looking forward to yr comments.

    Like

    August 2, 2012
  8. Matt #

    How many of you have read Steinbeck’s “East of Eden”? I had always believed “Grapes of Wrath” to be Steinbeck’s masterpiece until I read EOE. It’s an amazing achievement.

    Like

    August 2, 2012
    • I’ve heard many people say the same thing. I’m very intrigued by East of Eden.

      Like

      August 2, 2012
  9. Oh, I’ve already read this one last year. I hope you appreciate the chapter structure and arrangement. I think that’s one of the strongest elements of the novel. It gives a cinematic feel to it.

    Like

    August 2, 2012
    • Yes. I like the switching back and forth from the movement as a whole to the Joads. Already noticing that. I really love the chapter with the car salesman. Seems like used car guys were using the same tricks 70 years ago.

      Like

      August 3, 2012
  10. Thanks for the shoutout Robert.

    You should definitely read East of Eden. If it’s not my favorite book of all time, it’s very close. (In case you’re wondering, the other two contenders are A Tale of Two Cities and The Count of Monte Cristo).

    Although I read Grapes in high school, I didn’t get turned onto Steinbeck until a few years ago, when I read East of Eden. About a month ago I read through his Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. It wasn’t supposed to be published, but it’s rich with insight into his writing and his life. After finishing that, I bought his earliest works as well as an Infinite Jest-sized biography about him. In November I’ll be going to Cannery Row as part of my vacation.

    I’ll be anxious to read your thoughts about Grapes.

    Like

    August 2, 2012
  11. just read this book last month and I loved it! East of Eden in next on my list…

    Like

    August 3, 2012
  12. The flak Steinbeck received for this one pushed him to go out and write one of his smaller and what he took to be, less serious, books, Cannery Row — a helter skelter portrait of a few people in Monterrey. I just finished Cannery Row and read Grapes of Wrath a few years ago. The difference in tone and delivery is pretty astounding.
    Hope you enjoy this read!

    Like

    August 3, 2012
  13. Love this book, but East of Eden and The Winter of Our Discontent are my favorite Steinbeck novels. I highly recommend reading both.

    Like

    August 3, 2012
  14. I was so angry when I read this book. Angry that I had wasted 30 years of my life NOT having read it. Why was it never assigned reading? Why did I think Steinbeck = Of Mice and Men, The Pearl (that one WAS assigned) and that’s it?

    This is probably my favourite read of 2011. It’s perfect. I was pregnant while reading, and Rosasharn’s story was so difficult to read. I realize a lot of it was symbolic, but it was tearing me up to think about what she endured. My jaw literally dropped in the final scene. Just sublime!

    Really looking forward to you posts on this book!

    Like

    August 3, 2012
  15. Beautiful book!
    And it should put all this talk about “worst recession since the 1930s” in perspective.

    Like

    August 5, 2012
  16. Reblogged this on .

    Liked by 1 person

    August 2, 2016
  17. Yes you ox.

    Like

    August 2, 2016
  18. Like

    August 2, 2016

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