TODAY IS MY FATHER’S ONE MILLIONTH OR SOMETHING BIRTHDAY, and he did not require surgery for his TERRIBLE GRIPPER-GOUGE after all. We are very grateful. THIS HAS BEEN AN UPDAD-DATE. What’s updad, you might ask? Not much, sport, what’s up with you?
Who Is Your Favorite Author And Why?
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I think most people would struggle to give a definitive answer to this, because most people are cowards who lack conviction and fear commitment.
I kid, I kid, it’s a tough question and depends on a lot of variables, but if I had to pick ONE author who I felt most out something like my heart on the page, it would—at the risk of sounding more pretentious than that time I claimed drinking Fresca was class warfare—have to be John Steinbeck.
Plenty of other authors—authors I love!—do plenty of things better than Steinbeck did (dude’s “ongoing” Le Mort d’Arthur coffee shop AU fanfic, Lancelatte, hasn’t been updated since 1968 🙄⌚️👀), and I can’t even claim to be fluent in the entirety of his canon, but as far as I’m concerned East Of Eden, The Grapes Of Wrath, Of Mice And Men, The Winter Of Our Discontent, and most especially Cannery Row, Travels With Charley, and Tortilla Flat sum up just about everything there is to say about being a human and about living in America writ large up to 1960 or so. (I would actually say well past 1960 given that America’s racist, poor-hating, deeply sad bones haven’t moved an inch since then, but I can’t and won’t speak for the dead, that’s Andrew Wiggin’s turf.)
Like many, Steinbeck was also my first introduction to socialist thought, not in a Memes To Radicalize Your Friends Way but in a “destroying oranges to keep their price stable instead of letting famine-ruined people eat them is capitalism working as intended” way. Naturally his work isn’t a full course in the subject, but it’s impossible to read about the Joads and hundreds of thousands of other families losing their farms to predatory banks during the starvingest period in American history without your needle being pushed at least a few ticks to the left. The sociopolitical landscape has shifted somewhat since then, but any suggestion designed to benefit humans instead of drawing a dollar for the Company still gets you called a “Red” and may or may not get your shit kicked in by Pinkertons depending on how the next big strike goes.
Brief aside: I had a friendly fight about this with my pal Autumn, and delivered the single sickest burn I’ve ever inflicted on someone I love:
In closing, here are some central lessons I’ve cobbled together for myself from Steinbeck’s work; these are just for me and I don’t submit that they’re for everyone or the True Meaning behind his work or anything:
- A good man who falls from grace is often actually just a bad man who didn’t have the sand to do anything until now. (The Winter Of Our Discontent, which I do NOT read as a tragedy, at least not the way your English teacher wanted you to. See also: Breaking Bad.)
- Trauma is a virus; it replicates inside its host until it’s ready to disperse, which causes the host to act in ways that spread the infection and begin the cycle again in fresh ecosystems. (East Of Eden)
- Hunting is not a sin; something was going to get that deer eventually and most likely it would not be anywhere near as fast and kind as a bullet, but if you’re going to take a life, you had better put it to use. (Travels With Charley; I am not a huntsman myself but, when done rightly and honorably, I now consider it part of the Carnivore’s Burden instead of machismo-fueling barbarism.)
- A person’s right to take their own life is sacred and inviolable, but doing so has consequences beyond the limits of the action, and the impact on others cannot be dismissed. (Cannery Row)
- Lives of glory end suddenly and tragically, and a person should not strive for more than they can bear. (Tortilla Flat; in Danny’s case ‘more than he could bear’ was ‘inheriting a shack and suddenly being a rich man by the standards of the town’ because the book is a comedy, but the central message—-that the bad kind of ambition will destroy you and contentment is the path the peace—-is as strong here as it is in a Coen Brothers or Hellraiser picture.)
- Evil is very often banal and stupid and boring, which is what allows it to insinuate itself into the systems that run our lives and establish “the way things work” in its favor. We have no recourse but to wrest the position that establishes those norms from the claws of faceless entities and build a world for humans. LABORERS OF THE WORLD UNITE, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR CHAINS. I AM NOT BEING FUNNY OR IRONIC, THE ORGANIZATION OF LABOR IS THE ONLY THING THAT WILL SAVE THE CITIZENRY FROM BEING A PRODUCT FOR MONSTERS TO BUY AND CONSUME IN THEIR MANSIONS AND BOARDROOMS. (The Grapes Of Wrath)
I am sorry that things got shouty, but I am not sorry for the things that I shouted. Unionize if you are able to, do your job in such a way as to dupe the Man and benefit the People as much as possible if you aren’t. Unions aren’t perfect, but they’re the best option we have and the only reason you have a weekend, an 8-hour workday, or health benefits and your children aren’t dying in the dark in a fucking uranium mine.
And now if you’ll excuse me, it is my dad’s birthday, so I’m off to leave a frosty Corona and blackberry Hostess fruit pie in the garage, put a very specific selection of Zeppelin songs in the hopper, and hope I can tempt the jolly old elf from his convalescence.