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Bloganuary ‘23, Day 21: Wherever A Bavarian Is Not Quite Full

A clearly photoshopped picture of John Steinbeck and Stephen Graham Jones fighting with katanas

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?

January 21st:
Who Is Your Favorite Author And Why?

(Obligatory reminder to subscribe to my once-monthly newsletter here, which rounds up everything I wrote in the preceding month and includes a piece of exclusive bonus content I will NEVER repost anywhere else, ever!)

I think most people would struggle to give a definitive answer to this, because most people are cowards who lack conviction and fear commitment.

Listen if I don’t take that ring, Rascal will be MORE than happy to relieve me of it, just like he did to Sterling’s sister; what can he say, he’s a romantic, and God gave him hands but not shame

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:

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.

–The Bageler


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