Saturday, September 27, 2008

To read things that are whole, and beautiful, and sometimes heart wrenching.

To read them by myself among strangers—on a bus or on a train, or waiting for a bus, or waiting for a train—alone yet not alone. I do this everyday.

When I first came to Boston I was rereading the History of Love. (I first read it because of Sam Dickens). I needed to read something familiar, to be comforted by words that were not altogether new when everything else around me was. I carried that book with me everywhere, and felt braver somehow, and more like me, even on the days when I was lost. As I reread the words I remembered why they first touched me so deeply. It came down to the humanness of it, the text and its characters which seem so true and rich, because of their beauty but also their pain.

Most recently I finished East of Eden. I bought it one day when I was with Elizabeth and Max. Elizabeth told me how much she loves it, and I was sold. While this book broke my heart, and made me sob uncontrollably at the end, it also left me feeling inspired, in humanity and in general. She told me this would happen, and was right. Completely, completely right. I found the writing to be beautiful and compelling, which was none too surprising. The characters here are also so full and moving in their breadth. I loved Samuel and Lee for how kind they both were, and how compassionate, and how wise, but I loved Cal the most. I loved him for his personal discovery of something that William Jame's also knew and wrote about, that “the freedom of the will is true.”

I love the conversation Cal had with Lee, when this discovery was made, when he realized that he didn't have to be his mother. He didn't have to be mean like her, and even if he was mean, it would be his own mean, of his own choosing and making. Even in that meanness then, there is freedom. Its that principle of agency that allows us to not only be human but to become like God.

I love Abra for her warm personality and because she also struggles but makes choices to love, and care, and be genuine. I love that she and Cal both have a good and an evil, because their dual nature is what makes them normal--like humans and like me. And then there is Kate, who is portrayed as something less than human because she seems without a heart, but even still, Steinbeck is not without some measure of compassion. It was interesting as we learned how hurt Kate really was, as a child and even later, and thus how lonely and how afraid. It doesn't make the things she did better, but helps us understand, if only somewhat. I am immensely grateful that I read this book, and so grateful to Elizabeth for recommending it to me with such passion and ardor.

The next book that I have begun to read, but not yet tackle is No Country For Old Men. A gift given to me by Evan the day I left Provo. I have also read a few pages of another book recommended by Elizabeth called Drown. It's by one of her favorite authors: Junot Diaz. We heard him speak last Thursday at MIT, with her friend Lisa, who is now also my friend.


Lisa H. said...

i hope you're liking drown. i'm so happy i found your blog.

Thirdmango said...

You should read the Scott Pilgrim book, it's brilliance.

Ashley said...

You've convinced me. I want to read "East of Eden" now, too.

Jendar said...

so... why did i not know that you had a blog? i love this post. im happy to know that despite been busy with school and your new life, you are still finding time to read. i am doing the same. ive already read like four books since arriving to nyc. and i just bought a few online. i really want to read No County for Old Men. I havent yet seen the movie, because i want to read the book first. so i better hurry. love ya and see you soon!

Stephen said...

I've a nephew at MIT. I'm glad to know that there are things there that his wife would enjoy.

He is a great kid, thanks for the essay about the place he is living now, as I've never been there.

The Dancing Newt said...

I miss you I miss you and I can hear you talking when you type!