Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Steinbeck Country




I had occassion to read "Of Mice and Men" again over the weekend. The story of George and Lennie is truly gut wrenching and in my opinion, Steinbecks finest. Reading Steinbeck always puts me in mind of the dusty Salinas Valley town where I was born and spent my early years.

I remember the dry summer heat. I remember Dad carrying me thru the county fair. I remember the cool water, the smell of chlorine and the rubber swim caps all females were expected to wear at the plunge. I remember Dad taking us to the movie theater to see a 3 Stooges movie because the theater was "refrigerated". I remember falling out of the walnut tree in the back yard where we had a "fort". I remember Dad building a BBQ pit and the smell of the scrub oak he used to fire it. The house seemed huge, but after seeing it in later years, I know it was not more than 1200 sq ft. We left there on my 5th birthday and today as I turn 53, the fragments of memory from that time are still powerful.

I wonder what snippets of their childhood my daughters will remember when they are my age?

17 comments:

Murf said...

That is one of my favorite books although I haven't managed to watch the more recent version of the movie because I can't see John Malkovich as 'Lenny'. Gary Sinise as 'George' is perfect though.

anchovy said...

Isn't it fun to return to the classics? Steinbeck is one of those authors that can be enjoyed at so many levels. The deeper you dig into the symbology the richer the experience, but the novels also read with a beguiling simplicity, maybe not unlike the towns and people he wrote about. Definitely one of my favorite American authors and definitely one of his best works, maybe second to the epic Grapes of Wrath. Incidentally, I'm trying to get through Bleak House by Dickens this weekend. I'll be lucky to finish half of it.

Those memories you describe are gems. We all have are own and I'm glad you shared yours. :-)

Oh, and murf, Do check out the movie. It's excellent!

Grant said...

Do you get to tend the rabbits now?

Ed Abbey said...

One of my favorite singers sang, "Memories, they can't be boughten. Can't be why the carnival's for free." I love old memories like that. They seem to be like wine and get better with age.

mal said...

murf- you are dead on, about as well cast as you could want.

Little Fish- Dickens? you are stronger than me by far. "Great Expectations" did me in. You are right though, the classics are the yardstick creative works

Grant-mmmmmm should we start the "Dead Bunny Society"?

Ed- they do. I just fear losing them forever and I am somewhat sad that we can never really pass on the gestalt of the memory

Fred said...

I wonder about the same thing, Mal. Every time I raise my voice to them, I retreat to my room, wonder if I made a mistake, then hope they'll remember that I tried to help.

Liz said...

I love Steinbeck! Tortila Flat is my favorite. Have you ever thought of going back for a visit? Sounds like it would bring even more of those memories back to you.

Senor Caiman said...

I just love wathin the Three Stooges.

Fantastagirl said...

I wonder that about my kids too... I'm always afraid that we don't do enough...

mal said...

Fred- those are other stories, but I think if we have not overdone it, the memory fades and hopefully the lesson sticks

Liz- We still have family friends there. I was in LA for a visit a few years ago (03) when one of them died. I drove my parents up there for the funeral. In many ways it has changed, in others, it is much the same. Tortilla flats is especially poignant for the Salinas Valley

Mr Gator- yup they are funnier now then they were when I was 4. I think it was "have spaceship, will travel"

Fantasta- as long as we are parents, I think we will worry about that

Murf said...

"...the gestalt of the memory."

Great line, Mal! I had to look 'gestalt' up. I'm now officially adding it to my vocabulary.

Sheri Madison said...

Happy (belated) Birthday. Gonna have to put that date in my calendar. No wonder you were looking to get out Thur nite *s*

Notsocranky Yankee said...

I bet your daughters will remember many things you will have forgotten. My kids are already recounting memories of events I barely recall, or I should say, don't stand out to me. It's funny how that works!

Jessica said...

I think sometimes memories solidify around the stories that we retell, like a pearl growing from a piece of sand. With my grandmother aging and relatives struggling with Alzheimer's, I think the importance of telling stories can't be overrated. Even more important than the memory itself.

sage said...

happy 53! I only have 5 months before crossing that 5-0 mark. I like Steinbeck and think Grapes of Wrath is one of the best novels published by an American

Saur♥Kraut said...

Isn't it funny how we remember certain things and not others? No one really knows why, either. Sometimes it seems like such a random moment to get stuck in our heads, but usually a strong emotion accompanied it at the time. One of my faves is of my dad and I laying out in the grass, watching clouds.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

A big Steinbeck fan here, and OF MICE AND MEN is clearly one of my favorites.

Personally, I think if you like a book enough, it should be read at least once a year to see how our perspectives change.

Be well.