Saturday, 21 November 2009
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I came late to Steinbeck because somehow nobody had ever insisted that I read him. I suppose about ten years ago I read 'The Grapes of Wrath' and then 'East of Eden', and it was clear to me that Steinbeck wasn't very far off the Tolstoyan peaks. Like Tolstoy, indeed, he is concerned with the great sweep of history, and like Tolstoy again he is concerned even more with the lives of individuals. "Of Mice and Men' has the power of Greek tragedy. Its lucidity and its fearlessness (Steinbeck does not run away from the edge of sentimentality or from simple meanings) are exemplary. I believe it is a book full of writerly lessons in construction and economy - less is more. The attempt in schools to turn it into a sociological tract would have appalled the author. This is a work of mythic scale.