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Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 8:47 PM

What I Didn't Read

Junior high is such an odd period in life. When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I had two favorite authors, Stephen King and John Steinbeck. I know, I can't really see much common ground between them, either. The weird thing about me and Steinbeck is I never read anything the rest of the world reads. Never read Cannery Row, or Of Mice and Men, or East of Eden. What I did read was The Wayward Bus and Travels with Charley. Unlike most books, I read Travels with Charley several times. I think I had to read The Moon Is Down for an English class at some point. This summer, I stopped by a church rummage sale and looked through the books because I cannot help myself. I found Sweet Thursday.

I can see why it's not on high school reading lists across the country. Among other things, it may have something to do with the highly entertaining aside about growing marijuana on government property in Los Angeles. This novel is not heavy like the other ones that made him famous. There is respite for those of you who find pages and pages or landscape description tedious. The ending is fairly predictable, though I suppose most happy endings are.

The setting is Cannery Row. The cast of characters include the eccentric Doc, Fauna the madam of the local brothel, and Suzy, who's new to the neighborhood and just got a job at said local brothel. There is also a whole cast of colorful supporting characters. The crux of the plot is that ol' Doc is going through a midlife crisis and everybody in Cannery Row thinks it is their bound duty to cure him of his malaise. The plot is alright, it works. What's entertaining are the tangents concerning the side characters. For instance, there is Jesus and Mary, the owner of the general store in town, who figures there has to be a way to cheat at chess, and eventually comes to the conclusion that honesty just might be a good way to scam people. The trials and tribulations of the inhabitants at the Palace Flophouse are also good for a laugh.

The thing with "literature" is that it is wrought with grand themes about what it means to be human. It makes the reader assess one's place in the world, one's ideologies and assumptions, the relationship between society and the individual and so on and so forth. Not that there's anything wrong with those things. I find reading these sorts of things is generally a good practice, and it adds to my understanding of the world. I enjoy well written pieces, but am not always interested in high drama and big questions. Sweet Thursday is a good answer to that sort of mood. It's literature lite; good enough not to make you ashamed to be reading it in an artsy-fartsy coffee shop, but mindless enough to let your brain go on vacation for a few days.

Now all I have to do is figure out what the next Steinbeck novel is I should read that no one's ever heard of so I can be really pretentious and esoteric at the coffee shop.

By adriennelibrarian at 8:47 PM

Blogger Shaw Israel Izikson said...

Why can't just read On The Road like every other coffee shop hipster? You'll blend in better with that kind of rebellious spirit  

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Blogger adriennelibrarian said...

Yeah, but everybody reads On the Road. That's much too pedestrian. One can only be truly interesting and unique reading things nobody's ever read, seeing art nobody's ever seen, watching films nobody's ever seen, a la King Missile's "Sensitive Artist."  

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Blogger Shaw Israel Izikson said...

I sat through Howard the Duck TWICE IN THE THEATERS as a kid. Does this mean I'm truly interesting?  

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