I have now read 4 Steinbecks: The Pearl, a book I read too soon at school and never appreciated; the blockbusters East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath, both of which I read in my early twenties; now this. He is a wonderful writer and I should read more and more!
Lenny, big and stupid, and George, small and clever, make a most unlikely pair but George is Lenny's protector in the world, getting him out of all the trouble Lenny gets into. The other characters: self-possessed and astute Slim, the mean little feller Curly, Curly's wife (jailbait), Candy the old fellow, Crooks the crippled negro stable buck make a perfect cast. Men who have no future; men who only dreams. The writing is lean and elegant; the descriptions poignant and placed so that there are breathing places in the thriller dance. There is nothing in the plot that doesn't contribute to the terrible climax.
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_Mice_and_Men) points out that every character has a dream (although as Burns said "The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley"). They have these dreams because they are lonely: "Candy is lonely after his dog is gone. Curley's wife is lonely because her husband is not the friend she hoped for —- she deals with her loneliness by flirting with the men on the ranch, which causes Curley to increase his abusiveness and jealousy. The companionship of George and Lennie is the result of loneliness. Crooks states the theme candidly as "A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you." .... The author further reinforces this theme through subtle methods by situating the story near the town of Soledad, which means "solitude" in Spanish."
Of Mice and Men reads like a play and is structured in 3 'acts' each of two 'scenes': certainly the first pages are like stage directions, first describing the scenery before the two mian characters appear on stage.
Tiny but perfect.
February 2010; 121 pages
Also reviewed on this blog the tiny but perfect, haunting and elegiac Cannery Row by the same author.
Books and plays written by Nobel Laureates that I have reviewed in this blog include:
- Thomas Mann (1929) Death in Venice
- Hermann Hesse (1946) Steppenwolf and Demian
- Andre Gide (1947) The Immoralist and Strait is the Gate and The Vatican Cellars
- William Faulkner (1949) Sanctuary and As I Lay Dying
- Albert Camus (1957) The Plague and The Outsider and The Myth of Sisyphus and The Fall
- John Steinbeck (1962) Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row
- Samuel Beckett (1969) "The Expelled; The Calmative; The End & First Love" and "Waiting for Godot"
- Heinrich Boll (1972) The Train was on Time
- Saul Bellow (1976) "The Victim"
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982) Chronicle of a Death Foretold
- Doris Lessing (2007) The Golden Notebook
- Patrick Modiano (2014) The Black Notebook
- Kazuo Ishiguro (2017) When We Were Orphans and The Buried Giant