Mar

15

John SteinbeckJohn Steinbeck's East of Eden, which he considered his best novel and is autobiographical at age 43, has much wisdom about the market and life in it. I like the passages where he talks about fattening up the cow before the slaughter the way the father fattened him before having him inducted into the army after a beating by the Cain brother, and the part about his father missing Cain with a shot gun to get revenge thereby changing his life, which Steinbeck extends to say that every little thing you do like stepping on a twig affects everything else in your life, and also the part about 10 year cycles of rain in Salinas County which everyone forgets about selling out at the bottom or living high on the hog during the rain. Totally brilliant and O' Brian-esque albeit a little forced relative to O' Brian.

Kim Zussman adds:

Or when the father came up with the idea of packing lettuce in ice for shipment, only to receive news that the ice melted in the train and the lettuce spoiled anyway. Though he was financially ruined, he optimistically said

"One day someone will develop a way to ship refrigerated produce. It just won't be me."

Later the black sheep son made a fortune speculating on futures as war broke out in Europe. Thinking that repaying his father's debt would redeem him, he was disappointed when father regarded this as blood money which must be returned.

Stefan Jovanovich comments:

East of Eden is that rarest of all things– a great, great novel and movie both. As Kim knows, the father's own fortune came from his selective accountings for the monies collected by his Grand Army of the Republic veterans group (the American Legion, VFW and SEIU of its day which expanded the pension program for Union veterans–no Rebels– from the combat veterans to the children of the clerks who never left their desks). Steinbeck also adds the irony of the father, whose veteran constituents had all been volunteers, serving on the draft board and then finding his son's profits from selling to the British purchasing agent somehow tainted. 

Gregory van Kipnis adds:

But the greatest insight to me came from the discourse over the biblical debate about Cain and Abel. Was Cain fated to kill his brother "Thou shalt" or did he have choice: "Thou mayest." The search for a correct translation of the key Aramaic word 'timshel' led to the Chinese immigrant scholars. After much study they ultimately declared that 'timshel' meant that Cain had choice. 

Nigel Davies comments:

This is quite a widespread idea, but an alternative way of looking at this may be that the 'stepping on twigs' is relevant only in that it can reflect attitudes (personality traits) that affect broader and more vital issues. On its own it is irrelevant. 


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