Every now and then, I forget what love is.
Then, I plunge into a piece of life to emerge weeping and reeling from my intensely close encounter with humanity. And I immediately recall that gut-wrenching passion bound with a self-sacrificing loyalty that passes for a more tangible version of that romanticized emotion.
This week, that artistry was none other than the work of John Steinbeck.
Chaucer claims that there is "nothing new under the sun." Everything that is written has been written before and will be re-written until mankind gives up that false sense of pride that comes from the spark of an allegedly novel idea. This reality provides an imminent danger for a man who attempts to tell a story that has been told throughout generations since the beginning of time, literally. However, in East of Eden, Steinbeck re-creates that narrative, so ingrained in our ancestry - giving new life to those images tattooed on our souls.
Steinbeck is a master of the fine arts. He does not rely on exciting plot lines or flashy word choice. He does not cater to the new generation of overstimulated youth who require a dominant voice or image to get through the constant noise and distraction. Steinbeck's voice is soft-spoken, but firm. A storyteller who knows that his words carry weight and promise, he paints a complete, detailed picture and walks the reader through this parallel universe that resembles our own just enough to draw us in completely.
Recalling the sentiments of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude, we follow the Trask and Hamilton families through births, deaths, and the existential crises that inevitably come in between. Steinbeck explores and re-defines the boundaries of what we consider "family," as well as how we respond to the blood that runs through our veins. We slowly tear apart and rebuild our conceptions of virtue as we decide if any story with substance and complexity can justify outward displays of malice. Steinbeck's portrayal of a brother's sincere pursuit of affirmation leaves the reader at the beginning of an introspective journey through one's own essential struggle with the immense potential for both good and evil that are deeply inherent in all of us. We are candidly reminded that we live every day at the crossroads of surrender to or redemption from an elusive evil that we will never truly be free of. And so we continue, each day, making conscious choices and determining our own destiny, because "we may."