Today I am home sick from work, so I am curling up with some old favorites and some new reads. As you may have picked out, I am a fan of fairy tales and folklore, so it should be no surprise that my sick day reading looks like this:
That’s the recently-published collection of Bavarian fairy tales, a newly acquired Propp, a Norton Critical Edition, and a Maria Tatar (my hero!). I think I will be kept thoroughly amused. I’ll probably do a more in-depth piece on each after I read them.
So I found this great old children’s book called Sketches of Little Boys. Despite the creepiness of that title to modern ears, it’s a delightful mid-19th century piece specifically for boys full of stories about good boys and bad boys.
The exact little boy in this story always puts things back where he found them, so when a valuable book is missed from the family library, Father is sure the boy did not lose it after reading it. Sure enough, an Uncle had borrowed the volume while the family was out, and everything works out nicely.
It apparently was part of a series put out by “Dean and Son, 31, Ludgate Hill, three doors west of Old Bailey,” and best as I can tell, was printed in the 1850s. I don’t know how it got to New Orleans, but I wish I could find more!
I love short stories, I love Neil Gaiman’s writing, and something has to break up the crushing reality of Steinbeck. It may seem odd to break up the struggle of life as a depression-era farm laborer with fantasy/horror, but it works for me. (And no, I haven’t finished Of Mice and Men. It’s only 100 pages or so, but it is really sad, okay?)
I’d already read his short story “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” (beautifully illustrated by Eddie Campbell) before I got this, but it fits nicely this collection. I’m not done with it yet (seeing as how I’m reading it concurrently with several other books), but my favorite story so far is “My Last Landlady.” It’s a wonderfully grim little bit of horror that I won’t spoil for you here.
No one needs me to tell them that Neil Gaiman is a brilliant writer. However, if you haven’t picked up Trigger Warnings yet and you like eerie stories, I’d highly recommend it.
Yesterday, I stopped by our favorite local bookstore and was lucky enough to pick up three beautiful vintage Penguin Steinbeck novels.
I read The Grapes of Wrath in high school, and it made a huge impression on me. I also had the opportunity last September to see the 1947 Mexican film La perla, directed by Emilio Fernández, which is based on The Pearl. So, I decided to start with the book I knew the least about, Of Mice and Men.
John Steinbeck’s characters are my favorite part of his writing. They’re wonderful, flawed, sympathetic, and relatable. Despite facing crushing poverty, cruelty, and prejudice, they constantly strive toward a better life and future. Steinbeck gives his characters hope and optimism and places them in an indifferent, uncaring world. I personally find that how the stories end is less important to me as a reader than how each character faces the obstacles thrown in the way.
I like George. He’s short-tempered and easily frustrated, but it is obvious that he cares about Lennie and tries his best to protect him. I like that he’s wary and cautious. I like his loyalty. There’s no question he’d be better off on his own, but he stays paired up with his friend.
I like Lennie. He may not be smart, but I enjoy him.
I like hope and optimism.
I’m not very far into the novel yet, but I know enough to realize Steinbeck didn’t write fairy tales. The good and pure of heart won’t triumph over cruelty and greed, but right now, George and Lennie are still looking forward to the rabbits.
What are you reading?