Sunday 23 April 2023

Celebrating this weekend with books...

It’s April 23rd, which has long been considered William Shakespeare’s birthday.  It is also the anniversary of his death, and it’s World Book Day, too!  And what better way to celebrate than by writing a post about my favourite book?!

Last week I started reading a few books, but nothing caught my interest, so i decided that it was time to reread The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck, my favourite book of all time.  Here’s what I said about it in my April 3, 2016 post:

“... as it was just before Easter, I picked up my favourite book to reread, The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck.  Every year at this time, I have the urge to reread this book, as it opens with the main character waking up on Good Friday.  A significant portion of the book happens over the Easter weekend, when exchanges occur that drive the rest of the book’s events.  I didn’t read it last year, but this year, because I have much more free reading time, I indulged and enjoyed it as much this time as I did on every other reading.  As I wrote in an earlier post (February 23 2014), Steinbeck infuses this novel with so much wisdom, so many insightful comments on the "human condition", that I could write an essay about something pertinent he addresses on just about every page.  This novel tells the story of the loss of innocence of Ethan Allen Hawley, descendant of a proud New England family whose family once owned half of New Baytown but whose father, through bad advice and bad choices, lost everything, with the result that Ethan is now a clerk in a grocery store his family once owned.  This store is now owned by Alfio Marullo, a man who came from Sicily decades earlier, but is still considered a “foreigner”.  When one unusual occurrence is followed by another and yet another in rapid succession, Ethan is compelled to change himself, to dare himself to become what he thinks others want him to be, regardless of his innately strong moral fiber and his belief in personal truth and accountability.  It is the picture of small-town life, and the exploration of the dynamics that work behind the facades of even the most benign-looking settings and groups.  Ethan speaks directly to the reader, and we are drawn into the journey, the exploration, the insidious corruption that steals up on him and sends him spiraling downward, so that there is no specific point at which we can say, “Here is where he went wrong, here is the point at which he betrayed himself and finally achieved the status he thought he wanted, but at what cost?”  It is difficult to describe this book, because not much actually happens.  It deals more with the deterioration of one man’s soul to fulfill the expectations others have of him.  It is a cautionary tale that reminds readers to be careful what we wish for because we just might get it, and that sometimes the treasure we seek is already all around us.  For juvenile fiction, we would call this a “coming-of-age” novel, where we would refer to the “loss of innocence” of the main character.  I don’t know if there are comparable terms that refer to adult literature, since loss of innocence is generally associated with youth, and surely Ethan has already come of age by the time this story begins.  It was like Catcher in the Rye for adults - the reader wants him to hold on to the golden ring and not become corrupted, just as Holden Caulfield wants Phoebe to retain her childhood innocence.  I can’t praise this book enough.  Clearly, I would give it a 10 out of 10.”

And yes, I still feel this way about the book, but since I’ve read it many times before and know the general storyline, I could really focus on the details.  This novel looks at what it means to be a “Good Man”, (by this I mean person), and asks readers to consider whether one can really be a “Good Man” in today’s society and still be happy and successful. Is success necessary to achieve happiness? And how does one measure success, anyway? It explores morality, ethics and truth, friendship and family, and the struggles of one man to be true to his inner conscience while dealing with the external pressures coming at him from all sides.  This time around, though, I think I questioned whether Ethan was truly a “Good Man”, or whether he was just lazy up until the story began, maybe waiting for the right opportunity or circumstances, for he seemed to be remarkably adept at coming up with a plan and executing it to his fullest advantage.  If you’ve never read this book, I would highly recommend that you pick up a copy and immerse yourself in Ethan’s life for a while.

I also celebrated this weekend by going to the big Canadian Federation of University Women’s (CFUW) used book sale on Friday, the first book sale since before covid.  It was awesome!  I managed to find a few books I’ve never heard of that sounded intriguing, a couple of new books by authors that I’ve read before, a couple books for future book club meetings, and a couple books that I’ve read before but will likely want to reread at some point.  I didn’t spend as much time at the sale this year as usual, since I had previous commitments that conflicted with this event, but I introduced a coworker and fellow book lover to the sale (she left with a box of books!!)  

That’s all I’ve got for today.  Happy Birthday Shakespeare!  Happy World Book Day!  And Happy Birthday, Julie’s Reading Corner!!  (first post on April 21,2011)  Oh, and Happy (belated) Earth Day!!

Bye for now... Julie

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