“Sweet Thursday” by John Steinbeck
(First publication: 1954 / This edition: Penguin Modern Classics 2000)
Taken while grabbing Starbucks before work
No one knows how greatness comes to man. It may lie in his blackness, sleeping, or it may lance into him like those driven fiery particles from outer space. These things, however, are known about greatness: need gives it life and puts it in action; it never comes without pain; it leaves a man changed, chastened, and exalted at the same time—he can never return to simplicity. (pg.243)
I claim 2015 as My Year of Steinbeck. My literary life changed and my life changed, literally, because of Steinbeck’s works. I fell in love with his book “Cannery Row” a few months back, and thus, had to get this one as well—its sequel.
It’s back at Cannery Row, with more or less the same characters—after the war, so some are gone and some are new. It still has the same vibes— of a group of bums trying to figure out their lives, but at the same time, they’re content with their simplicity and just living day by day, of Doc who’s busybusybusy all the time and is so loved and care for by everyone in the community, and of the girls in the brothel. The dynamics of the people and the atmosphere are still the same—it’s what you can expect to read about after you’ve read “Cannery Row”.
I feel that the depth of the story is just not as great as what I experienced in “Cannery Row”. “Cannery Row” gave me this philosophical look on life, in a humorous way. “Sweet Thursday” is still humorous, but it’s just more dramatic and soap-opera-ish. It’s a bit more cheesy and more predictable, and not what I was hoping for when reading Steinbeck (even though he always exceeds my expectations).
I still really enjoyed it though. It’s really different from all the Steinbecks, but it’s just so funny. As I’ve said before (in the post from “Cannery Row”), I freaking love Steinbeck’s sense of humor. It’s not slapstick humor and it’s not cheesy humor. It’s little hints of humor that you just have to catch. For example, one of the characters writes a book called “The Pi Root of Oedipus”. Each character just seems to have their own quirkiness and when taken as a whole, it just makes the story a masterpiece.
If you’ve read “Cannery Row”, you need to read this. 🙂
Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there’s time, the bastard Time. The end of life is now not so terribly far away—you can see it the way you see the finish line when you come into the stretch—and your mind says, “Have I worked enough? Have I eaten enough? Have I loved enough?” All of these, of course, are the foundations of man’s greatest curse, and perhaps his greatest glory. “What has my life meant so far, and what can it mean in the time left to me?” Ad now we’re coming to the wicked, poisoned dart: “What have I contributed in the Great Ledger? What am I worth?” And this isn’t vanity or ambition. Men seem to be born with a debt they can never pay no matter how hard they try. It piles up ahead of them. Man owns something to man. If he ignores the debt it poisons him, and if he tries to make payments the debt only increases, and the quality of his gift is the measure of the man. (pg. 19-20)
“Woman and women is two different things. Guy knows all about women he don’t know nothing about a woman.” (pg.101)
“Don’t you even have the decency to have a hangover?” “(pg.173)