Thursday, May 15, 2014

John Steinbeck's Winter of Our Discontent

I read a lesser known Steinbeck work, Winter of Our Discontent, when I was about fourteen, far too young to comprehend the spurns and turns that can bring a man to unleash greed and trade his good name for material return. Now, after fifty more years of experience, I still don’t comprehend wholesale self-slaughter for short-term, personal gain, but I’ve witnessed plenty of it. The lives of Ken Lay, Bernie Madoff, Jordan Belfort, President Richard M. Nixon, and a few less famous folk attest to the Siren’s Song of money and fame.

Photo by Al Griffin
Time and winds that blow chill had to mark me before I could fully appreciate the sorrow explored in Winter of Our Discontent. Let that stand as a lesson to us all: we encounter stories and tales before we need them, and we may need to revisit them in order to receive their gifts.

As Gabrielle Zevin observes through her character, A. J. Fikry, in The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

“…me-also-thinks my latter-day reaction speaks to the necessity of encountering 
stories at precisely the right time in our lives. Remember, Maya: the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life” (Zevin, Gabrielle. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014. Kindle Ed.)

So read and read again. Choose favorite works and return to them in every decade of your life. Let them live anew through the new perceptions you have acquired in the intervening years.

Reading Challenge:

Read one book you haven’t read in at least ten years.

Writing Challenge:

Compare and contrast the insights you had about a book when you first read it to those you now have upon re-reading it.