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East of Eden (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) Paperback – October 1, 1992
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—The New York Herald Tribune
"A fantasia and myth...a strange and original work of art."
—The New York Times Book Review
"A moving, crying pageant with wilderness strengths."
About the Author
John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).
After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942).Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright(1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961),Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata!(1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.
Top Customer Reviews
Try, however, to always approach a book or movie, however much it has been praised, as any other. Simply pick it up and read it without any expectations. This is how I read it, and gosh, was I pleasantly surprised.
The characters are people I wish I could know personally--especially Samuel, I wished I could be one of his many children just to have him as a father; Lee, so taciturn yet wise and always there, such a comfort to have and know such a person; and Caleb, whom we tend to identify with in so many ways.
True, the story might have extremes, and be predictable if you were able to keep yourself so uninvolved in the story. Those who commented on the 'plot', perhaps such a book is not what you ought to read. Pick up a Grisham or some other fast-paced 'plotty' book.
East of Eden is for those who think, who care about who they are and who they want to be or ought to have been. People have talked of its being depressing. It's not. I hate depressing books myself. At least it's not a meaningless depression in which you can't identify with the story at all, but it simply sucks you down. This book made me cry at many points--from empathy or sympathy for the characters, from the beauty of the language, and from appreciating the wisdom in it.
I admire passages, descriptions, dialogues so much in this book that I re-read them, and re-read the entire novel already, and may do so again. I'm not the kind who likes to re-read books either. There's simply so much wisdom and simplicity and reassurance in here that it's a treasure--for me, at least. I think I'm lucky to have a book that means so much to me.
Any one who comes to the novel from the famous film adaptation starring James Dean will be surprized, for the roots of the novel run much deeper than the film, which is based only on perhaps a third of the novel. This is not so much the story of brothers Aaron and Caleb Trask as it is the story of their parents, Adam Trask and Catherine Ames. And in "Cathy" Ames, Steinbeck creates one of the darkest characters in all of 20th Century American Literature, a creature devoid of virtually anything recognizable as human emotion. Fleeing from a past that includes murder, perversion, blackmail, and prostitution, Cathy assumes an angelic demeanor and lures the emotionally needy Adam Trask into love and marriage. And when she no longer requires his protection... she destroys him.Read more ›
Adam Trask, from the first set of brothers, repeats his own story with his sons, the twins Aron and Caleb. The enduring themes of light vs. dark, good vs. evil, hatred vs. love, and always the free will, the ability to choose one's own destiny are paramount to this rich and multi-layered tale.
Above all, it is the characters you will long remember from this riveting saga. Cathy, the whore with a heart of stone, has to be one of the most evil characters in all literature. She kills her parents, beds her husband's brother on her wedding night, shoots her husband and desserts her infant sons. And, all this before she turns really bad! Truly a character to be analyzed for decades to come. On the other hand there are the wonderful characters of Samuel and Lee, men you will long remember for their wisdom, caring, and sheer goodness. And there is Adam, a zombie of a man until his great re-birth and spectacular failure finds him caught in a web of good and evil that he will long struggle with.
John Steinbeck puts himself into the novel, as Samuel Hamilton is based on his own maternal grandfather. The entire Hamilton clan is one that represents the true "salt of the earth" and elevates this to "great American novel" stature.
The story is complex and involving, the characters unforgettable. Kudos to Oprah for reviving interest in this wonderful story.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Steinbeck's descriptions of both human and mother nature are comfort food for the soul. The book touches on hard life truths, but in a matter-of-fact way that is neither didactic... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Amazon Customer
This was a long, slow story. Steinbeck created several complex and interesting characters, but the end was just to bland for me. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Christopher Allen Miller
Great read, full of awesome imagery, scenery description and steinbecks understanding of human emotion and mindset is fascinating. Must readPublished 4 days ago
This is a classic and a joy to read. Steinbeck is eloquent and expresses the nuances of the human condition with such love and grace. A joy to read agian and again.....Published 5 days ago by Kim
It's true that John Steinbeck was not perfect. No writer is. However, for me, this will always be one of my most favorite works of literature. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Jordan Aleman
One of my all time favorites. One of those books you can't put down, and when you have to; can't wait to pick back up.Published 10 days ago by Jacob Clapham