Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)

I read this little book in an hour and a half. I like short books, they have such a high joy to time-investment ratio.

The book's title is a quote from one of Burns' most famous poems, To a Mouse, (also where we get saying ‘the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry’ - nicely sent by Eddie Izzard). The tale is of a gentle, but mentally-challenged, giant not clever enough to control his own strength. It’s a good little story, and I found it an easy read.

The book is also certainly very evocative, and Steinbeck’s description of the dusty California countryside of ranches and barley buckers made me feel like I was half there.

And I liked the themes too. These characters stuck in dead-end lives - more so than almost anyone in the Western World these days - manage to make their lives bearable by powerful escapism and dreams. It is also telling how meagre their dreams were back then (during the Great Depression) - simply to own a small piece of land and work on it themselves!

I have to say though, all in all, I couldn’t quite see why this novella is so revered. The story, whilst interesting, didn’t take on quite the archetypal feel of many other short novellas I’ve read (to me). By this, I mean I didn’t find the narrative structure had the ‘eternal echo’ - that the best stories do - into the constant, recurring patterns of our lives. Nor did I see many psychological undertones (as in, say, Heart of Darkness), nor much symbolic richness. Perhaps I just missed it all, but, in the end, I just didn’t find it very thought-provoking.

The language in the book - almost all dialogue - is very natural, and the characters, Lennie and George, for such a short book are very real. And I agree with the blurb on the back of the book that I read that Of Mice and Men is ‘stamped with the mark of permanence’. It’s just a short tale, told without flaws.

I think everyone probably should read this book, but that’s partly because it takes so little time to read!

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Of Mice and Men is available on Amazon

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