East of Eden
with apologies to Ruth Krauss's The Carrot Seed.
An Irishman planted a farm in the Salinas Valley.
His wife said, "I'm afraid it won't come up."
His seven children, one of whom the novel says eventually gave birth to Mr. John Steinbeck himself, said, "I'm afraid it won't come up."
And his xenophobic but grudgingly admiring neighbors said, "It won't come up."
Every day, the Irishman pulled up the weeds around the farm, philosophized about the nature of human existence, and dug in the ground for water.
But nothing came up.
And nothing came up.
Meanwhile, across the quickly-changing country in Connecticut, a man named Trask had two sons and named them Adam and Charles.
Now, when an author refers to the Bible, and names the son everyone loves something that starts with A and the son everyone's afraid of something that starts with C, well, you can guess how the story goes.
Steinbeck writes, "We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil." He set out to write an epic family drama, the first and only novel, a biblical allusion, a story of our country at a certain place in time, and a history of a landscape he loved. All at once. And then he did it.
And yes, there is a serpent, or a demon maybe, and battles both internal and violent, and beans and whorehouses, and Henry Ford is a character, and there are great, funny lines mocking human proclivities like, "If necklaces made of pork chops were accepted, it would be a sad child who could not wear pork chops." But back to the story.
Everyone, including the member of the Trask family who ended up moving next door to the Irishman, kept saying it wouldn't come up.
But he still pulled up the weeds around it every day, made fascinating and spot on comments on the nature of evil and narrative, and dug in the ground for water.
And then, one day, well, I won't say if a carrot grew. If I spoiled this one I would be sent to an eternal personal purgatory involving mushrooms, too-high heels, and soulless, grammatically sloppy chick lit.
Monday, June 16, 2008
East of Eden