East of Eden – John Steinbeck

I don’t usually review books, well okay maybe just one or two when I’ve found them really readable. This book is so good I can’t understand why I haven’t already read it. Now I have, I think it’s one of the great works and the best of Steinbeck.
I read ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ last year and although I enjoyed it, it was a bit depressing. The setting and the era we’re pretty depressing also. The Grapes is generally known as the authors best work but for me, E of E is far superior. It also has its sad moments and its fun times too but it so well intermingles the lives of three families who come together in the Salinas Valley just after the turn of the 20th century.
Life is hard for them but there is an underlying feeling of optimism throughout the book. It’s not exactly a ‘feel good’ story but is quite uplifting at times. Maybe I was feeling particularly cheerful when I read it but it was a really interesting read. I like the way Steinbeck builds visible characters that stay with you throughout. From the military father who treats his two sons totally differently to the Irish decent father who sees the faults and the promise of each of his children.
For me, it was a very satisfying read.

 

 

 

 

Famous Last Words

These are the last words of some of the most famous novels ever written.

Courtesy of the BBC Website

1. “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
2. “Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.”

Life of Pi, Yann Martel

3. “But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”

The House At Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne

4. “He was soon borne away 
by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

5. “Are there any questions?”

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

6. “And then, while the pretty brunette girl finished singing her verse, he buzzed me through like I was someone who mattered.”

The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

7. “I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

8. “The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling

9. “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

10. “Later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare much for her sake.”

Dracula, Bram Stoker

Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

As a writer, it never fails to amuse me when I see a collection of sentences which have been written ambiguously. It’s often plain to see the intended inflection of the message but the way it’s put together and punctuated can easily change how the message is interpreted. There are several thousand examples about, some of which are very funny; but as we write our prose, it’s so very easy to fall foul of them because, although, we have the complete picture, in our heads, of what we want to say, our reader doesn’t have that advantage. For example:

  • I am pleased to say that this candidate is a former colleague of mine.
  • In my opinion, you will be very fortunate to get this person to work for you.
  • I would urge you to waste no time in making this candidate an offer of employment.
  • ‘FINE FOR PARKING HERE’ – read a sign on a piece of spare land

It’s very easy to loose sight of this as we construct and build suspense and credibility in our plots and dialogue; invent new and exiting characters for the reader to love. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the top 500 used words have an average of 23 meanings for each one; little wonder we sometimes fall into the ambiguity trap. As we ponder our beautiful language remember this:

English is a stupid language.
There is no egg in the eggplant.
No ham in the hamburger.
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England.
French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted.
But if we examine it closely
We find that quicksand takes you down slowly.
Boxing rings are square.
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

If writers write, how come fingers don’t fing.
If the plural of tooth is teeth,
Shouldn’t the plural of phone booth be phone beeth?
If the teacher taught,
Why didn’t the preacher praught.

If a vegetarian eats vegetables
What does a humanitarian eat!?
Why do people recite at a play
Yet play at a recital?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy
Of a language where a house can burn up as
It burns down
And you fill in a form
By filling it out
And a bell is only heard once it goes!

English was invented by people, not computers
And it reflects the creativity of the human race
(Which of course isn’t a race at all)

That is why:
When the stars are out they are visible
But when the lights are out they are invisible
And why it is that when I wind up my watch
it starts but when I wind up this poem
it ends?

I have no idea who wrote the above poem but I thought it worth sharing just to highlight the vagaries of our language.

I wanted to take this opportunity to present the present rather than desert in the desert and to remember the sign posted above the machines in a launderette which said:

AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT

Happy writing