Monthly Archives: October 2012

100 Greatest Novels: Grapes of Wrath

Moving down the list of the 100 Greatest Novels, I just finished Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

I’ve read this novel before and I always enjoy it. I’m a huge fun of Steinbeck and this is a favorite of mine. The novel follows a family that loses their farm in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and the mid-west droughts. They load up in a used car and head towards California to a bountiful land of promised jobs and high wages. Hardships abound. Arguments fought. Lives end. And spirits are crushed. Just like any good road trip.

The novel alternates between following the Joads to California and the overarching story of farmers searching for a better life between chapter and chapter. The first chapter is one of the most depressing descriptions of somebody dying I’ve ever read. Oh, and it’s not about a person. It’s about the farm land in the midwest. Steinbeck’s writing makes this chapter more sad than the many human deaths I’ve read in other books.


I’m at a little standstill on the list. The next novel, Under the Volcano, is not currently offered on the Kindle and no local bookstores have it in stock. It will be available on the Kindle on November 6th (I have it pre-orded) and so I’ll start the novel then. Currently I’m reading James Joyce’s collection of poetry, Chamber Music.


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100 Greatest Novels: Darkness at Noon & Sons and Lovers

Sorry for the little break since the last post about the 100 greatest novels. I had to read J. K. Rowling’s new book, A Casual Vacancy and The Cross in the Closet by Timothy Kurek. You can read the reviews I posted on here and here. Anyways, let’s get too it.

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

I’ve never read anything by Koestler so this was a treat. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction (the good stuff, not the historical romances!). This is set in Communist Russia in the 1930s during the treason trials of the old Bolsheviks. These men created the current government but were being tried for treason and killed because they “posed a threat” to Stalin’s power. It follows Rubashov, a Bolshevik, while he’s in prison. There are some very poignant and emotional scenes dealing with other prisoners, sometimes only by communicating through tapping on a pipe. The book also contains much political discourse about communism vs democracy and if the ends justify the means (namely, the death of millions for the creation of the utopian country they wanted). Great read.

Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence

I wasn’t blown away by this book. There was some beautiful prose. Some passages could take your breathe away with its descriptions. That said, I just had no strong desire to come back to the book between reading. I wasn’t invested in any characters and frankly, I could care less what happened to them.

It was far into the book before I could decide who I was even supposed to be worried about. I don’t know, the book just didn’t do it for me.

Next in the 100 Greatest Novels is Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Looking forward to reading this book again.


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I Want You to Meet Someone

Tuesday afternoon I found out that one of my coworkers died of a heart attack. It was shocking and sudden. He was at work Monday, just as upbeat and jovial as always. He was such an incredible person that I wanted you to know about him. His name was Harold Leblanc and he was a great man.

As a coworker, he was always happy, always ready with a warm and uplifting word for you. You couldn’t pass him in the hallway without him greeting you, no matter how many times a day you passed him. He’d see me down the hallway, “Hey T, what it be!?” He’d ask about my mom (they worked together many years ago as drafters). He’d ask about my fiancé, Halie. He’d ask about my future plans. He was just as excited about my life as I was.

Going into his office for work, we’d end up talking about life. We talked about jazz and the blues, great lounges with great drinks, and the lure of big cities (he loved New Orleans). His daughter is a speech-pathologist and Halie’s in grad school to be one so we talked a lot about that. He’d ask about my shows and who I was playing with. He told me about his wife, his daughter’s wedding in Hawaii, and you could see his love for his family.

Farewell, Harold. We’ll miss you greatly.

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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


100 Greatest Novels: Catch-22

Reading classic literature, I’ve noticed a few recurring themes and devices in each book. Death, purpose of life, and earthly desires are some frequent themes. What I’ve seen the most in these books are how the author makes the reader feel many contrasting emotions at once: humor at the funeral in Ulysses, pity for the child molester in Lolita, etc. So far, no book has purposefully harped on these contradictions more than Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

Reading Catch-22, you’ll find yourself cracking up during the death of a dozen characters. After paragraphs of insanely hilarious dialogue, Heller will hit you with an event that brings tears to your eyes. Before the tears are fully formed, the most off-the-wall scene comes at you from nowhere. It really is an emotional rollercoaster.

On top of all this, Catch-22 is one of the most important (anti-)war novels of the 20th century. It shows the horrors of war, the audacity and blindness of military leaders trying to get ahead, and the hypocritical profiteering from death and destruction.

Catch-22 was the next book in Modern Library’s 100 Greatest Novels. I’m taking a break from the list to read J.K. Rowling’s new book A Casual Vacancy. After that, I’ll be moving on to Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.


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